The fire inside: Mohan Kannan of Agnee is charting a new indie course in the music industry
Chennai, January 4: Singer, songwriter and composer Mohan Kannan started his career in 2007 with one of India’s most-loved and widely followed bands, Agnee.
As lead vocalist of the band, he delivered a number of albums. His first step into Bollywood was with the Salman Khan, Ajay Devgan-starrer, London Dreams. He also worked playback for the song, Khaanabadosh.
Since then, his journey has seen an upward graph with Chaandaniyan from 2 States, and Yaariyan from Cocktail, to name a few hits. We caught up with Kannan to speak about his plans:
Do you plan to go completely independent with music composition?
I can’t imagine being without Agnee ever, so no new venture of mine will mean a dissociation with Agnee or with Koco, my partner and co-founder of the band.
I will continue to compose and sing for Agnee, as I always have. There are many sounds and genres that I’d like to explore that are not necessarily band-led, for example, folk or classical songs or mainstream Bollywood songs that I genuinely love composing and singing, but that do not fit into the Agnee sound.
These are the genres I’d like to explore as a composer outside of the Agnee stable.
From the independent music scene to Bollywood, how has your journey been?
It’s been fun! Singing for Bollywood has only broadened my experience and learning, and especially since I’ve had the opportunity to work with the finest composers in the country like Amit Trivedi, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Pritam, I always come out of a new song recording having learnt something new.
I’m looking forward to composing a lot more for Bollywood now as well as continuing my singing.
The independent music scene has also been wonderful to us, and being in a band allows us to explore multiple ideas from different individuals that finally come together to create a song and that’s a unique experience too.
What do you enjoy more, composing or singing?
That is too tough a choice for me to make! I love expression. I believe I have equal strengths as a composer and as a singer, and I would love to explore both as much as I possibly can.
I also love creating songs to visual ideas — in fact, even when it’s not for a film, I usually have a visual situation in my head when the song starts formulating, that’s just the way I think.
And, I love decoding a director’s story vision into song. As a singer as well, I’m a big fan of emoting the lyric rather than showing off vocal histrionics.
What keeps you hooked to music?
Music needs nothing else to hook you to it. I’m blessed to have been surrounded by legendary musicians since birth, like my mother Vasantha Kannan and my Guruji S Sekhar and Carnatic stalwarts practically being at home five days a week.
And, since my entry into the field of music, I’ve continued to have the good fortune of being associated with musicians I adore and respect greatly, and that always inspires me.
Live concerts are still largely unexplored by many artistes. What is your vision for this space, and for you in it?
Live concerts by Indian musicians, for the most part, are usually an audio treat, and stress less on the storytelling or the visual aspect of things.
I love a holistic experience, and apart from the musicianship that you can only showcase on stage, I would love to bring to my audience a unique way of relating to each piece we perform, not only through their ears but their eyes as well.
I’m a big fan of a concert experience being larger than life and something the audience will remember for the rest of their lives, and I hope to create just that.
Music composition and singing is a rare combination in Bollywood. Where do your interests lie? How, in your opinion, has the space evolved in the last decade?
There are some outstanding composers who are outstanding singers too, like Vishal Dadlani and Shankar Mahadevan, for example.
And I do believe every singer who experiments can compose. My interest has always been in both singing and composing. I remember the first time I composed a song was because someone asked me if I would and I just started composing without thinking of whether I could or not.
And now, close to 15 years later, I’ve composed and co-composed with Koco from Agnee over a 100 songs, most of which are released and some of which will come out in the near future… and hopefully I’ll have a LOT more compositions to contribute with soon after that, with Agnee as well as on my own.
— Jaideep Sen