He is THE Music Man. A multi-percussionist, lead keyboardist, master producer, solo artist, hit maker and the ultimate performer. Sukshinder Shinda has raised the bar for originality, creativity and musicality all around the world with his sound. So many artists dream to work with this amazing talent. Everyone from Bollywood to Hollywood follows the music stylings of Sukshinder Shinda. Most recently, Jennifer Lopez was seen performing to the hit song ‘Sohni Lagdi’ by Sukhshinder Shinda at a lavish wedding in India. The fact that such an established and mainstream international artist like Jennifer Lopez chose to incorporate the Punjabi hit into her repertoire speaks volumes about Sukshinder’s sound and music caliber.
Bollywood has always made room for Punjabi collaborations and Shinda is no exception. From Hindi to Punjabi movies, he has contributed in many projects. The list of awards, recognitions and honors is no small feat either. His trajectory of work has been recognized for best producer, music director, best video and best album to just name a few. He has collaborated with established, huge names as well as newcomers who have gone on to launch notable careers themselves. With consistent album releases that have made Sukshinder’s brand formidable over time, the musician shares his journey with us as we await his upcoming releases.
1.) You have become iconic and a living legend in the music industry with your career trajectory. How did you get your first break/start?
Growing up, my father was a big fan of Amar Singh Shonki- a well-known dhadi, just a living legend of a talent and so I use to listen to his music as well. Folk music was a big influence growing up for me as my father too sang kavishri- which is a folk style of singing with instruments- a capella and like poetry really. My dad would take me with him to events and I started participating by playing various instruments as well. I started learning from some amazing people like Kuldip Singh Matharu, from whom I learned tabla, Ajit Singh Matlashi- from whom I learned tabla, harmonium and raags, then Ustaad Lal Singh Bhatti from whom I learned the dhol.
Also, my brother, the late Mohan Singh Nimmana had a band in the late 80s called The Nimanna group and in those days, bands would consist of just a few live instruments and minimal equipment and they would perform live shows at weddings and other functions. So my first break came for me from my brother. He was working on a devotional tape. Someone else was lined up to do it but fell through so my brother told me to do it. With the experience I received from all the teachings from the different mentors and Ustaad Ji’s, I was able to bring a lot to the table as a musician where I played different instruments and could make my own lyrics and verses, basically freestyle along the way. Being able to create in that way really helped me be even more versatile as a musician. After the devotional tape I did for my brother, my first own first tape happened- Dhol Beat, in 1989, it was based on the dhol and was very instrumental with live beats.
2.) What has been the most challenging part of your journey in this industry?
I believe every day is a challenge in it that you learn something every day. In any walk of life, you will reach barriers that you have to break through so it’s no different in music. You have to be open to learning in order to overcome any challenge. That is what I think is the most challenging part for many people in general- to keep learning, no matter how much time passes. There is always room for growth and for learning. I am no different so I approach life in that manner. No challenge is singular, it all comes down to that basic principle.
3.) Your nickname is the “Music Man” and you have everyone wanting to collaborate with you. You are a selective artist with very tailored projects to your name. What is the deciding factor for the collaborations and projects you choose to work on? What excites you?
Sometimes it comes down to me being a fan of other people’s music. For example, Gurdas Mann Ji, it was a dream of mine to work with him and sing with him. Growing up, he was someone I admired and looked up to. His music is legendary and timeless. When we worked together, he gave me a lot of encouragement. He complimented my style of music which was humbling. Being able to work with that sort of talent is what really excites me. For established or new artists, I do take the time to listen to their brand of music and make sure there is some potential for chemistry. This is an expensive business so it’s not easy to collaborate with just anyone and everyone but I will say that any collaboration I do is well thought out and that’s why it does so well. It has to make sense for it to work.
4.) In 2013 you teamed up with Dharam Seva Records to release religious tracks and delivered some of the most important social messages in your career. You brought to light some very grim realities that are plaguing the youth and Punjab in general. What is your advice to those who are struggling with those social issues and listen to your music?
Dharam Seva- Kaka and Bill Mattu- we all go way back. I have seen such a powerful change in them over the years and in launching Dharam Seva. It’s a really good cause as they support music with important social messages and support so many charities and causes. Having visited India, I have seen our youth struggle with various things and unfortunately, today, drugs are continuously a major issue. I try to promote things that build moral values and promote positivity and will continue to deliver those types of messages through my music when given the platform. My advice to those listening to my music is that it is never too late to change your path. Life is a series of ups and downs but we always have the choice and will to be aware. Awareness is key in bringing about change in ourselves. I hope the music inspires these youngsters to know that their plight is recognized and we all support their choice to change and be better. Many people turn to music for comfort and I hope my music can do the same for those struggling and even push them to become more self-aware to bring about that change.
5.) You participate in charitable work and have brought much needed attention to several issues. What cause is near and dear to your heart that you wish to raise more awareness on?
