The following interview which I conducted with Navin, first appeared on I Crave Bollywood on February 7, 2017.
Love and music are very closely related to each other. Both originate from the heart, and the end result of both depends on whether or not the heart expresses it. Tonight, we’re here with Navin Kundra to talk about how his new song ‘Bandagi’, which comes from his heart, covers both music and love.
Simi – Welcome Navin. How are you?
Navin – I’m good thanks. Great to be chatting with you again after so long. How are you?
Simi – I’m doing well thank you. Great to have you back with us. I have to tell you, I am thoroughly blown away by your stunning new love song Bandagi, which also carries a beautiful tag line. But before I give you my thoughts on it, please, tell us what the message behind Bandagi is, and how did the idea for it come about?
Navin – Thanks for your kind words. The message behind Bandagi is to express the sentiments of “My Love For You”. We all say ‘I Love You’ but what does that really mean? What does the person you say that to actually mean to you? This is Bandagi. To date my most popular song has been Tere Liye, which had the tagline “For You”, and it was about expressing “everything I do, I do for you.” Bandagi takes that a step forward. It’s “My Love For You.” It knows no bounds because the word “bandagi” has a divine significance to it. It means prayer or worship and I wanted to write a love song that puts the person you love on the greatest pedestal, so much so that they in a sense take the status of God. So without saying ‘I love you’, I’m saying that you are everything.
On one particular evening I was doing my riyaaz with the harmonium, and this melody just slipped out of my fingers whilst I was playing. I composed the whole song in less than an hour, and I could hear the finished song in my head. The challenge was then recreating that vision and sound on record in the studio.
Simi – Very beautiful! How did you come up with the title and lyrics?
Navin – Lyrically, I wanted to go deeper than anything I’ve ever written before. I wanted to use words which you wouldn’t necessarily hear all the time and certainly ones that I haven’t used in my music before. When we were deciding on the title for the song, I remember thinking that the most used phrase throughout is ‘Tu Meri’, which means ‘You’re Mine’, but I didn’t think it was prolific enough for this song and it would easily get lost. We felt it deserved a powerful name like ‘Bandagi’, which wouldn’t get lost in searches, unless it was among poetry, because ‘Bandagi’ is often used in poetry from famous poets like Ghalib.
For help with the lyrics, I sat with my Grandfather. He is a master of languages like Urdu, which is a really poetic, and I really wanted to incorporate that. So we sat down and wrote it together, and it was incredible. I remember there was one line that I was missing and went to my parents and said, “I’ve got this one line that I can’t finish. The line was, “Tu Rooh Mein Aisi Shaamil” and I needed a simile to complete it. Something deeper than a heartbeat, and something I haven’t said before.” My Mum said, “What about mehfil?” And I immediately said, “Yes, that’s perfect!” So it became “Saji Ho Jaise Mehfil”. It worked out well thanks to a real family effort which was really nice.
Simi – That is awesome how it all came together. And I love the sound and sentiments of that particular line in both the Urdu and English! There was just something that drew me to that line every time I listened to it.
Bandagi begins with you uttering soothing words of tender affection, and then, following the passage until you reach the crescendo, where you cry out with such a burning desire and ardent passion, you express endearing sentiments, which can only come from the very depths of your heart and soul – a degree of emotions which very few love songs achieve. For someone to have these precious words of affection spoken about them, is the ultimate pronouncement of love. It literally brought me to tears.
Navin – Wow! Thank you. It does have that spiritual feel, which is the essence of Sufi music, but I needed to present that in a way which would still relate to a mass audience. It’s romantic, but it has a lot of depth and gravity behind it.
Simi – It certainly does! You always seem to know the exact melody and instruments to use to perfectly complement your lyrics. You’ve incorporated the steady, drum and tabla beats throughout, representing the strong dhakdhak of a heart truly in love. The flute, where each note played is a symbol of the sincere declarations of love, the higher pitched, fluttery ones resembling sweet butterfly kisses. The bass guitar’s rhythmic strumming of the heartstrings, gentle at times, with intensity at others, portraying the various stages of love. The strings, which draw everything together, rounding it out and giving a fuller, richer sound, as each act of love shown does in building a solid foundation for a beautiful relationship, which can withstand all trials, and last for an eternity. Not to be forgotten is the featured instrument, one of the most versatile in Indian music, the harmonium. It has such a melodic, alluring sound, always reminds me of the classical love songs with a filmi, qawwali feel.
Was there something about this particular song which made you feel compelled to showcase the harmonium?
Navin – No, not really. Actually, I composed it on the harmonium, and it felt nice, but the harmonium piece didn’t come in until I’d finished the song, and I needed something to bridge the verses and choruses together. I love having signature music pieces. There was one in “Tere Liye”, “Tukde Tukde” and “Khaali Dil” as well. The harmonium made it feel raw and Sufi-esque, which is exactly how I composed it so I came up with the signature piece on that. Most people probably don’t even know I play the harmonium and I posted a video of me playing the actual piece you hear on record whilst I was in the studio in the private members VIP area of my website.
Simi – That’s amazing. The harmonium was definitely the perfect instrument to compose it on. I always love your unique signature pieces. And for those who don’t know you play the harmonium, they will when they read this interview.
Navin – This is true. But I wanted to keep it real, so that’s why I chose to showcase it.
Simi – I’m so glad you did. I’ve seen you perform many times, and can see your facial expressions and hand gestures as you stand there with closed eyes, totally immersed in the zone, pouring out your heart, thoroughly touched by each emotion as they flow through and from you, with such power that you’re left drained at the very end, but with a satisfied feeling, knowing that you gave everything within you, as the remaining tears on your face are proof. At least that’s how I picture it? How would you describe it?
