As a composer and arranger of music, Harshit Chauhan has spent a number of years in the industry. While working with the biggest names in the industry, he was keen to compose and release a lot of original music independently. His creative urges paved the way for OG Studio, a unique project that aims to promote original indie music and the artists working in this space. The first season of OG Studio features seven original tracks, five of which have already been released.
In this interview, Harshit talks about his journey in the music industry, how he plans to take OG Studio forward, his love for Indian instruments, issues with Bollywood music, upcoming projects and Moreover.
In an interview, you described the songs you created for OG Studio as “original modern folk compositions”. Could you clarify this?
When the first lockdown came into effect in 2020, I thought about creating music that would make me happy as an artist. As I had a lot of time during the confinement, I was able to work on these tracks serenely. Initially, I thought of releasing these songs as audio tracks because I didn’t have the budget to shoot the videos. However, I changed my mind later. I’ve always been a big fan of Coke Studio and how composers use the platform to experiment with folk music. I thought of creating a similar platform for independent composers. This thought led to the birth of OG Studio. OG Studio was created to promote independent music.
In ‘Rang Na’, which happens to be one of the tracks from OG Studio’s first edition, you used Indian instruments extensively.
I’ve been a music producer or arranger for a very long time and I always liked to work on tracks where I could use a lot of Indian instruments. There was a time when Indian instruments were widely used in Hindi film music. Once computers and software arrived, Indian instruments took a back seat. Thanks to independent platforms like OG Studio, Indian music and instruments can be brought to life. We also used western instruments and tried to create a nice fusion.
Pratibha Singh Baghel is known for singing ghazals and thumris. How was the experience of working with her on “Rang Na”?
I have always been a big fan of Pratibha. We played Navrati together for a very long time. It was then that I met her for the first time. I have been following her work since she participated in the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 200 OG Studio was established to promote independent music. I always wanted to collaborate with her on an original piece. I sent her the song and she immediately agreed to sing it. She did not charge anything for the song and supported this initiative wholeheartedly. When you get support from friends and colleagues in the industry, it’s wonderful.
As a composer and arranger, you have experimented with a variety of genres. Do you have any formal training in music?
I didn’t have much formal training but I was lucky to be born into a family of musicians. My grandfather Pandit Shivram was a composer who had worked with people like V Shantaram. He had widely promoted the people of Rajasthan throughout the country. My brother Divya Kumar is an established singer in the industry. I always wanted to pursue a career in music. I mainly learned singing with my mother. At some point, I became very interested in music production and learned all the important software and tools. I learned to play the piano when I was 7-8 years old. At that time I was a very restless kid and wasn’t interested in learning music, but this training is helping me now.
Your brother Divya Kumar lent her voice to two songs on the album. It was the first time you worked with him as a composer.
Divya and I grew up together in Agra. He is two years older than me. He started his journey as a singer with Kalyanji – Anandji’s band. In many ways, Divya has been my backbone. I learned a lot from him. Ever since he first entered Bollywood, I got a lot of industry insights from him. Divya was one of those people who encouraged me to start OG Studio. He told me he would help me recruit singers and he did. ‘Fakira’ and ‘Faagun’, the two songs he recorded for OG Studio are very special. I hope to collaborate with him on many other titles.
Your brother-in-law Avinash Chouhan wrote all the songs on the album.
Yes! Avinash has been an integral part of OG Studio’s journey. He is very passionate about songwriting and is a gifted writer. He was with me from the day I decided to start OG Studio and was very supportive in this process.
What do you think of the future of independent music in India?
Making independent music is the only way to go. When I started working in the industry, my goal was to compose for films. However, now is not the right time to be a composer in Bollywood. Music labels sign a handful of composers, singers and lyricists and prefer to work only with them. Good original music is barely there. Remixes are used in each film. Salim – Sulaiman, Amit Trivedi, Arijit Singh and many others started their own labels and released music independently. This encourages newcomers to do the same. In the next 2-3 years, independent music will be a real industry.
What do you think are the main problems with Hindi film music?
Labels want to stick to a few formulas and don’t want to try anything new. People associate Tanishk Bagchi with remixes, but the thing is, he’s done a lot of great original songs too. Music labels want to use popular hooks from older songs because they know it will easily click with listeners. Sometimes a composer does 3-4 songs in one day. One cannot expect quality music in such a scenario. The programmers are called in to do a drop which would help the song become an instant hit. Several composers are brought in for a single film and are expected to do a line of their own song which had become a hit recently. At the moment, film music is in a very bad state. I hope things will change for the better in the near future.
What do you do next?
I look forward to the release of the next two songs from OG Studio. I finalized some tracks for the second season of OG Studio. We will be shooting videos for them soon. I would love to have new composers on board in future seasons of OG Studio. After ‘Saareyan Nu Chaddeya’, I collaborated with Adhyayan Suman for another single titled ‘Sau Martaba’. It will be out very soon.