Drugs and respecting your elders in our culture are two issues I see overtaking the youth. Both need attention and it starts with our cultural values too. At the end of the day, no matter where you are born, our roots and culture link us all. There should be a balance between our western and cultural values but for many, the western ways are taking precedent. I remember meeting a guy from Australia and we were discussing our hometowns. He was asked about his village back in India and his response was that he didn’t know but had it written down in his computer. It’s a lighthearted example and still makes me laugh to this day but it is our reality. Many youngsters don’t know their family background and it is something to think about. Will a day come where everything about our cultural history and background will be stored in computers? Our culture is special and we need to do a better job of reminding our youth of the types of values it is built upon, regardless of where we reside in the world.
6.) You have seen a lot of changes come and go in this industry with fads, trends and the latest gimmicks that will get artists noticed easily. You have never really relied on these elements but rather have set the trends instead. What influences/inspires your music?
Folk music has always been a big source of inspiration. I also experiment with western styles as well and try to bring in a new kind of sound. I try to do it all like folk, Hindi, devotional, Punjabi, R&B, etc. My goal is to keep learning and trying different things because that is what music is. There are so many forms, styles and sounds that being creative is the soul of this business. For me, if my music catches on or sets any trends, it means that it resonated with people and that’s an accomplishment for all of us.
7.) Which collaboration has been the most rewarding for you?
There are so many to name. Gurdas Mann Ji is a notable one for me. When we made that song for Collaborations 1, it was just supposed to be a single and I am more of a fan of doing albums because you can be much more diverse with albums. So that was when I thought of Collaborations. With Collaborations, I thought, why not do male duets. It wasn’t something that was being done in terms of an album too often if at all. It was a way to showcase different voices, backgrounds, and places like India, Pakistan and UK which was very significant for me to accomplish.
8.) You have been credited in helping launch Jazzy B’s career. Both of you have had numerous hits together with your collaborations. What is it about your chemistry with one another that is a surefire formula for success?
To be honest, we’re like brothers. I have known him for years when we were all playing our music. We are like family and the fact we have done 13 albums together is amazing. We definitely have good chemistry and that’s why we work together as well as we do. It’s easy for us to vibe together and be creative. We both enjoy the process and the results speak for themselves.
9.) Live shows are not in every artist’s wheelhouse. This is something you have a very strong knack for with your stage presence. You have performed nearly in every corner of the world. What is performing live like for you? What is the driving force behind your hard hitting performances?
The audience and people really drive me. Seeing them get into the music, sing along, dance their heart out just makes it all worthwhile for me. When you see that level of enjoyment, especially in person and live, it’s a completely different level. Back in the day, live music was IT, before we had the concept of DJs. You can’t beat that live feel so it really fuels me, even to this day.
10.) What has been the most memorable live show you have done thus far?
Wonderland in Toronto, ON with Jazzy B was really memorable. It broke the record in how many people attended and beat Michael Jackson’s record. We had over 66,000 people at that venue. It was quite the experience and milestone for a live show. Also in Sweden, I remember doing a concert. We were running late and my flight got in late, so I went straight to the venue. We had no sound check and when I got there and saw the audience, it surprised me to see there were so many English people! I was like, ‘hey I don’t sing English songs, is this a mistake?’ But they were really into the music and beats. It was really fun for me too. The atmosphere was very enjoyable for all. I still remember that gig to this day. It’s rewarding to see people from other cultures enjoying my music.
11.) What is next on your bucket list? Any upcoming shows/albums we can watch for?
Recently, we just released Ithe Rakh video with Abrar-ul-haq for Collaborations 3. We did a poll on which duet the people would want to see and this one was the most voted so I’m really happy with how it turned out and that people are receiving it so positively.
Next, I had Langar release recently with Dharam Seva Records. Not many youth may know how Langar started with Baba Nanak Ji. When he was a teenager, his dad said to him to go start a business and gave him 20 rupees. He met some saints who were hungry and with his 20 rupees decided to feed them instead. Since then this concept of langar was born which we really pride ourselves at our Gurudwaras.
After Langar, I have more videos lined up. I have ‘Ni Tu Lakhan Wichon Ik’ releasing soon featuring Don Revo from New Jersey shot in England. I recently shot the video in California for another one of my tracks on the Collaborations album with Sukh Sanghera. It’s about the trucking life and called ‘Jeonde Rehan Truckan Wale’ featuring Surinder Shinda. These guys work so hard and it’s not an easy lifestyle so I have a song dedicated just for them. Some great projects coming and to watch for.
12.) Any message for your fans?
I will always keep experimenting and doing my folk sounds but also coming out with new things. I will stay true to myself as my sound is what makes me still here today and what the fans love. Thank you for the love and support from all. Also, thank you to We DeSide for the interview- this is a great platform to unite our desi community in a new way and recognize talent from different places and backgrounds. Everyone subscribe to their YouTube channel and follow social media for more. I look forward to interacting more with We Deside in the future.
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Photo Credits: Sukshinder Shinda, Kalikwest Media