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Quick five with Arjun

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Arjun Coomaraswamy who’s mostly known by his stage name Arjun; recently released his debut album Closer to Home via Island Records/Universal. Effortlessly straddling two cultures, Arjun’s first album showcases his versatile talent as a very modern triple-threat bridging the gap between two worlds, seamlessly connecting R&B and trap with his South Asian roots. The British Sri Lankan singer-songwriter, record producer Arjun rose to attention with an R&B cover version of Why This Kolaveri Di in December 2011, and since then there was no looking back. The singer shot to fame with the track Suit Suit Karda collaborating with the superstar Guru Randhawa in 2017.

Arjun used to have dreams of being a cricketer and he loves chocolates (a lot)! At one point he also thought he might be an architect (that’s what he studied at university). “But, I have always had a passion for music ever since I can remember. I learnt to play various instruments at school and from the age of about 13 I started performing in bands and groups,” said Arjun. Decoding his fusion sound, the debut album Arjun said that his sound has always been a fusion of east, west and several musical genres. Arjun’s music has evolved over the years, but he strongly believes that his fans from early days will definitely connect with this album Closer to Home as it is a return to his ‘roots’ in many ways.

Tell us more about the album? How did that happen and a little bit of behind the scene stories?

This album is entirely in English and has a more mainstream UK/US sound, but I felt it is important to still have an ethnic edge so there are a lot of Asian (and World) influences in the composition and production. So I have wanted to release an R&B album for a long time but had been waiting to find the right label to market it in the West, similarly to how T-Series have marketed my music in India and pushed it to the global Asian diaspora. I signed a record deal with Island Records in the UK last year (home to the likes of Justin Bieber and The Weeknd) so I finally felt like I had the right infrastructure to release my R&B project. I collaborated with about 20 different amazing producers & writers, and together we made about 40 songs, before choosing the final 10.

Music influences you would like to mention? Any favourite artist you’re currently listening to?

For me, it’s classic Pop/R&B artists like Michael Jackson and Usher, and from the East, the composers like AR Rahman and Pritam to name a few. Right now I love a lot of the R&B coming out of the US and Canada. People like Tory Lanez, SZA and Post Malone.

With a global fan following and having toured the world over, your best and worst experiences so far? How different is it performing abroad, compared to India?

My best experiences have been seeing the world and meeting people from so many different backgrounds. I love to meet people and learn about their culture – I truly feel like a global citizen as I have been fortunate enough to perform on every continent. The only downside is sometimes I miss out on experiences at home in London with family and friends. You have to make sacrifices which sometimes means missing weddings, birthdays and special occasions with your loved ones due to tours abroad.

What’s your take on the current music scene in India, be it commercial/independent? How tough is it to collaborate with so many different musicians?

I think it’s great that the non-film music scene in India is growing so fast. Artists are able to release singles that can now be massive hits nationally. I think collaboration is amazing, because when you work with someone from a different background you may create something you would never have come up with yourself. Sometimes a different perspective can take your song to the next level.

Do you ever plan to get into Bollywood? Be it as a composer or maybe an actor?

Yes, I would love to do more projects in Bollywood as a composer. I have sung a few songs that have been in film soundtracks but I think I would need to move to Mumbai to enter into it completely. But, at the moment I am focusing my attention more on the international Asian scene and growing my brand as an independent artist.

Well, the main thing is the new album! Arjun, who watches more Bollywood than Hollywood at the moment, has a few collaborations in the pipeline. He is still close to T-Series and will most likely be releasing more music with them in the near future.

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