Youtube's singing star

“Love u!!!<3<3<3”... “You are such an eye candy gosh”... “Too good awesome must watch”… 

  • Published 29.05.15

Age: 27
Label: Sony Music
Education: Bombay Scottish School, Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York
Toured with: Asha Bhosle
In the news for: Reworking Uptown Funk
Soundtrack: Khoon choos le (Go Goa Gone)
Also trained as: Pistol shooter

“Love u!!!<3<3<3”... “You are such an eye candy gosh”... “Too good awesome must watch”… 

Arjun Kanungo, 27, has become used to such comments on his Facebook page. The Mumbai-based singer-producer is currently doing the rounds on YouTube for his take on Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk, the summer anthem of the year. You may also know him as the Khoon choos le singer and the man Buzzfeed calls “high quality smoulder”.

Let’s hear it from Arjun, who was recently signed up by Sony Music.

Your version of Uptown Funk (originally by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars) features the tabla, and is trending online. Is this song a part of a bigger project?
People request songs on Facebook and then I work on them. I go for tracks whose rights belong to Sony Music. Uptown Funk was not planned. Everything was recorded live in the studio. The tabla player had never heard the song before! We jammed a couple of times and recorded it. 

I pick songs which I can do justice to. I don’t want to do straightforward covers where I need to copy-paste. I try to put my spin on these popular songs, be it in terms of arrangement, my voice, how we shoot the video....

What’s it like being a YouTube star?
There are so many outlets for artistes these days and YouTube is a great source for viewers. You have this amazing variety of people logging in from around the world. One usually gets stuck to the Bollywood grind and you don’t know what’s happening outside. YouTube allows me to put my stuff out there. This entire thing started as an experiment with Bang Bang –– a mashup between the Nancy Sinatra version and the new one (the title track from the Bolly flick). YouTube allows one to connect with fans minus those ridiculous marketing budgets.

Who is your big inspiration?
I think my mom (Sheila Kanungo, pistol-shooter and 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medallist) has really inspired me to be a musician because she knows what it is to be in a field that’s unconventional. Both my parents have been a constant support. That’s super-important for a youngster. My mom is my hero for sure. I used to shoot as a kid as well and won a few medals but I didn’t pursue it professionally. There are many lessons to be learnt from shooting, the biggest is the fact that the only opponent in the sport is you. You end up understanding how you react to a situation. Music is also performance-based. And you end up learning a lot about yourself.

You have also toured with Asha Bhosle in India, Australia, Dubai and Sri Lanka. How did that happen?
Going back to my metal band days (he had a band called Apocalypse), I met this man called Nitin Shankar, who is on Asha Bhosle’s troupe of musicians. I was asked to come and try for this band but my Hindi was terrible. Anyway, I was asked to try out. Ashaji liked my voice and asked me to do some English songs during the concerts. So I sang stuff like Hotel California. Say, I would sing We Will Rock You and Ashaji would sing O haseena zulfon wali... it was amazing!

Going by Google Images, you seem to have modelled now and then. Any chance of pursuing that career option?
I never planned to be a model. Modelling never interested me that much because I couldn’t see myself stand in front of a camera for 10 hours, holding a smile. I get very restless. Modelling is not a right fit for me. I’ve done it sometimes because it helps promote my other work.

So, do you see yourself living elsewhere?
I am an out-and-out Bombay boy. I thought of living in New York (he studied acting at Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute) and other places but Mumbai is my home. If there is any city I see myself in, it would be Melbourne. I went there recently for a performance and fell in love with the place. I don’t think I can work anywhere but in Bombay. It’s addictive… the stress.

What next?
This year we have plans for 26 videos. Since the response has been great so far, we might end up doing more. With Sony Music I will be launching a single next month and a video will also be there. There are also some brand-related stuff that’s going on.

Mathures Paul
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