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Vineet Hukmani’s new single ‘So New’ has optimism at the forefront

Vineet Singh Hukmani’s ‘Jab the World’ is a radio chart topper  

On March 16, World Vaccination Day, Vineet Singh Hukmani not only got himself vaccinated but also released his new single ‘Jab the World’. A fun and synth-based rock number created to allay anxieties surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines, ‘Jab the…’ broke into the mainstream top 100 and became one of the top 20 songs most played on rock radio in the US, a first for an Asian/Indian in recent times. This success comes close on the heels of Vineet securing the number one position on international radio charts for his first release of 2021 ‘Dreamin Out Loud’.

His latest single ‘So New’ adheres to his credo in life — optimism. It is now in 94th position in the top 200 Mainstream DRT Pop Charts in the US, alongside Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion!

A trained singer, electronics engineer and a Harvard alumnus, Vineet founded India’s only International format radio station — Radio One — and helmed it for 12 years. He lives in Delhi NCR, and through an email interview, discusses the relevance of his music during the pandemic:

Excerpts from an edited interview:

‘So New’ comes amid the worst calamity in recent times, especially in our country. How would you want the listeners to perceive its message?

The current situation reminded me of why I got into music in the first place. All the optimism I have ever felt towards any facet of life, I could express through my music. ‘So New’ portrays a mental state which is upset or ‘imbalanced’... and through its beat and happy words explains that the negative will not last and we have to find ways to feel new again.

A favourite movie scene of mine is the music band continuing to play while the Titanic was sinking. Someone has to keep on playing and every musician knows it’s their job to carry the flag of optimism and plant it again and again.

‘Jab the world’ carries the same optimism…

My optimism is almost childlike. ‘Jab the World’, while being about a vaccine, is also about a much larger concept. It imagines a world vaccinated against hate. So while it tells everyone to get the COVID jab, it also makes a larger point.

Synth-pop seems to be your trademark; do you ever wish to foray into other genres?

I truly enjoy synth-pop as it uses ‘artificial’ instruments to create real emotions. I love the contrast this presents. However, I am equally comfortable with rock, pop, adult contemporary, and hip-hop. I am even learning Latino pop for a release later on in the year. I like to think of myself as being genre-agnostic, mostly due to the producers I work with. There are very few musicians, like Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift, who are known to move smoothly across genres and this inspires me endlessly.

There is the 1980s rock influence in your music. Who has influenced you the most?

I learnt to sing because of rock music. It is a difficult genre to sing, considering the strain it puts on your voice. The classic rock era of the late ’70s and ’80s was rebellious and I liked how that helped develop my voice. Rock is my ‘voice gym’. The rock influence in ‘Jab the World’ comes from my rock idols from college days, namely Van Halen and ACDC. It was therefore very special to be able to share prestigious chart space with these bands on the DRT rock top 50.

Most of your songs are global radio chart-toppers. Have you adopted any particular formula to achieve this?

I enjoy creating songs so that they reach their goals. A chart position only means that a song is being played more on the radio, and that happens when listeners like the song. So it is the best pat on the back possible. The critical thing for charting is therefore radio airplay. Radio in the US and Europe is particular about songs with ‘repeat listening value’ so I always compose a catchy chorus first and then work the rest of the song around that core. Since radio stations are segmented as rock, pop and hip-hop, the song must be clear in its genre. The recording and mastering quality needs to be of the highest order. But most crucial are diction and pronunciation. One needs to have globally authentic vocals, and thanks to some timely vocal coaching, I have overcome that barrier.

Do you see your children taking up music full time?

I am proud that they are both naturals at music. Studies, of course, come first, and music is one of the facets we are helping them get exposure in. In fact, through music, my kids learn some very important lessons. The first is that creativity is hard work and the second is that music is a business. They like to keep track of how much music royalty their song is making and how much we spent on making a song and it thrills them to see that their effort results in ‘earning’.

Even in my case, I was a media professional, a businessman and music was a parallel path. But due to my stint in radio the music path converged. Let us see if that happens in my kids’ professional lives in the future.

Do you plan to bring out collaborative music videos with them in future?

Yes, it is fun to work with them. We focus on the audio largely as that is the engine of music. Videos are good for marketing. I hope they focus on ‘audio first’ as I always have. Though videos are fun to shoot, especially the goof-ups we have and we play them back and laugh at them.

In the West, a lot of music gets introduced through radio. In India, the medium is under-explored. What is your takeaway from the experience with Radio One?

My greatest challenge and success in radio came from this very dilemma. Should one continue on the beaten path like all radio stations in India playing Bollywood, or create a new differentiated approach for discovery? Radio One was and is India’s first International (English) Radio Network. This journey taught me that you have to embed discovery in the fabric of radio itself. In the US and Europe, radio is split into first music and talk radio, and then music is split into genres. Each radio station format fills a particular void that community discover new things in that area of interest. Due to the very expensive radio licensing in India, radio players opted for the most common denominator area of interest, namely Bollywood. However, I am sure in the quest to create ‘discovery’, radio stations will have to figure out a clearer and targeted path.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 9:15:19 AM |

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