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The Archives 2004-2020

Save the Music with Sumeet

Photo by Sasha Nialla

Born and raised in the Canadian backcountry London, Ontario, Sumeet was the only Indian student in her school system. Just as many R&B singers get their start in the church, Sumeet began singing in temple as a small child. She inherited her musical inclinations from her musician/singer/songwriter father who also fostered an appreciation for diverse genres. Being exposed to an eclectic mix ranging from traditional Indian tunes to blues and R&B, Sumeet is making a name for herself in the mainstream hip hop world.

SAPNA: When did you realize that you wanted to be a professional singer? How did this life- changing decision take place?

S: I was about to start my last year of college when I realized there was nothing else besides music I would ever want to do. I had been doing small shows and trying to meet producers for some time but it wasn’t really until then that I decided music was it for me. I guess it was just that point. I was about to go into my last year of college, summer was ending and I was out in the garden with my father, when he asked me what I wanted to do with my life, what really made me happy. There was only one answer; music. And he said, ‘If that’s it, then do it.’ That simple. He told me to never settle on happiness, how we’ve got one life and we’ve got to live it to the fullest. He told me not to worry about money, or success, that they would come over time, and even if they didn’t, I’d be alright, I’d find a way, as long as I didn’t settle on my dreams. I don’t know if my pops even remembers our talk or knows what an impact it had on me… he made it all seem so simple, clear-cut. And so I packed up my stuff and by September I found myself in Cali, ready to give it my all.

SAPNA: What did your family think about your decision?

S: My family was very encouraging from the start. My parents did have their concerns of course, especially my mom, like how I would make ends meet doing something so unstable, but they’ve come to understand now that there’s absolutely nothing else I would ever want to do. They know I’ll always get by, no matter what, that regardless of what happens I will never give up on something that makes me so happy. My parents are also artists so once they saw my determination and passion for what I was trying to do, they became believers too, and they love the music I create. My brother has been my biggest supporter from day one, hands-down. He’s incredible… he put his Law school aside just so he could get a job to provide for me while I followed my dream, that’s how strongly he believed in me. I don’t know too many people that would help so whole-heartedly, I’m lucky to have him for a best friend and I know I’m lucky to have such a supportive family.

SAPNA: You’ve worked with various mainstream artists. How exactly did these opportunities arise?

S: Collaborations between artists should always happen through a mutual respect and love for each others work. The business aspect of it, as far as sales and promotion, doesn’t really interest me. If there is a chemistry and the song works, then all of that will naturally follow. In the case of Elephant Man, one of his producers, Dorian, from Brukkout Entertainment, met my manager, Amil. Dorian came through the studio one night and played us his beats. We were just starting out at that time, barely had anything to play for him, and nothing going for us yet. We played him some rough mixes of what we did have, and it was all butter after that. Dorian believed in me right away and made the song with Elephant Man happen. We’ve collaborated with Brukkout on a few more tracks since. It’s a great relationship.

SAPNA: Tell us about a regular day in the life of Sumeet.

S: Let’s see, a regular day. I wake up relatively early and hit the gym for about an hour… got to keep the cardio up for stage shows. I’ll get home and rehearse for at least an hour, more depending on when shows are coming up, and then I’ll work on whatever song I’m in the midst of recording for another hour or so. I do have a schedule for myself which I try to follow but I swear there just aren’t enough hours in the day! On alternating days I’ll study the masters, Aretha, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone… there’s so much to learn from them; and other days I’ll sit with some music and work on writing new material. By 6ish I’m out of the house on my way to the studio where we’ll stay until about midnight or so, later if it’s a weekend. After that I’ll get home, if it’s not too late I’ll practice a little on my semi-new guitar (I’m still very much of a beginner), listen to some tunes and then fall asleep, usually on the couch with a bag of potato chips by my side.

SAPNA: What do you feel are the pros and cons of fame?

S: The pro’s are great… to have the ability to reach so many people through song. To have a voice that will be heard, to make good music that people will listen to. I hope that I might be a positive role model for that girl that loves music but is overwhelmed with where to start or if it’s worth the struggle. There’s so much I’ve learned and am learning about music along the way that I would love to have the opportunity to share with others.

