Mohan Kannan: A good song will stand the test of time

Debarati Palit Singh
Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Lead vocalist of Agnee, Mohan Kannan talks about his journey, his collaboration with Shankar Mahadevan and what he enjoys more.

Think independent music of the ’90s and Mohan Kannan is such an important part of it. The song-writer, singer and composer still connects with his listeners. Besides independent music, Mohan has lent his voice to film songs too. 

The lead vocalist of Agnee band has recently sung for Sujay Dahake’s Kesari and Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s Panga. In addition to that, he will also release six songs of his own. He has also sung the title track for Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, the remake of Forrest Gump. 
Excerpts from an interview...

An artist goes through a number of phases, how has your journey been from Agnee to Bollywood ?
I’ve enjoyed being a musician since I took it up full time, whether I compose or sing for Agnee or for films. Each has a different set of things to look forward to. Within Agnee, it’s great to see mine or Koco’s composition taking shape because of our interactions at the basic level. There’s a choice he and I make at every step of the way on the direction the song will take. With a film song, where I’m just singing and the composition is someone else’s, it’s a different experience, that of bringing the music director’s idea out correctly. 

How did Chal Re Mana come about for Kesari? Did you have to do a lot of homework since it was your first song in Marathi?
Sujay (Dahake) is a good friend and has been since his first film — Shala. We had composed the song — Sadaa. This time around, he wanted me to sing, which was a challenge as the pronunciations are so different in Marathi even though many words are similar to Hindi. Most of the learning happened in the studio with Sujay and AV Prafullachandra (the music director) explaining me the pronunciations and the meaning of each word or line. It also helped to see the visuals as Sujay had a clear idea of how the song would be picturised. It was fun!

You collaborated with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy yet again with Wahi Hain Raaste for Panga.
In fact, I’ve worked with them quite often, starting with Khanabadosh from London Dreams, and then songs like Chaandaniya from 2 States, Ik Nadi from Mirzya, Ove Janiya from Katti Batti. Wahi Hain Raaste is my fifth song with them. It’s always a delight to work with Shankar, his ability of getting the best out of a singer is admirable, and I learn a lot from him every time I work with them.

What do you enjoy more — playback singing, composing or live compositions?
Live shows give you instant gratification and being on stage in front of thousands of people who are singing your songs back to you is the best feeling ever. Any studio experience is different, as the gratification is typically delayed till the time the song is released. However, composing a song that connects with people is the reason live shows happen and allow us to connect with our audience, so it’s just a cycle really. I love doing all of these things.

Music has evolved a lot over the last decade. How do you evolve with it?
I think listeners’ attention spans are forever reducing in terms of time and nowadays it’s almost mandatory to get to the main line of the song in less than 30 seconds, otherwise it’ll be skipped. This is also a result of the amount of music that is released and the fact that all of it is freely available. In terms of the content itself, the music industry (film and non film) is set for a revamp of sorts. I don’t think anyone can predict where it will really go, but the one thing that has always been true is that a good song will stand the test of time. People of all ages will like a good song for a long time.

The Independent music of the ‘90s is coming back in the form of remixes; what is the way ahead? 
Independent music is definitely coming back and it’s got more to do with platforms that are available. The only difference that we saw in the ‘90s was that there was a dearth of platforms to release independent music and to get it to the audience. I am sincerely hoping that music and musicians start getting popular only for their art and craft and not because their song was picturised on a movie star.

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