Singer-songwriter Kamakshi Khanna on her new single 'Qareeb', overcoming mental blocks through music
At over a million views for the stop motion animated video directed by Arsh Grewal, 'Qareeb' tells a familiar yet emphatic story of self-love and acceptance.
Amongst the rising voices in the singer-songwriter space in India a few years ago, one might posit that Kamakshi Khanna’s 2017 record Cakewalk didn’t entirely get its due. A labour of love (as it should be), the album left Khanna a bit burned out, leading to a more relaxed, no-expectations approach to songwriting as she moved from New Delhi to Mumbai (in 2018) and began teaching full-time at True School of Music.
She says, “The hiatus from releasing music was a very conscious and important one full of highs, lows and life-changing revelations. I never intended for it to be as long as three years but good things take time.”
In the meantime, peers such as Prateek Kuhad, Mali, Hanita Bhambri and more continued accruing an audience that Indian indie had rarely seen. “I would love to see a day when Indian music is equated to independent music and see the love that people put into their art bridge the gap between commercial and indie to build a community of musicians that is stronger than ever before, interdependent and supportive," she says.
Now, it’s Khanna’s turn back in the spotlight, once again. In October, she released her single 'Qareeb' via JioSaavn’s Artist Originals platform. At over a million views for the stop motion animated video directed by Arsh Grewal, 'Qareeb' tells a familiar yet emphatic story of self-love and acceptance, fed through radiant vocal hooks in what is Khanna’s first Hindi language song. More than the thematic concerns, the launch of 'Qareeb' itself was a freeing experience for Khanna. “The most exciting part of being a singer and songwriter for me is breaking mental blocks. Each new skill, song and trick that you learn plays such a huge role in shattering the self-doubt that often weighs down on every artist. This song broke the 'I don’t think I can write songs in Hindi' mental block that I had been carrying, and that moment was liberating at a whole new level.”
A part of folk/indie trio RIVER with fellow singer-songwriter Abhilasha Sinha and singer-producer Komorebi aka Tarana Marwah, Khanna points to the capital’s strong support system as one of the best boosts an artist could receive right from their late teens – from platforms such as Artistes Unlimited to Lady Shri Ram College’s Western Music Society, the Delhi University a cappella groups and more. But then Mumbai was the true testing ground of sustaining creatively and of course economically as a full-time musician. She recounts, “Each project was a tiny but significant step in the right direction. I believe that when you grow as a human being that growth reflects in your music and I am happy to say that it’s definitely done that for me. Due to the pandemic, I am currently living with my family in our holiday home in the hills but I really do hope to go back to Mumbai when things get better.”
With her management Big Bad Wolf doing a bit of heavy lifting, Khanna admits that she’s also learned to be a little less of a “control freak” than before. Now more happy to collaborate with an eye on building a “creative community”, Khanna is working on putting out a follow up to 'Qareeb' and making it a total of three singles, several collaborations and an album. With quarantine measures still keeping her away from city life, Khanna is performing and uploading video performances of different versions of material old and new over on Instagram. The series is called Green Room Sessions. Also using it as a way to gauge early audience reactions to upcoming music, Khanna adds, “I like to describe my future material as the soundtrack to the thoughts that you have when you’re alone in your room and no one is watching which is exactly how the songs are written as well. They are a reflection of vulnerability, acceptance and growth.”
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