Singer Divya Kumar hails from a family of musicians. He wanted to be a drummer but his mother encouraged him to be a singer and here he is—a successful singer who has worked with almost all the prominent composers and singers. He spoke to Raviraj Sinha
How did you get into the music?
I was born into a musical family. My grandfather started his musical journey at the age of 16; he was a composer. He worked with V Shantaram and worked in a number of mythological movies. My dad is also a musician and he worked with a lot of music directors in the 90’s. So, at the age of eight, my mom thought that I could be a singer. I wanted to be a drummer, but she was keen that I should sing. So that’s how I started singing.
What do you think of reality shows on singing like Indian Idol, Saregamapa, The Voice etc?
I think the musical reality shows started picking up in the 2000’s when social media and TV programming was changing. I can’t say anything bad about it but there are some points which I would like to mention here. It is important for people who need a platform, especially if they are from rural areas where there is no internet, no phones. So, it’s a platform for people who cannot find a platform. They struggle a lot. For them, it’s an important platform to showcase their talent. As for me, I was born in Mumbai and I used to do a lot of recordings with my dad and I have fond memories of the studio atmosphere and so my thinking of reality shows was not that. I didn’t want to go to the reality shows, but my other friend went and did well at these shows. I really love those music programmes though. The thing is, you must be clear about what you want. There are people who just want to earn fame and money. But I believe people who sustain longer in this industry and become stars are those who struggle a lot, work hard and learn from their experiences. That is more important. I also feel good for the people who have made a comeback as playback singers through these reality shows. But some shows are not pleasant. I have heard about many parents taking their kids to these reality shows and, thus, keeping them away from studies, all because they want their child to be a singing star. When these children get rejected during auditions, it doesn’t feel good.
How did your family react when they heard that you wanted to pursue your career as a singer?
As I told you, I always wanted to be a drummer. I love beats and rhythm. But my family thought that I would be a better singer. I was surrounded by music. So, my becoming a singer was a natural culmination of my efforts. My family itself showed me the path.
From where did you get your training in Indian Classical music?
I haven’t taken formal training in classical music. It was just God-gifted and in my family, every child is born with some musical talent or the other. So, I used to sing and listen to music. I tried to go into classical music but that somehow didn’t happen. However, I listened to many singers and I think basic classic music training is necessary for those who want to sing. I have learnt by listening to musicians. The environment of my family really helped in my growth as a singer.
You have worked with various music directors and artists in MTV Coke Studio. Whom did you enjoy working with the most?
I have enjoyed with everyone because everyone has his/her unique style. There are many music directors I have worked with and there are many whom I really want to work with. But Amit Trivedi will always be very special as he is the person who gave me my first break. He convinced me that I could be a good playback singer and my journey started from there. I have worked with Sachin Jigar ji. They have taught me many things and I have sung many good songs for them. I have also assisted them as a music programmer for four to five years. Then, I have also worked with Shankar Ehsaan Loy and have had the pleasure of singing a song with them. Every music director, whom I have worked with, has taught me different things.
What’s your take on the increasing influence of Punjabi pop in Bollywood music? Right now, everyone wants to follow whatever is trending as there is always a fear of churning out a flop. So, it’s rather safe to follow whatever is trending. It only proves that they don’t have power to think about something new. Unfortunately, nowadays, songs don’t have much of an individuality or a personality. You can’t distinguish one from another. We have such a rich treasure of folk songs but when it is adapted into film music, it ends up being ‘fake’. Punjabi songs are nowadays preferred because many Punjabi singers have become popular. Some of them are really talented; some have money, PR, media backing etc. What do you think about Sufi and western music? There is a lot of scope for Sufi singing in western music. The day I started as a singer, I have idolised singers like Sukhwinder Singh, Nusrat Sahab, Kailesh Kher and others.
Item songs are becoming important. They are mostly jarring and not original and, at times, vulgar as well. What’s your take on them?
For item songs, videos of dances are shot and placed in the film. Instead, if we make original songs, they will remain evergreen. But why item songs are a hit is because they are being watched and not heard. That’s the reason perhaps that the song ‘Saaki, saaki...’ was running on the top of the charts. There is nothing wrong about item songs but they are compromising our originality. If we look at top ten songs, then eight of them are remixes. This should change and more original music should be promoted. But well, our industry is running in a different direction. I hope the day will come when people will demand original music. We must prepare for that change