Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Navin Kundra as part of her regular series for 'iGlobal' to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.
Navin is an award-winning singer, songwriter and entertainer and one of the strongest independent forces in the Global Indian music industry who has even broken a 'Guinness World Record' with his music. He has achieved six No. 1 singles in the world charts and has been invited to perform for the British Royal Family as well as the Indian Prime Minister. Here, he talks to Reena not only about being a youth icon but also his virtual concerts through lockdown and adapting to changed realities.
You have been running virtual concerts during lockdown; what does the future hold for artists such as yourself?
I think lockdown has forced many people, including me and you, to change their game, adapt during these unprecedented times and innovate to survive and thrive. The music industry has been badly hurt, as many artists and musicians have seen the bulk of their income, which comes from live shows, completely disappear with this global pandemic.
But people's desire for music and entertainment hasn't disappeared. If anything, it's increased and is more of a necessity now because music and art has the ability to heal and bring people together in a way that nothing else can. When lockdown started I made a conscious decision to be there for my fans and let them know that they're not alone during these crazy times - we're all in this together.
So, I made a commitment to go “Live” on social media every week and sing my heart out for everyone and do it for free. I was blown away by the reaction and now I have my own weekly show, “Saturday Night Live with Navin Kundra”, which has had over half a million views online, with people tuning in from over 40 different countries!
I've been able to interview some truly inspirational people on the show as well as help support new talent by providing them with a platform to show the world their gift.
Now I want to take that extra step towards serving my audience by performing my first Official Virtual Live Concert and it's happening on India's Independence Day - August 15, 2020. It's going to be an epic celebration and for the first time ever, me and my team are bringing a full 360 Concert Experience, complete with my live band, stunning visual production and dancers to you from the comfort of your own room.
“Live” is the future for artists.
Did your family have concerns about you not pursuing a traditional career path?
I'm lucky that my parents have been so supportive of my decision to pursue a career as a singer. Don't get me wrong, they made sure that I did well in my studies to ensure I had strong foundations to fall back on in case the world of entertainment didn't work out!
So much so that I aced my GCSEs with 11 A*s and graduated with a Combined Honours Degree in Business & Psychology. I think that was all they needed to see and believed in me enough that I would put just as much effort into building my music career as I did in my studies.
When I graduated from university, I landed a Graduate role at HSBC Bank and within 18 months was promoted to the head office in Canary Wharf working with the Commercial Banking Team. At the same time, I was writing songs and performing as much as possible to build my music career. My managers use to joke that I was a “banker by day and a rocker by night”. It really was like that and sometimes I felt like I was leading a double life.
It was extremely hard work to keep up with both, but you'll be surprised what you can accomplish when sheer passion drives you. As my music career began to take off, I realised I would have to commit to one or the other. I chose to follow my heart and pursue music full time. And, it's been an incredible journey.
I think my mum secretly wanted me to become a doctor (like they do!) and now I tell her: “Mum, I am a doctor because music is medicine for the soul” - she's seen it with her own eyes and I know my parents are proud of me. I believe it is their blessings and support that have brought me this far.
What has been your career highlight?
I'm lucky that there have been many, from breaking a 'Guinness World Record' with my music to being invited to perform for the Royal Family at their Palace. But the one that really stands out for me was performing at Wembley Stadium for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first state visit to the UK.
Over 60,000 people attended the historic event and I genuinely gave that performance everything I had. I still hear the audience's cheers today, especially when I got them to sing 'JAI HO' with me. Some memories last a lifetime and that was not only a career highlight, but also a real honour.
What is the one lesson or words of wisdom that you try to live your life by?
“Look after your art and your art will look after you.” That's really served me well and always reminds me to not take anything for granted.
You can interchange 'art' with 'health', 'business', 'family' etc whatever is important to you, but the main point is to look after it. Appreciate it, respect it, nurture it and it will always look after you. That takes work and you'll get out as much as you're willing to put in. This is YOUR life make it EPIC!
*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.