I guess the biggest con of fame would be the loss of privacy, everyone up in your business, dirty laundry aired for all to see. I’m not too worried, hopefully folks will concentrate on the art instead of the artist… besides, I keep to myself anyways and just stay focused on the music I make… not too much in terms of scandals! As far as getting a big head and becoming money-minded and forgetting where I come from, that’s just not my style. I was raised modestly, and was taught to be humble and thankful for everything I have. I don’t feel that will ever change in me, whether I become famous or not.

SAPNA: How do you feel being one of the few desi artists out there who has made it in the mainstream?

S: I feel blessed to have gotten this far, but I haven’t “made it” yet. When I turn on the radio and hear my music, and when I go to the store and see my CD, then I will consider myself successful. So far the market has been very open and receptive to me. Most people listen to the music and are surprised when they find out I’m Indian. In the end it shouldn’t matter what ethnicity I am – it should be the art. I’ve grown up listening to the same music as everyone else. Real music can’t be manufactured, it comes from inside, it’s a feeling that can never be faked and that’s what should outshine anything else. I hope I can help aspiring desi’s who are uncertain as to whether they should risk trying to make it in the industry, desi’s who are hesitant for the wrong reasons. It may be tougher, it may not, but in the end the music speaks for itself and will break through any barriers that may seem to be up.

SAPNA: What do you feel about mainstream music tapping into desi sounds?

S: I think it’s great! Desi sounds are so addictive, the dhol is so mesmerizing, you can’t sit still to it. I feel bits and pieces from different music and cultures, not just desi sounds, are integrating into mainstream music, introducing people to a lot of new rhythms and sounds they’re not used too. Music can’t be denied, no matter where it originates from… good music will always be good music – regardless of language or sound. It was crazy the first time I heard Beware of the Boys on the radio in New York. And it blew up! It was everywhere… all over the radio, I’d walk into a store and they’d be playing it, I think there’s even a new commercial out that’s bumping it. And Everyone loved it, not just desi’s. It’s not even in English and I was hearing ring tones singing it out! Music is universal, it speaks to us where the language fails and I am definitely looking forward to the different sounds that are lending themselves into the western market.

SAPNA: What advice would you give an aspiring singer?

S: I would tell them above all else to believe in themselves and in what they are doing. I would tell them not to compromise their music for what they think it’s supposed to sound like… there aren’t any rules to follow. We’re led to believe certain songs are hot because the radio plays them- over and over and over – until we have no choice but to like it. Musicianship is being stolen out from under us until every song we hear begins to sound the same. I would tell the aspiring singer to tune out the radio, tune out what they think is ‘in’ right now and translate the music they hear in their head. A lot of albums that are out right now only have a few cuts that are really good, and the rest are just album fillers, songs that don’t really matter. That’s not cool, that’s why the state of music is where it’s at right now. But then there are artists like Prince, Erykah Badu, Outkast… artists that make music they believe in, artists that are not worried about the mainstream. They make music the way they hear it, and their albums are incredible, track for track. So I would tell the aspiring singer to believe in themselves and their art, clichÈ as it may be, to make sure every song means something to them, and to Save the Music.

SAPNA: Anything you’d like to say to your readers?

S: I would like to say thank you so much for all of your support and well wishes, it means so much to me. I have a new extended remix CD of my first single, “Agony f. Elephant man” being released this week which I’m very excited about! It also features 4 other remixes by different producers, including the Hot Curry Remix, which most definitely infuses some desi sounds! You can check out snippets on my website, and if you like it, you can cop it for only $3. All feedback is highly appreciated and valued, please let me know what you think. Much thanks to SAPNA magazine for taking the time to interview me. Save the Music. — Neesha Rana

Photography credit

One thought on “Save the Music with Sumeet

  1. Sumeet is super talented….this music industry is so difficult. I wonder what it is going to take for someone to break out, even in the Indie scene…its hard to be pop.RB in the indie scene.

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