Singer Vineet Singh Hukmani, the global radio star whose latest track rings a literal bell for fibbers

Singer Vineet Singh Hukmani, the global radio star whose latest track rings a literal bell for fibbers

The multi-genre vocalist Vineet Singh Hukmani talks about online radio, Gen Z listeners, his album-meets-book innovation, and his latest single GHANTA (So Much BS)

Kasmin FernandesUpdated: Wednesday, March 08, 2023, 11:46 PM IST

There are two types of people (amongst the 16 million who've seen the track GHANTA on Instagram reels) that are liking it, according to Vineet Singh Hukmani. One is someone who has already been through enough bullsh*t (BS as he calls it) and they laugh in agreement with the sentiment. “The other is young people, just being exposed to so much BS and they tell me the song is helping them deal with it. It is a friendly crutch for them. So the irony is, I wasn’t aware of the extent and magnitude of all the BS around,” says Vineet Singh Hukmani, a Harvard Business School alumnus who's the first ever artist to have nine #1 singles on the Euro Indie Music Charts. His tracks have featured on the DRT and Cash Box Magazine charts in the USA, The World Indie Music Charts, and the World Radio Charts.

An electronics engineer by education, the singer, songwriter and producer is also the former MD and founder of FM radio station Radio One, the beloved radio station that was recognised for its international programming. Vineet is also founder of, a foundation that trains artists from Asia on how to produce and place great quality music on radio in the US and Europe. Vineet's passion for constantly upgrading and upskilling was shining through in our Zoom call from his home in Delhi. Not only does he write all manner of songs, he has also been training in producing, mixing and mastering tracks, doing vocals in Gospel and other styles, as well as packaging it all. Over the past couple of years, he has become a sensation in global radio by making tunes in a different genre with nearly every new song (rock, RnB, funk, melodic rap, gospel, retro-tronica). His latest single GHANTA (So Much BS), a global hip-hop song flavoured with some powerful local Punjabi masala. In an exclusive interview with FPJ, he talked about his single, the power of radio and how

How did you decide on making a parody track?

I would like to respectfully point out that ‘GHANTA (So Much BS)’ is not really a ‘parody’ as in, it is not an imitation or spoof of an existing song or video. It is an original English hip-hop song with a palatable Punjabi touch. However, it does take a fun look or a dig at people who spread a lot of BS (bullsh*t or nonsense); it uses the colloquial power of the word ‘GHANTA’ – a warning bell of disbelief – to deal with such situations in a fun way.

What kind of bullsh*t do you find being floated in the music industry?

Actually, it is not just to do with the BS in the music industry or entertainment industry but to do with specific people and situations where people over promise and underdeliver. So for example, I’ve found people at parties waxing eloquent about how crypto currency is going to have its day in the sun again, and the next day it crashed or how real estate telemarketers promise returns on land that you haven’t even heard of. In the music/entertainment industry, there are so many promises made... of quick fame or viral content, by dubious middlemen who will say anything to convince young unsuspecting artists. So my advice to anyone just entering the industry is, do your homework and be alert and if you feel someone is BS-ing you, feel the GHANTA bell warning inside you, ignore the BS , smile and move on.

What do you think of internet radio as a source for Gen Z to discover music from around the world?

Radio globally is – and will always be – the most important discovery medium; it is the place where people in the US/Europe etc. hear a song for the first time. Even today, 7 billion people tune in to the radio at a fixed time globally and the ‘shared listenership’, its host and therefore the introduction of new music, together, is unparalleled. Almost all radio stations globally also broadcast online on the net or on satellite channels to allow their listeners to catch their favourite programmes when they are travelling away from their cities or to attract listeners from other cities. So all the best radio charts in the world, be it Digital radio tracker (DRT) charts, Billboard, Cash Box magazine charts, European top 100, still use radio airplay of a song, as a metric for a song rising on the charts! No artist worth their salt can ignore the power of global radio today.

Go on...

In India, the situation is different. Radio is heavily controlled by expensive government licences and not allowed to broadcast the same programmes on the internetIndependent radio stations cannot survive online in India due to the prohibitive costs of music royalty. So we can’t really make the comparison. Online streaming services (which reach about 100 million people a week globally) are not really ‘shared listening’ or ‘appointment listening’ but ‘solo listening’ and not every day ‘same time’ listening . So therefore this facet does not allow so much discovery of new music as traditional radio, but streaming is a very valuable part of giving quick access to a song once it has been discovered by a listener. So an artist has to do their best by being on radio for discovery and on streaming to make their music accessible at any given point for a listener. Traditional radio in India is a 3000-crore industry and all the streaming platforms in India, put together, generate only about 18% of that amount as revenue. So, there is still a lot of work for streaming to do in India.

