Urban and R&B singer Arjun is the ultimate proof YouTube can be the key to a music career; his videos have gotten over 85 million views so far and he is currently touring non-stop around the globe. On June 20, he will also perform during the DesiYUP concert “Beyond Bollywood”. Indo-Canadian vocalist Shweta Subram will join him on stage in Lucent Danstheater in The Hague.
Born in Sri Lanka and raised in London, Arjun has always been surrounded by Western and South Asian music. It’s something that clearly shows in his own unique mix of different styles, including his newly released “All of Me (Baarish)”. “As an artist, I have tried to fuse Asian music with R&B, to create a new sound”, he shares. “And it works for the people who like my music. They tend to be like me: Western, but with families that are rooted in the East”.
Even though R&B has been a big influence in Arjun’s life, it certainly was not the only one. “I studied Western classical music and played the flute ever since I was in prep school. In high school I also joined a rock band and was a keyboard player in a jazz band. I definitely was a musician, before I was a singer”, he shares. His musical inspiration varies from artists like Michael Jackson to A.R. Rahman. “Craig David is someone whom I learned a lot from, especially when it comes to producing and composing my songs. As a songwriter and someone who connects with his fans through social media, I also look up to Ryan Leslie”, Arjun explains.
Advised by his parents, the artist also pursued an Architecture degree, and worked in marketing before he entered the music scene in 2008. “In the end that benefited me a lot; without any record deals or a professional PR team I actually gained a lot of attention by promoting myself on YouTube and online”. Now he is signed to T-Series, India’s biggest music label.
It was his remix of the popular southern Indian hit song “Why this Kolaveri Di” in 2011 that really got him noticed. The track has over 10 million views so far and since then he released many other songs combining English lyrics with urban and Asian melodies. Arjun also has recorded numbers for Bollywood film soundtracks, most recently for the movie Creature 3D. And even though he gets inspired by Asian music, fans will still hear him mainly sing in English.
“That is because I don’t speak Hindi”, he laughs. “But I’m learning it; I feel it is necessary as I also want to reach people in India. At the same time, I have a Sri Lankan background and I do speak Sinhalese. Since there are so many languages in South Asia and different audiences, English now is the constant factor in my music which I can combine with other elements”, Arjun explains.
He credits his success also partly to the range of his videos. Arjun: “Next to the songs, videos have to be as strong for me on their own as well. I’ve done more elaborate, high budget videos but I’ve also sat in my room and let the song speak for itself. You can’t please everyone with your work all the time, so I try to do different things”.
And not just in his singing career; Arjun has also worked with fusion singer and friend Shivali, producing two devotional albums with her; The Bhajan Project and Urban Temple. It was Shivali who encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone and take to the stage himself.
“I still love composing and producing music in the studio. But as a singer I get to tour and see the world. In the last couple of months I have performed in the US, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Tanzania and Kenya. Two of my best memories are from performing at Wembley Arena in the UK and in Times Square in New York. Those were really great experiences,” he says.
In the “Beyond Bollywood” concert, he plans to experiment and do things differently. Arjun: “I’ll be mixing my sound more with acoustic music. I will also sing a couple of duets with Shweta Subram. It will be interesting to see how the audience will respond”.
For anyone who loves R&B, Hindi and fusion music Arjun is the artist to follow. He plans to experiment and create a special evening in The Netherlands, his fans will definitely have a day to look forward to.