SimplyBhangra.com's Kulwinder caught up with Manj, now known as Manj Musik for this Exclusive 3 part in-depth interview! Manj talks about the on-going litigation with his brother Surj over RDB, his new label & much more!
Manj the name behind RDB has now gone solo and launched his very own label Manj Musik! I caught up with Manj who spoke about his musical journey with RDB, his late brother Kuly and the importance he played as well as Manj's new venture of his label.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in shady Bradford until 23 when I got married to my beautiful wife Nindy Kaur and moved out to beautiful Toronto, Canada to start a career and a family with her. It's been 15 years since then!
How did you get involved in music? Have you always had a passion?
To be honest I got involved in music because of Kuly paji. I used to sit day and night and watch him mess with different software's. But before that Kuly paji and I used to have an Amiga 500 where we used to create samples and place them on the keyboard of the computer and trigger them off and I used to sing to the beat. It sounded horrible but it was our first attempt at making music.
If you ask where Surj was during this time, well the god's honest truth is that he never took interest in music at that time at all so he would be doing his own thing. It was just a two-man show with Kuly paji and me, from making crappy mixes to then producing music and developing the iconic RDB sound which took us to the next level.
This is where Surj was brought in to DJ at social events along with me whilst Kuly paji was studying at university for his masters. However during that time Kuly paji and I continued to improvise on the RDB sound to break barriers, so you could say yes I definitely had that passion from day one and we were a powerhouse duo!
How did you and your brothers decide to work together and form RDB?
I think the above answers that but just to add to that, after producing our first ever song officially which was a Shazia Manzoor song on Surinder Rattans album The Lick and adding some input on Tappe. A lot of people don't know but I actually produced my first song for Sahara and the Doodlally Remix for Tappe which then led to Soniye Ni Soniye for the album which I created in the cellar studio using one computer and a substandard keyboard.
It was after the Tappe and Soniye Ni Soniye that Kuly paji and I produced our first album 'The Debut' from that same cellar studio with some equipment purchased by Tony Untouchables who helped setup the foundation for RDB. He was the man who believed in Kuly paji and me when it came to music and we started our journey in making that RDB sound and hits after hits.
During this time Surj and I carried on DJing at social events and I used to work 9-5 then, leave work and go DJ, finish Djing at a gig and go home change and go back to work. Surj had neither college nor work so he would do the road shows only with a bunch of our friends who got paid to lift the speakers and setup, which made them feel like they were part of RDB.
What has been the best thing RDB has given you?
It has given me a platform to showcase my talent to the world and earn a decent livelihood. I feel I have something to be proud about in my future that no matter what- there will never be a RDB sound again but when there was I was 50% of the talent that went into making that sound with Kuly paji. I have a legacy to be proud about and cherish.
Tell us about the RDB split and the litigation against your brother Surj?
I don't think I owe an explanation to anyone anymore. You can't please everyone at the same time and I'm not designed to be diplomatic. I'm absolutely okay with people having varied opinions about me but I'm hoping this is the first and last time I need to justify myself. RDB split because of a mutual decision arising out of creative differences.
The legal proceedings were carried out to protect the legacy of a brother who was my role model and instrumental in making RDB a household name, Kuly paji. Manj Musik was the most logical step as music runs in my veins and making music is not just my means of livelihood but my life's calling. I'm okay with fans saying Manj Musik flopped but I'm not cool with them saying RDB flopped especially because a key decision maker Kuly paji is no more.
Please take special note that the legal proceedings equally prevent me from using the name RDB in any form as they prevent Surj. Neither Surj nor I can use the name RDB without each other's consent as we have a 49-49 stake in the brand. No musician who is in his correct senses would like to be embroiled in a legal battle as we are programmed to creative freedom but it was to protect the interests of the RDB community.
I am not in this legal battle for money or fame. My wife Nindy and I started from scratch and earned our respect with a lot of hard work and commitment. We have seen good days and bad days so no amount of money or fame can change our core essence of who we really are. Surj is my blood brother after all and I am not in favour of a public spat but I am also not someone who will just remain silent when instigated.
I just pray some sense prevails upon him and he realizes that by tampering with the RDB brand he isn't going to go very far. Why wouldn't anyone who's talented be confident enough to start a whole new label? We designed brand new contracts, websites, show reels and social networking sites for Manj Musik and it gives me a high that we've been successful in less than a year.
In fact by using the name RDB for shows and singles I'd be using it to my advantage to fool the public at large and rake in the big bucks. My manager Ankit Khanna who was instrumental in managing all of RDB's work in India before the split has worked unconditionally in establishing Manj Musik.
I'm glad that the music and film industry supported Manj Musik and honestly competition can co-exist as there isn't any shortage of work. But now it's time to create an empire for my son Anoop and make a mark for Indian music on the world stage. The past was great but the future is going to be better with the blessings of Waheguru. You have to take each day as it comes and not harp on the past. We did great work as RDB and that will always remain a legacy.
I will be experimenting with new sounds and instruments and creating a legacy of my own with Manj Musik. It's time to put all rumours to rest and let my work do all the talking. Fans will sooner or later appreciate originality of talent and support my vision of taking Punjabi music to the next level.
