BizAsia talks to Manj (MANJ Musik) about upcoming ventures

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Manjeet Ral, previously part of popular band RDB, has gone from strength to strength in his career. Sadly, after his brother Kuly passed away, him and his brother Surj have had some differences. However, this hasn’t stopped Manj from racing ahead with his collaborations in Bollywood. He has recently recorded a song for the forthcoming Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Happy New Year’ and has also been working on the music of films starring Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff to name a few. BizAsia caught up with the talented singer and producer in a hugely insightful interview.

MANJ Musik have some very exciting Bollywood collaborations coming up? Are you able to divulge about them?

There�۪s loads of new stuff coming out. I have a single with Salim Suleman and then something with Vishal Shekhar and Sunidhi Chauhan and then there�۪s something with Badshah and Raftaar. On the movies front I�۪m working with Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff, Saif Ali Khan for some of their upcoming films. I will be performing at the Brit Asia Awards in UK next month and have composed a promotional song called Desi Hip Hop featuring some of the biggest desi hip-hop artists around today like Badshah, Raftaar, Humble the Poet, Raxstar, Roach Killer, Sarb Smooth as a tribute to the Punjabi hip hiphop music industry.

What was it like working on your song for the upcoming ‘Happy New Year’ with SRK? Can you reveal anything about the track?

It was great working with the don himself. He really has so much musical know-how and expertise and is a great singer too. Vishal Dadlani and I sat in the studio experimenting with ��Sharabi�۪ and within 6 hours we had Farah Khan in the studio saying ���I love it, this is amazing�۝ to then moving the meeting inside Shahrukh�۪s trailer. Everytime I�۪ve sat with Shahrukh I�۪ve always come out learning something new. He is truly inspirational and very clear focus when it comes to what he wants.

The Bollywood music scene has changed somewhat since RDB made their debut. Did you face many obstacles yourself which are perhaps not so visible to newbies today?

I think RDB laid down the red carpet for a whole new gamut of music. We brought in the whole concept of desi-global collaborations thanks to Akshay paji. These days artists are just not getting innovative and there�۪s a whole bunch of artists claiming to be originals but their compositions are just rip-offs. Songs shouldn�۪t sound similar after a point of time and there shouldn�۪t too much of replication from the West. While hip-hop and EDM are good and it�۪s always advisable to incorporate an element that is trendy it�۪s important to stick to an indigenous sound. Newbies are just getting used to the idea of overnight fame. Money and power and taking their profession for granted. It�۪s important to respect the job you do.

RDB - (from left) Kuly, Manj, Surj

Recently, there have been reports of a rift with Surj post Kuly�۪s sad loss. This is sad for your fans and followers to see. What would you say would be your ideal solution to the current situation?

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, Kulypaji. 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 Kulypaji 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 hardwork 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 afterall 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, showreels and social networking sites for Manj Musik and it gives me a high that we’ve been successful in less than a year. Infact 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 maneuvers with the emotions of the fans. Family will be 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 take with your head and let your heart shut down for a while. RDB was about family for me till Kulypaji 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 are you most proud of in your transition from UK to India?

Well I�۪ve moved to Canada permanently and it�۪s been almost 15 years now. I built a family in Canada while I built an empire in India. Moving out of the UK was the best thing I ever did for progressing as a business man, family man and to fulfill my dreams, but of course the UK will always be in my heart. I still miss the shopping and food like crazy every day.

Did you always dream of composing Bollywood music?

Music runs in my blood. I started off with my father at the Gurudwara and touchwood it�۪s been a fruitful journey. All the blood, sweat and toil payed off. My vision is just not Bollywood but taking India onto the world stage and composing for Hollywood too. I have a few projects lined up with Sean Kingston, 50 Cent, TPain, LMFAO whilst also working on scoring music and composing for mainstream Hollywood movies in Canada and USA.

You�۪re going to be coming to perform in the UK at the Brit Asia TV Music Awards 2014. What do you now most enjoy about coming back ���home�۝ and about the ���home crowds�۝?

Well it�۪s taking a walk down memory lane. We had done a beautiful tribute to Kulypaji in 2013 at the aforesaid awards. Now returning to the UK with an army of killer talent and showcasing something that�۪s been developing at a fast pace for so long in India, USA and Canada -Desi Hip Hop. The UK hasn�۪t seen Manj Musik in full form yet. RDB is legendry and I can never take that away, but people still stop me all across the world and say ��� Manj Musik is RDB�۝ but moving forward, the UK will now see the start of what Manj Musik has to offer. I also have friends and family in UK whom I�۪m excited to be meeting. What I�۪m most excited about is the special track I�۪ve created with some of the stalwarts from the Bhangra industry.

Any message for your fans?

Always pursue your ambition with full sincerity and honesty. Never take anything for granted and never make assumptions based on rumours. Respect everyone who give you respect back. I�۪d like to extend an apology to all the RDB fans for not moving on with using RDB but in all respect for my older brother Kulypaji, we request that RDB is laid to rest as a legacy and will always be remembered as a efficacious brand.

BizAsia thank Manj for taking the time to talk to us and wish him all the best with his ongoing journey.

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