Globally, the power of radio remains unchallenged both amongst younger and older listeners and I have witnessed firsthand how much it has helped me in my music in the last two years. As artists, we need both traditional and new methods to help our music be heard more by listeners. If it were not for global radio I would have never achieved the feat of being the ‘first Asian to top the DRT charts twice’ with my songs Dee Da Da Da and City Roads alongside mainstream global artists like Beyonce.

You said in an interview that the consistency of releasing singles every 45 days has helped you reach your goals. Do you still follow this?

The idea to do a song every 45 days was created by my global agent Martin Langford, as he wanted me to be present in every genre that global radio is in. So meticulously, I created song after song, moving genres from Pop 40 to Hip-Hop to Adult Contemporary to Rock, Country, Gospel and so on. I released 12 different genre songs in 16-17 months, with each of the songs topping the global radio charts and then also wrote the book NINE.

The learning experience was nothing short of heavenly providence. It allowed me to learn from the best genre experts and then watch each song do well on the respective genre radio stations. This was done to create sufficient momentum and earnings so that I could sustain my presence at the global stage. This also helped my multiple Grammy submissions across genres and while I have not won, the sheer exposure to the wonderful Grammy jury members in every genre has helped me gain immense confidence.

What do you do when the 45-day deadline is looming and you don't have a tune?

I have so much music within me to share with the world. I do not need to release music every 45 days, as that momentum has been achieved but now I use my genre learnings to focus more on what my heart wants to do. The mind-over-heart phase is over and now the heart-over-mind phase is just dawning. I am excited to be where I am today. My team calls me ‘MMF’ - mini music factory and I am happy to be blessed with that trait.

How was your experience in the first year of being an author with the book-meets-album NINE?

In the earlier days, people paid for music when they bought CDs or LPs. Now music is a free commodity. I wrote my book NINE to not only allow a new set of ‘readers’ to discover my music but also because a book still sells for Rs. 400 a copy! NINE is the first book where you can read 9 thrilling stories, and at the end of each story is a QR code that helps you listen to a song that is themed around the story. This has made NINE do well both as a book and an album. When I read positive reviews of the book, the feeling of a disruption well-executed warms my heart. At the recent World Book fair in Delhi, many people told me that they were truly fascinated by this ‘concept’ of a book and a music album together. As a musician or author, we need to constantly find newer ways to connect with our audience. NINE helped me do both together.

With record labels pushing musicians to make songs for Tik Tok and Instagram Reels, is there room for authentic music anymore? More importantly, does it also stunt the exposure of young listeners?

Times are changing. Listeners are changing. Attention spans are becoming shorter. You have to follow where the audience is going and therefore Reels – in my experience – makes for fabulous song discovery. Gen Z and Alpha will lead their own lives and discover their music their own way, just like the older gens did for that era. However as a musician, you can take a call on how to balance that out. I don’t see a John Mayer on Instagram all that much, so I listen to him on a streaming service but I discover new music on Instagram every day and learn a lot from them.

You see, Instagram is a vibrant marketplace with various musicians, singers, painters, creators peddling their art. If you’re not in the middle of the town square, how will you be heard ? In my multi-genre approach, I didn’t have to depend on Reels for my R&B gospel song Light of the World as the audience is different. However, for my latest release GHANTA, Reels worked wonders.

Tell us about your role as a mentor for aspiring musicians.

My foundation helps musicians discover genres and create music for genre-based global radio. We help between 75-90 artists every year to improve their music quality and output and therefore do well on global radio, charts and analyse their achievements in an organised manner. We also enter their best music for renowned global awards. The foundation is for a serious musician looking to learn from the global music trade and apply the rigour needed to tap new markets.

It is my way of giving back to new artists, what I have learnt and executed with my music. Indian artists have a lot of untapped potential but they need to apply themselves and make the right investments at the right time to explore a much larger global music industry. Bollywood has its moments but it is very small and cannot accommodate the gigantic ambitions of Indian youth, especially when it comes to English language artists.

Which artists/ bands are you currently listening to?

I love Imagine Dragons even more now after their Lollapalooza India concert. My other favourites are Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa. I love the vocal expression in Adele’s voice. Among the rappers, I really admire Kendrick Lamar. In country music, I think Chris Stapleton is just so awesome because of his realistic writing style. In the Gospel genre, I am moved by the voice of CeCe Winans. I have become such a genre junkie that I continually music-hop and discover greatness in music every day. From the classic rock days, my go-to band is Whitesnake and in blues, I love Keb Mo.

As a multi-genre artist, what do you say to those who say that musicians should focus on only one instrument or genre at a time?

My advice is, don’t limit yourself. Take out all the music in your heart and soul and from every life experience and see what each and every genre can help you achieve. Give your production the needed quality and let the world hear your music on global radio or charts. Then, take a call on what you really like to do, on what you truly enjoy creating. The world of music outside India is huge and many musicians in India are talented enough to tap that potential. Limit yourself when you truly know yourself, till then keep exploring.

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