Aman Hayer, the man behind the smash hit albums Reminisce, Groundshaker and Groundshaker 2, will be releasing his eagerly awaited new album soon. SimplyBhangra managed to track down the talented music producer and vocalist for an exclusive interview.
Congratulations on getting married this year. How are you finding juggling your marriage and music career?
Thank you. So far, it’s been good – lol. I have been quite busy with shows and parties recently, which has meant that I have been away most weekends. My wife is fully supportive of my career and is very understanding of the time I have to be away as a result of it. But I do maintain a balance of family life and my career, as it is only with the support of my family and my wife that I am able to do what I do today.
How did you first get involved with the Asian music industry?
I got involved in the Asian music industry from a young age, when I used to listen to my Dad’s band play at weddings and parties. My dad was in a band called ‘Amar Group’, which was formed by a close group of friends over 25 years ago. I used to go along with them to shows and events and would watch and learn as they performed.
I then started learning various musical instruments from the age of about 10, when Ustaad Laal Singh Bhatti Ji began teaching me how to play the dhol. Since then I have been constantly learning and practising with different instruments, including the harmonium, tabla and dholki. I started producing music and playing instruments on various albums when I was 16.
Since then, my first and foremost musical influence is Sukshinder Shinda paaji who I class as my older brother. It is with his guidance and tutelage that I am able to do the work that I do today in the bhangra industry. Shinda paaji has been involved in music for many years and has worked with some of the world’s most talented artists.
If you hadn’t gone into the music production, what career path would you have chosen?
That’s a tough question! I would have to say that I would probably have pursued my passion for hockey. When I was younger, I used to play for Khalsa Hockey Club in Leamington Spa. I used to balance my spare time between music and hockey, which was very tough! I made a lot of good friends through hockey and through the various tournaments we used to participate in.
Other than bhangra, which genres of music do you enjoy listening to?
I enjoy listening to all kinds of music, be it Hindi, classical, folk, qawali or dance. Music is a universal language and I try to appreciate the different styles, instruments and beats used by different cultures. The only way to bring a fresh and different sound to the Bhangra industry is to be innovative and experiment with different instruments and rhythms.
What is your take on the whole bhangra industry now? Do you think it has progressed as much as it should have?
I think the industry has progressed a great deal during the last 10 years. We now have artists from the UK, India, Canada and Europe, whereas previously the industry was mainly dominated by artists from the UK and India. I think one of the main factors limiting the progression of the industry is people assume that they can make a career in the industry without support and guidance. Being successful is rarely down to one track or one album; it is down to hard work, dedication and perseverance. The industry has had an influx of artists, all trying to produce or record an album with the sole aim of having quick fame, which has inevitably diluted the industry.
Another factor that is damaging the industry is music piracy. Illegal downloads have meant that record label income from CD sales has dried up. This has meant that labels can’t invest in new artists and bands.
You have produced some very popular dance floor anthems such as ‘Theke Wali’, ‘Je Naal Nachega Tu’ and ‘Tharti Hildi’. Do you have a personal favourite?
I don’t really have a favourite one. Each song that I have worked on has taken time and hard work. The success of a song or album also depends on the vocalist and how the fans feel about them. I have been fortunate to have worked with some very talented artists, both from the UK and from India.
Whenever you listen to a bhangra track, there is always this ‘nerdy obsession’ with instrumentation to see if an artist has maybe used something different such as an electric guitar. Where does your inspiration come from when you’re looking for something original or fresh to add to a piece of music?
My inspiration comes from my desire to produce something which is new and different. There are a number of musical instruments out there that can be used by bhangra artists, other than the core instruments such as the dhol, dholki and tabla. This inspiration also comes from listening to different genres of music and experimenting with different melodies.
You have worked with many talented vocalists including Lembher, Angrej and Jazzy. Who have you most enjoyed working with and why?
