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In conversation with Shamir Tandon – Score Short Reads

In conversation with Shamir Tandon

Tell us about your journey into music? From a corporate lifestyle to a music composer, how did it happen?

When I started my career, it wasn’t easy to enter the entertainment industry. It was in the hands of a few and not democratised as it is today. There were all sorts of rumours so middle class kids from modest backgrounds were recommended to refrain from such an industry. Having lost my parents early in life, I did not have the propensity to take risks and enter a not so organised industry then in early 90s.

I finished my cost accountancy and MBA and then entered the corporate world. While I was in the rat race of the mundane duinya of number crunching, I was moonlighting doing jingles and other small music assignments on weekends and at nights on weekdays . I call this my Ranji Trophy innings where I was getting some hands-on experience in music making.

Finally with the opening up of the economy, multinational global giants in the entertainment industry started setting shop in India. When EMI Virgin, one of world’s largest and oldest record label then, set up its operations here, I managed to seek employment as a marketing manager.

Soon I grew to be the country head in a couple of years itself and was running the APAC region for the entertainment / music of the EMI Virgin group . During this stint, I made contacts in the media and entertainment world and also got close to a lot of artists wearing my managing directorial hat.

This came handy when I switched my role from being a managing director to a music director. I call this the back door entry. Got in with my left brain with an eventual vision to oil my right brain. In fact, the first few feature films that I did as a composer, I did while I was employed. My bosses in UK had no problems with this passion of mine and soon when the first handful of films that I did, became national award winners, I got tempted to do music full time and here I am.

You came up with a unique concept of making a transgender band? Where did this concept arise from? What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?

The idea of the 6 Pack Band was the brainchild of my close friend at YRF & myself over a cup of coffee. The basic idea was to give them the platform & opportunities which they are usually bereft of over the years through the language we knew best, music.

There were many challenges at various stages. Initially, the main challenge that we faced was gaining their trust. They had the natural thought of “why would someone make a band with us & feature us in music videos?”. They started trusting us after multiple meetings & sensing the seriousness & sensitivity with which we were functioning as a team.

There were instances where no one turned up for auditions, security personnel not allowing the transgenders to enter some premises, hotels not allowing them to stay on their property & many such hurdles which we had to overcome through the entire journey of curating this wonderful band.

Shamir Tandon
Shamir Tandon

You also created a property called 2.0 which was to promote awareness of Autism through music. In fact, you had so many celebrities join you, how did that come about?

This was not just for Autism, but for the full spectrum of kids with mental health issues & special needs. It’s just that the majority of the kids happened to be autistic. The spectrum that was covered with the 6 Pack Band 2.0 members were autism, ADHD, learning disabilities & dyslexia. After the success & global recognition of the 6 Pack Band, we wanted to go a step further.

We were toying with this thought of mental health for quite some time & finally decided to go ahead with it. We knew there will be challenges, but by now we were used to having hurdles & overcoming them especially when we believe in our ideas & intentions. As someone has said beautifully “log judte gaye aur karwaan banta gaya..”, we got a lot of support from the industry as we did for the 1st band.

Karan Johar himself launched the 6 Pack Band 2.0 with a massive press conference held at YRF. We then had celebs like Tiger Shroff, Rani Mukherji, Mika Singh & many television stars join our journey. All the music videos garnered millions of views & a lot of love from the people.

Our song “Sab Rab De Bande (Isspeshal Mix)” got 22 Million views on YouTube in a single day. The band & I were fortunate to share the screen with Mr Amitabh Bachchan on ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ for the children’s day special episode.

What has been your personal preference for Bollywood composing or independent music since you had a number of Bollywood hits?

Composing is composing. My heart is in composing. I was born to compose what I feel. Each one has its own charm. Film songs give a scale with actors and directors and the penchant of our people who are cinema goers. Independent music has its own advantage as you can compose your heart out without the pressures of a situation in a film. 

Independent music is great also because u can decide the genre, the language, the vocalist, and even what you want to say in a song. Am glad that independent music in India is growing and is showing big numbers as was the case in the 90s.

I also love nonfilm music cause the artist gets mainstage while in film songs, the composer-lyricist and singer are the only playback and never get the limelight. I am fond of independent music also cause it gives you freedom to experiment and not binds you by the milieu of a feature. 

The music scene overall has evolved, how are you keeping up with the pace?

Shape up or ship out is a mantra in any field of art. We have to keep ourselves abreast of the latest developments in music and artists all across the globe. Irrespective of the evolution, melody stays.

 Also, music creation is teamwork. So we have people with complementary skill sets and its great to jam and co-create sometimes. It does get hard as the pace of change is really rapid. But isn’t that the case in all industries. One has to keep reinventing and acclimating to newer paradigms.

New generation music has lots of youth, rapping and intense music, Would see you curating something very innovative again? 

Oh yes in fact in one of our projects one plus playback we had already curated songs with the likes of the Divine, Naezy, and more and so we have already dabbled in this happily and in fact, were the first movers in this Way back 6 – 7 years ago, I did a track for a film Bank Chor for YRF films that had some intense Rap – depicting the battle of Mumbai Delhi by Naezy and a rapper from Delhi.

You are now promoting good mental health and learnings from the legends that you have worked with through digital handles, what was the most important learning, and whom did you experience that from?

Ans I am blessed by the almighty to have worked with the biggest legends in the music industry. Being the only composer of this generation to have recorded with the legends – many of whom are living and many are no more. Working with these legends has taught me the value of the last mile and the distance that only a handful travel from 99 to 100. 

I thought everyone should be privy to this knowledge that I gained in my years of interacting and closely working with the music talent in the big league.

The modesty of Lata Mangeshkar and her endeavor to win partner faith, innovations by Asha Bhosle, 360-degree rotational training from Manna De, Importance of daily honing craft from Hariprasad Chaurasia, Observation and passion to learn from Sachin Tendulkar, Team work from Pyarelal of Laxmikant Pyarelal, Time management from orchestra conductors are just a few.

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