Navin – Wow! That’s very, very accurate, and it’s incredible that you have the foresight, that you’re so connected to my music to be able to visualize it. Recording the song as a singer was a challenge and I was very lucky to have my mentor Pandit Dinesh Ji in the studio with me, because I feel he is the second musical father in my life. I went to him with the demo I had done at home because I wanted his feedback on the song and advice on who I should record it with because I wanted a producer and engineer who understood this style of music. He said the song was fantastic, the ideas for it were brilliant and I should go to speak to an Italian producer by the name of Mauro Caccialanza, who is super talented and secretly behind many hits in the industry. Then I asked him if he would come into the studio when I record the vocals to make sure I was on point and push it further.
He came that day, and I remember starting to sing the song soft and sweet, like I’ve done with my other love songs, and he came running into the vocal booth like “What the hell are you doing? This isn’t that song. This has a Sufi/Qawwali touch and it needs the emotion and gravity behind it. It’s not meant to be sung softly. You need to let it rip! Sound strong and bold, and sing it out loud.” So I went for it and I’m really pleased with the way it’s turned out. At the end there was the part where I really wanted to soar with my vocals, but it just wasn’t coming out right. Maybe I was tired or maybe I felt like I was being too ambitious. So Pandit Dinesh Ji said, “Look, this is the note you want to get to. Don’t think about it, just do it. Hit it, you’ll be fine. You’ll get it.” And he was right, I was thinking about it too much. I asked him to shut the lights off on his side because I was looking at him, and worrying about getting it wrong rather than focusing on singing and nailing it. I think that’s a common mistake with lots of vocalists … sometimes you have to switch off and lose yourself in the music to get it right rather than focus too much on the technicalities of singing. After that I went for the last lines again and we got it!!!
All the way through, digging that deep, and having to project that much, really brought out what you mentioned earlier, that really outpouring of emotions, unlocking another part of my vocals and feelings that I didn’t know I could unlock, because maybe I was singing it like a singer before. This time I was singing it like a lover. I’m not saying it was difficult, I’m saying I enjoyed being pushed because the song needed a rich vocal performance, which ultimately drives the whole song, because the focus is on the lyrics and the voice.
Simi – Well you certainly nailed it! So proud of you for being able to dig that deep, and unlock a new level to your vocal abilities. I love the crescendo with the alaaps, and tu meri jaan – the triple tracking of your vocals not only adds a rich dimension to ‘Bandagi’, but takes it to a higher level – sheer beauty of true love is conveyed, especially during this part (my favorite).
Navin – It actually wasn’t designed that way. I was just letting go in the studio and did three or four takes, and by coincidence we had them all playing at the same time, and I thought it sounded awesome, so we kept it.
Simi – Wow, what can I say except, the profound and compelling lyrics, a warm yet intense, captivating melody, and your vocals set on fire with a fierce zeal, are all carefully woven together with colourful musical threads, creating an exquisite tapestry of love and devotion.
Navin – I love that – a tapestry of love and devotion.
Simi – Bandagi is already burning up the charts – It entered Sabras Radio as #12 and in one week shot to #3, labeling it as the highest climber! Now it’s at #2! In the Asian Star Radio charts it was also the highest climber on the second week reaching #11! Epic!! It has also hit international airwaves!! And all before it released on 27th of January! We can only see it hitting #1 in all the charts and staying there for a good, long time!! What do you say to that?
Navin – It’s exciting, and I can get an indication of how the stations are supporting it and getting it out to the listeners, also the appeal of the song as it is being requested and voted on. I’m hoping for those who this song means something to, and they connect to, I really hope that they will get an official copy and support it. I would love for this song to be bought and gifted so you can have it personalized and dedicated to your loved one making it a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day!
Simi – And how does that work?
Navin – All you have to do is visit – Bandagi Dedication to place your order. There you can send your name and the name of who you are dedicating it to. I will then go into the studio and record your dedication on the song itself so you end up with something unique, something you can’t download for free or get anywhere else and something that lasts a lifetime. I always feel on special occasions, it’s nice to give something physical, rather than send an email. So you can also purchase a physical CD copy that will be gift-wrapped romantically and delivered to your door in time for you to gift it to your loved one. And that’s your Valentine’s shopping sorted! Say ‘I Love You’ with Bandagi!
Simi – Awesome! Now the celebration for Bandagi is set for 15th April. What are the details for anyone who wants to attend?
Navin – This is really exciting! I’ve partnered up with Gold Factory, which is an incredible brand. They make their own jewelry using the finest diamonds and gold. So for anyone who wants to propose or buy something lavish for their loved one, they can go there. Bobby Kanda, who is the owner, has been very supportive with this track, and he wanted to host a party to celebrate it. I will be performing it live at the event. Tickets are available at Chilli Tickets. It is going to be a great night and I look forward to seeing lots of you there!
Simi – I’m sure it is going to be an amazing event. Thank you so much Navin for creating this precious offering of heartfelt adoration for all of us, who many times search for the just the right words to speak to our loved one, and come up short. Bandagi speaks volumes, and dedicating it to someone is a gift they will not soon forget. We also want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here with us today. We wish you all the best with Bandagi, it is well on its way to becoming a massive hit among all who hear it, as it truly resonates with the lover in all of us.
Navin – Thank you so much for your support. When I’m making the song, it’s mine … but once it’s released it becomes yours. I truly hope you love it. You can also now watch the official music video for Bandagi . If you like it, please do share it!
Get your official copy of Bandagi – here