Jazzy B and Angrej are very close friends of mine and are both amazing vocalists. Every artist has their own way of working and singing their songs, which is what makes them unique. I am fortunate to have worked with very talented singers, who all bring their own style and atmosphere to the studio. It is always an experience to get into the recording studio with different artists so I couldn’t really pick a favourite.
Are there any artists who you haven’t already worked with and who would you like to collaborate with?
I am a big fan of Durga Rangila and would have loved the opportunity to work with him. He is an amazing singer based in India and has recorded some deep and meaningful songs. I am also a big fan and close friend of Nachattar Gill and would like to record a song with him on a forthcoming album.
Recently we’ve seen a new influx of UK born vocalists such as JK, Jaz Dhami and Rana Sahota. Alongside these new vocalists, do you think the scene also needs young musicians as opposed to young DJs?
Yes. I do believe that one of things lacking in the industry at the moment is young musicians. Learning to play an instrument takes time and guidance from a teacher, which is probably a turn off for most youngsters. It is very easy for someone to buy a set of decks and start DJ’ing, whereas playing with a live band in front of hundreds of people is more difficult. It is very important to find a good teacher who has had experience of playing instruments on the live scene.
Vocalists such as JK, Jaz Dhami and Rana Sahota have done very well in the industry and have taken the time to learn and practice their vocal skills.
Do you ever get the impression that you may be bringing out too much music?
No I don’t think I am bringing out too much music. It takes a lot of time and dedication to put together an album, from finding the right lyrics, selecting the right vocalist and producing the music. Groundshaker 2 took about three years to put together, which I felt was the right amount of time I needed to work on it. Recently I have produced songs with Angrej Ali, Gippy Grewal and UK-born singers such as Benny Dhaliwal. Some producers do tend to bring out a lot of music but I try to balance out the type of music I work on.
You have worked with several Bollywood singers. Is producing music for a Bollywood movie something we can expect from you in the future?
Bollywood would be a big step and I would appreciate the chance to work with Bollywood artists and film producers. Punjabi music has become very popular in Hindi films now, which has opened up a lot of opportunities for Bhangra artists. I have some very good friends who are involved with the Hindi film industry and they have hinted that they would like me to work with them, so watch this space…
India has now become one of the main markets to crack as an artist, a decline in sales in the UK means that a lot of artists are now looking at India for big sales. Do you make your music with this in mind?
I think any artist or producer has this in their mind. It is natural to want to make music that will appeal to the biggest Punjabi market in the world. However, I try to maintain a universal appeal to my music. I think a song or an album should appeal to Punjabis in India and Punjabis in the West. My career has been driven by my passion for music and the rest is just down to the appeal of the music to the fans.
OK, now’s a time when you have to pick one or the other:
· Shinda or Jazzy? – lol, they are both my big brothers who I respect more than anything, I couldn’t possibly choose between them
· Miss Pooja or Sudesh Kumar? – Sudesh Kumari
· Bally or Bhoota? - Bhoota
· Saag or Daal? - Saag
· PA or live? – Live, without a doubt
· Man Utd or Liverpool? – Liverpool!!
Can you tell us about any forthcoming albums you have in the pipeline?
I have just finished a new album titled ‘The Entourage’. The album has 10 songs, which each have their own style of music. I have worked with some talented singers on this album, including Manjit Papu, Mangi Mahal and Dev Dhillon and it has taken a long time to put together. It also features my second solo song “Ik Kudi”. I am also working on Angrej Ali’s next album, which should be released early in 2011.
Thank you for taking out the time for this interview. Do you have any final words for your fans?
I just want to say thank you to all the fans that have supported not just me, but the whole bhangra industry. I would also like to say that, as everyone knows, piracy is damaging the bhangra industry and I would urge all fans to buy original CDs and purchase music from paid download sites. Keep supporting the artists and make sure you help keep bhangra music alive. Keep up the good work SimplyBhangra team.
Interview done by Sarb and Manj.