Kanishk Seth on working with his mother Kavita Seth on their new single Ki Jaana
The mother-son duo of Kavita and Kanishk Seth have reinvented Sufi music for the modern audience. They released Trance with Khusrow, the world's first Sufi-Electronic/Trance album that was nominated alongside A R Rahman’s album in the best fusion category at the Great Indian Music Academy Awards in 2015. Kanishk and mom Kavita Seth have been collaborating for over a decade and the music they produce is soul-stirring. After the success of their last single, Rangi Saari which got over 1.5 million hits on YouTube, the team is back with a new single, Ki Jaana, which marries electronic beats with Bulleshah’s popular poetry. Kanishk shares more about his partnership with his mother as a musician and how they have struck a balance between contemporary music and ancient texts. Excerpts:
Your mother is one of the most acclaimed Sufi singers and musicians, what is the musical exchange when you are working with her?
My mother and I have been collaborating since I was 14-years-old. Our first collaboration was the world's first Sufi-Electronic album - Trance With Khusrow. It took almost 4 years to produce and was later released through Sony Music India in 2014 and the album was also nominated at G.I.M.A in the Best Fusion Category, alongside A R Rahman! We have developed a unique relationship since the beginning of my musical journey. It’s really interesting because our dynamics change frequently. When I’m recording her vocals she often says that I am too stringent with her. And this is really funny because when it comes to anything apart from working on a song, it’s the opposite (laughs)!
Jokes aside, I think that collaborating in different ways has actually helped us develop transparency and trust in our relationship. I consider myself especially blessed because growing up, I’d wake up to the sound of my mom doing riyaaz. So while I did absorb the nuances of Indian classical and Sufi music, I was also encouraged to explore other kinds of genres and that is how I stumbled upon the fusion that I now love - blending Indian Classical melodies with electronic music.
Tell us about Ki Jaana.
Ki Jaana is a Punjabi sufi poem written by the poet Baba Bullehshah, blended with modern electronic music. With multiple lockdowns and everyone stuck indoors, I just wanted to create something that is positive and fun. Ki Jaana is about finding oneself and expressing love for the Almighty. When I was composing and producing this song, I was thinking of beautiful, bright pastel colours and a girl skateboarding between hills. And this was my reference to the Lebanon-based animator and illustrator, Dana Durr who created the song’s visuals. And I’m really happy with the way the video has turned out!
Technically speaking, balancing both genres is key for me, so I always make sure that I record one Indian or ethnic instrument in my songs. And in Ki Jaana, the mandolin is the lead instrument and brings a lot of colour to the song.
Why choose Bulleshah's classic poem?
There is something divine and uplifting about Baba Bullehshah’s sufi poetry. When I read the poem, I instantly felt a connection as it gave me a sense of love and liberation.
It’s been a hectic but rewarding year. I just graduated from Berklee College of Music, Valencia. I finished my Master's degree there with an Outstanding Scholar Award which was such a pleasant surprise. I intend to go to Barcelona to celebrate this achievement and also perform at the City Hall of Barcelona. I am also excited to announce my upcoming EP - Surmayi that I will be releasing around September. Can’t give out too many details yet but it’s going to be a treat for indie-electronic fans.
Also read this: Exclusive: Sufi sensation Humsufi explains their global sound