British-Indian musician and Hip-Hop artiste Manjeet Singh Ral, better known by his stage name Manj Musik, is known for his hook songs like 'Whistle Baja' of Heropanti, and 'Om Mangalam' from Kambakkht Ishq. The latest offering from the musician is 'Gangster Scene', an independent music video that has already crossed 300K views on YouTube.
He has worked with some of the top talents such as American rapper Snoop Dogg, Indian rapper Badshah, and music composer duo Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani of Vishal-Shekhar among others. Recently, Manj collaborated with Ballantine's Glassware True Music to mentor aspiring musicians in India, starting with Gurugram earlier this week and Mumbai on June 24.
FPJ connects with Manjeet aka Manj Musik
Ahead of his visit to the city, FPJ caught up with the musician to talk more about his musical journey, future of hip-hop, handling criticism, and increasing mix of Punjabi lyrics in Bollywood music.
Apart from his independent music videos that have been popular not only among Indian millennials but people across the world, Manj has equally enjoyed the success of his music for films. "Making music for films is an amazing experience. You receive creative inputs from the director or the producer, whereas in independent music, you are free to make what you want," says the musician, who enjoys live performances more than being heard on an audio platform.
"Live is more fun. The feel of a live performance is totally different. When you touch someone’s hands and feel the energy from the crowd, it's something else. In fact, I sometimes watch live performances of my own to get energy and work in the studio," confesses the singer.
When Manjeet teamed up with Snoop Dogg
Among his many collaborations, Manj cherishes performing with American rapper Cordozar Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg for Akshay Kumar starrer Singh is Kinng (2008). "It was super cool working with him on the songs. Snoop was really eager to wear a turban and a sherwani. He wanted to experience the culture. I personally feel that there have only been a few collaborations from a mainstream point of view in India that have hit the audience as much as Singh is Kinng did. This was because Snoop really took so much interest in Indian culture that’s why I really loved working with him," says the musician. Interestingly, the song 'Aaja Mahi' from Singh is Bliing was his first song as a singer, which is one of his personal favourites.
Adding a touch of style
From unique rings to the stunning neckpieces, Manj has added the quintessential look of a rapper to his personality. His fashion choices may be bold but are admired by his fans. "I have been fan of styling extravagantly. My fans have been more than supportive of my fashion. I get so many messages from artists asking me about my clothes and complimenting me for my style," says the rapper. But do the fans also appreciate profanity in your music? We ask. "Occasional usage of abusive language in the lyrics does no harm to anyone. But there has to be some limit and control. Nobody should be talking down about a woman, but sometimes in Punjabi and Hindi songs, there are certain words that go a little bit beyond being basic abusive words. So I think that’s where there needs to be a limit," insists the musician.
Although Manj has received many accolades, he isn't being spared by the critics. However, the artiste stays unfazed. "I take feedback from everybody. I don't mind people beating me up in the comments section. I think social media platforms are amazing tool to push new music and to push artistes in a great way."
Born in the UK to Punjabi parents, Manj has a lot of influence of Punjabi folk music. "I’m a huge fan of Hip-Hop but I’ve always loved dancing and doing Bhangra."
A family man
Despite being working round-the-clock, Manj ensures to spend time with his family. "Fame comes and goes. Tomorrow people might not know me and some of my songs may not work but one has to accept this as it’s a part of being in this industry. So I am happy where I am. I think my dreams are now complete," states the musician and adds that he enjoys spending time with his 17-year-old son, Anoop. "If he is not at school then we are travelling together. My wife (Nindy Kaur) and I travel for my performances and work together most of the time in the studio. This way we get to spend more time with each other," shares the composer in conclusion.