Alumni Speak

Performing in front of AR Rahman was a wonderful experience, says ‘Rising Star’ Bannet Dosanjh

The music reality show winner, an alumnus of the Apeejay College of Fine Arts, hopes to promote original Punjabi music across the country

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Bannet Dosanjh did not set out to become a singer. The 28-year-old, who initially wanted to become a sportsman, says it was destiny that guided him towards music. An alumnus of the Apeejay College of Fine Arts (ACFA), Dosanjh got an opportunity to participate in a reality show for the first time while pursuing his post-graduation. Later, he went on to win Rising Star, another reality show, in 2017. In an interview, Dosanjh recalls how his teacher at Apeejay helped him stay focused and discusses his love of Punjabi music, among other subjects. Edited excerpts:

Did you always aspire to become a singer? Tell us about your journey.

I have been interested in music since childhood. But I never thought about pursuing it as a career. In fact, I wanted to become a sportsman. I used to play handball and had even represented my state in national games. Academically, I was a bright student too. So, when I scored 96 per cent in Mathematics in the class 10 board exam, my school-teacher suggested I opt for non-medical science for higher secondary. However, I struggled with the subjects since the medium of instruction had changed from Punjabi to English. I was depressed but that is when my teacher in college convinced me to take up music instead. In a way, it was a turning point in my life.

I always wanted to achieve something in every field and wanted to bag awards (laughs). Once again, I topped my class after switching to music. Following my graduation, I joined ACFA, to pursue MA in Music Vocal. Soon, I got selected for Voice of Punjab, a regional music reality show, but was eliminated in the final round. I was heartbroken but I took it as a challenge to do even better the next time. I practised for two years and then got selected for M.Phil. I had decided that I would become a professor one day, but destiny had other plans. I got a call to audition for the reality show Rising Star. It was my hostel roommate who motivated me to give it a try. I learned a lot during my time at the reality show. Back in 2010, I told myself, ‘One day, I will win an award on a national TV channel’. In 2017, I became the winner of Rising Star.

Is your family passionate about music?

My father had performed a couple of times at local village shows but he discontinued. He was aware of the challenges of being a musician and so, he wanted me to make a career in academics. My mother, on the other hand, supported me a lot. Without much formal training, I started singing qawwali, which affected my voice. My mother used home remedies to ensure I took good care of my voice.

How was your experience at ACFA? What are your best memories?

My time at Apeejay helped me attain maturity. A lot of my classmates were budding singers. We would have a lot of fun competing with each other. This exercise helped us explore the technicalities of music further and improve our skills. Our teacher also made us do a lot of riyaaz. She was always very supportive.

Diljit Dosanjh was one of the judges on Rising Star. How was it like meeting him?

I had always desired to meet Diljit. He is from my village, so he holds an even more special place in my heart. When I finally met him on the sets of Rising Star, it was like a dream come true. He was impressed when he heard me sing and supported me throughout the show. I learned a lot from him also.

With so many reality show winners every year, how does one make a mark?

I believe that the struggle does not end with winning a competition. It is perhaps only the beginning of more challenges. While a reality show gives you recognition, your success depends on how hard you are willing to work and how you handle fame. That said, I am grateful to Rising Star because of all the love and respect I receive from fans across the country now, which is priceless.

Regional music or Bollywood, which is your focus? Any plans to move to Mumbai?

For me, the first thing to do is to create music for the people of my region. If they find my songs appealing, it will also increase my chances of reaching out to the rest of the country. The rest can be left to luck. I have also done some work in Mumbai during the 1.5 years I stayed there. But after the lockdown, I returned home. I am still in touch with many music directors in Mumbai.

Thanks to social media, musicians do not have to rely on record labels to produce music. What do you think of those who become social media sensations?

Of course, social media has made it convenient for budding artistes to generate an audience. There are some excellent performers, no doubt, but very often you will find poor quality content going viral. A reality show, however, not only gives you fame but also access to the music directors and singers, which is beneficial for your career.

What genre of music do you listen to the most? Who are your favourite singers?

I am a fan of Sukhwinder Singh and Arijit Singh. Apart from that, I listen to many Punjabi artistes. I am more inclined towards Sufi music. Every day, there is a new song that goes viral, but according to me the music which is timeless is the most precious. These songs need a lot of hard work and passion. Earlier, musicians like Kumar Sanu ruled the business for years but now an artiste’s career is quite limited. At the same time, I also believe that if you are hardworking, you will achieve success sooner or later.

Punjabi music is becoming mainstream in Bollywood. How do you feel about that?

It makes me happy to see Punjabi music gaining so much popularity among listeners. Many Punjabi musicians such as Honey Singh have made it big in the music industry today. At the same time, I think we need to show more originality in the content. Ideally, I would love to see people listening to Punjabi folk music, which is very rich, in its original form, and it is our responsibility as musicians to promote that.

Name your favourite music director with whom you would love to work.

AR Rahman. I met him once when he came as a celebrity judge on Rising Star. Performing in front of him was a wonderful experience. 

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Senior Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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