I never was and never will be a phoney attention seeking individual who manoeuvres with the emotions of the fans. Family will always be family, but business will also always be business. You can't mix the two for too long. There are some decisions you got to take with your head and let your heart shut down for a while.
RDB was about family for me till Kuly paji was alive as we shared a common vision and with that family gone, it's best to put the brand to rest. Manj Musik is my family now and I wouldn't let anyone exploit it for their vested interests.
What do you wish to gain from Manj Musik? Tell us more about your record label.
It's not like I'm starting fresh with Manj Musik. I have built a lot of credibility within the industry through my work and relationships and of course, through RDB. The name has changed, but the talent is same. The biggest names in Bollywood and the music industry see that and back my decision.
That is why I continue to get more and more work today. The legacy of RDB will stay alive through its previous hits! Every time I go on stage, I thank Kuly paji for making these hits with me through a small backstage prayer. The moment I sing any of our hits live, it keeps the name alive and remains as a legacy. New music will be Manj Musik but who will ever forget the amazing smash hits that Kuly paji and I created as RDB.
I also will keep dishing out new music under Manj Musik as an ode to Kuly paji and use the knowledge he shared with me as my commitment towards his vision. Fans will sooner or later realise Manj Musik is his own sound and RDB will always remain at the top. You can't really fool the audiences for long! Manj Musik will carry on performing all our hits as I was the one who created them with Kuly paji and composed the compositions and sang the songs.
But RDB is no longer trading, but left as a legacy.
It's like the Beatles. John Lenon was not called John Lenon Beatles he was called John Lenon and the Beatles was the band when they were all together making that Beatles sound. I'm now Manj Musik, RDB was RDB when Kuly paji and I were in the studio creating the sound.
It's time to love RDB for what it was and move on let's not live in the past! I will prove to the fans that the Manj Musik sound will be at par with the RDB sound in years to come and not by just putting three Sardars on stage.
Moving on the hit track " we doing it big " was a worldwide smash hit, the rapper Sarb Smooth uses lyrics in the song saying " we doing it big, we taking your girl " a lot of people were confused by that, can you tell us more about it?
He says that but it's more hip hop slang, you have to leave your brains at home and not take it so seriously.
What was it like to work with the likes of Snoop Dog, T-Pain and Akshay Kumar etc?
It was a fantastic learning experience. These doors opened up after I married my love of my life Nindy Kaur and moved to Canada. She was my good luck charm. She set me up in Canada when we had nothing and shuffled between 3 jobs to put me on my feet.
We were renting a basement apartment for 3 years while she agreed to help me setup. Soon after we started seeing success in Canada, I started travelling to the USA and met so many different people and agents who connected us to the mainstream scene.
Being a global citizen makes massive difference. I helped open the East-meets-West doors with a lot of desi singers viewing mainstream collaborations as a viable opportunity. Today I still have great relationships with these artists and continue to work with them and more.
You have had a great success in Bollywood, how were you approached?
It's a funny story because it all started from Akshay paji being in Toronto and me in Detroit for a show after I moved out to Canada. Like I said Nindy is my lucky charm and I was with her out eating when I get a call from a friend who was with Akshay paji and he passed the phone to me and a voice said "hey it's Askhay from Mumbai" I replied "yeh yeh and Shahrukh Khan called yesterday, what do you want" thinking it was a prank I wasn't amused only to then realise it was really him.
After apologising a million times he said he wanted to do a track for his film and he was a fan of our music as my friend Vinay Virmani had given him CD of RDB songs that he really liked. I said hell yeah so it all started from there and there's been no looking back. We started off with Rafta Rafta for Namaste London and flew down to Mumbai to start work with Himesh.
What role did Kuly Paji play in your career?
Producer, mentor, older brother, confidante, party buddy and overall a great warm human being. I learned that you should treat everyone equally from him and never have an ego. He told me how it's important to live your dream but never take the people who helped you build that castle for granted.
If the foundation is strong, the organization will never dismantle. This is something I teach my son everyday as well that no job is belittling and every individual teaches you a lesson. This is also the reason why I am still getting a lot of projects. I'm okay to travel economy, carry my own luggage and eat dinner with my staff.
It doesn't make me look any less glamorous. I don't have half the starry unnecessary tantrums that a NRI singer should have. Making people laugh with his funky expressions and extravagant explanation of things was my fondest memory of Kuly paji. He was not scared of telling someone off when they were wrong or saying what's on his mind. That guy just made everyone laugh.
His best friend DJ AK who travelled with him everywhere and knew him inside out is a very close friend and who accompanied me to the Brit Asia Music Awards. He knew Kuly paji better than his own wife, parents or even me. Kuly paji opened his heart to AK and just some of the stories AK tells me makes me feel so proud of being Kuly paji's brother. I never knew that Kuly paji looked up to me so much as I always felt he was my musical mentor.
Coming up in Part 2:
"they would say it's the crappiest song they ever heard. Today it isn't even in a Bollywood movie and is the most famous sound to date"