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Interviews |  09 Jun 2016 14:03 |  By Mallika Deb

As a musician, you have to create some kind of aura around you: Neeraj Shridhar

MUMBAI: Indian singer-songwriter and lead vocalist of pop and rock group 'Bombay Vikings'- Neeraj Shridhar has accomplished a great deal musically, over time. He was one of the popular faces on the Indi-pop scene during the 1990s. He shot to popularity in Bollywood later in his career and now Shridhar is set to comeback as a music director.  "I have gone into music direction but I didn't go out and announce it yet. I have already composed music for a film called 'Irada' under Irada Entertainment, said Neeraj.

Read more about it: Neeraj Shridhar returns with a bang as composer

In conversation with, Shridhar shares his experiences, his views on growing music scene and more.

It has been more than 15 years for you in the Indian music industry. How do you feel?

(Laughs) My ride has not ended yet, there is so much more to explore! It has been pretty interesting. As I have stayed in Sweden all my life and travelled to India for professional purposes, it made me an uncomplicated individual. As a musician, you have to create some kind of aura around you, so that wherever you go, people are bound to respect you, love you.

Share some of your childhood musical memories?

I was just about five when I started playing the tabla. My father used to play it a bit, my mom used to sing and play the harmonium. As I grew up, my interest in music started growing. My elder brother and sister started singing and I used to accompany them on congas. When I started playing guitar around 13-14, my life changed completely. People normally start with the Beatles, I started with the Rolling stones, which is my all-time favourite band.

How did it start?

I think I started getting into music because; maybe it was in my genes. At the age of 13, I was hooked on to western music. Life was difficult in Sweden but somehow I continued with music. I formed a rock band in school and I remember girls used to go gaga over me that time. All of a sudden, I was the star in my school as I was the first Indian who was in rock music. Nobody had done ever rock music in the history of Sweden.

Tell us the tale behind Bombay Vikings?

As I was developing my music skills, I wanted to try something else. I decided on jazz, rock, and roll, blues, pop, rhythm, hip hop which helped me a lot later when I have started doing music professionally.

I was humming 'Mere Sapno Ki Rani' on a train and forgot the lyrics; I made up some English lyrics, sang the song while travelling and laughed at myself. After getting back home, I tried to incorporate the ideas and created ‘Lover Boy’ based on 'Kya Surat Hain' and ‘Mere Samne Wali’. These songs were there in my closet for a long time. One of my friends once called me and asked me to send the songs. He presented the tracks to Sony Music and the next thing I remember they wanted me to sign a contract. I didn’t sign the ten pages of contract, asked them to send it back to me with one page and it came in one and a half (laughs). I came to all the way from Sweden along with a friend of mine Oscar (Who was a part of Bombay Vikings) to shoot the video. Under Sony Music, we did the music video of ‘Mona Rey Mona Rey’ based on ‘Oh Mere Sona Rey Sona Rey’. A lot of people made fun of that, but Sony praised my work and wanted me to record another song. ‘Kya surat hai’ happened after that and the album became a huge hit. However, Bombay Vikings was not a band, it was a stage name.

You recorded your first album with Sony Music, but the next three albums were with Universal Music. What went wrong with Sony Music?

As I came to India for my next album, the Sony team wanted to change my ideas about the song and video. I didn’t want that. Somehow the deal didn’t happen between me and Sony. After that, I went to Universal Music, contacted Shivaji Gupta who was handling artists and musicians at that time.  Next day, I signed the contract with Universal: first, I did Woh Chali, Hawa Mein Udta Jaye, and Chod Do Aanchal. They never chose any songs. I was free to do anything and everything. It was like a dream come true.

Music has changed over time. What’s your take on that? Do you think having a classical background makes you stronger as a musician?

Constant change is the principle of life, and the same goes with music as well. Everyone is using the same style, but good music is rare this days. You can’t be a master of all. You have to know your core areas and work on it.

Having a classical background is amazing. It is the ultimate form of music and it trains you as a singer. Music has different requirements. It was too late for me to start any training because I lived in a different country and it was impossible to get in touch gurus or Ustads. If you are singing an English song, you really don’t need a classical background. Nevertheless, it is not indispensable.

A lot of people have criticised your music, how did you deal with that?

When I came up with remakes and remixes, a lot of people criticised my music. Criticism is one thing that comes very easily, it doesn’t cost anything. I didn’t care about criticism ever.  When the songs were barred, nobody bothered about them. I haven’t done anything wrong, I have remade them out of respect and if that’s the problem, I don’t care. After Woh Chali there were so many people asked for the original song. That was the beauty of it and it changed the look of Indian music. All the old melodies came back and a lot of people started doing the same type of melody. I have thoroughly enjoyed my life as Bombay Vikings.

Where do you see yourself after ten years?

I have seen all kinds of ups and downs. It was not that my music was not acceptable. I have not gone down because of flop songs. It’s just because I didn’t like to work under people all at once. However, if we are at the same level I can work with you, if you don’t meet me at the same level, I will stand up and open my own shop. I have worked with most of the music directors, Vishal-Shekhar, Sajid-Wajid, Pritam except AR Rahman. I have been a music director myself, then I got up as a playback singer, and now I am into music production. I am not done yet, many more things to accomplish.