Shannon K: ‘I have faced a lot of upfront racism in the United States’

Debarati Palit Singh
Thursday, 19 March 2020

Kumar Sanu’s daughter Shannon K, a singer and songwriter, talks about her latest single I Do and how challenging it was for her to get a break in the American music industry.

Unlike her dad Kumar Sanu, Shannon K, from an early age, decided to make a career in music in the USA. The 18-year-old singer-songwriter has created a name for herself in the international independent music scene with songs like A Long Time, Don’t Go, and OMT (One More Time) with Sonu Nigam. But what has made her an absolute favourite is her anti-bullying anthem — Give Me Your Hand. For the song, she worked with Academy Award nominated producer Kyle Townsend. Featuring several international celebrities like David Arquette, Ed Westwick, Freddie Smith,  Briana Evigan, Antonio Del Rio, William Valdes and others, the song has got immense support from across the world. 
The young singer also made her Bollywood debut recently with Duggi in Himesh Reshammiya’s film Happy Hardy and Heer. Shannon also released her latest single — I Do, a bittersweet love song produced by Infinity. The producer has worked with artists like Rita Ora, Ludacris, Mary J Blige and others. Shannon says that the inspiration behind I Do was an emotion that she felt during a songwriting session. “I had a great team who helped me put it all into words which was amazing because having someone understand your emotions, especially if you work together, is a really progressive thing,” she says and reveals more in this interview: 
How did the collaboration between Infinity and you happen. How do collaborations push you as a musician? 
The collaboration was as simple as two musicians finding that spark through which they can make a cool song. It happens a lot when there’s a great producer involved and Infinity is 100 per cent a great producer. I get to learn so much from producers like Infinity, Poo Bear, Kyle Townsend or someone like them. I want to learn from everyone and that’s what pushes me as a musician. 

You have co-written many of your songs with your sister Annabelle. 
Yes, Annabelle and I share a great bond. We’ve seen each other in our vulnerable, crazy, happy, and sad moments, so we understand what message the other person wants to convey. She’s my best friend and I wouldn’t be where I am without her support. 

Your song Give Me Your Hand, an anti-bullying anthem, was highly appreciated and got support from many international celebrities. Did the success of the song put a certain kind of pressure on you as a musician? 
On the contrary, I think it’s made me more empathic. I don’t see constantly conveying a message through your songs as a pressure but rather an opportunity to spread positivity. I remember receiving a letter from a 45-year-old man who said that he had attempted suicide four times in his life and listening to Give Me Your Hand helped him, and to be honest, that helped me too. It helped me believe that others know what I felt when I wrote the song with my sister. It’s a beautiful thing.

You started your career as a musician and live performer pretty early. How has that helped you grow and what has been your biggest learning? 
Technically, I started my career when I released my collaborative track with Poo Bear. That was my professional debut. Since then, I’ve performed at many prestigious venues and the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that people come to these shows to forget their worries and enjoy themselves, so it is my responsibility to give them a memorable show and be an artist for the audience just as much as I am an artist for myself. Unfortunately because of my school schedule I can’t do frequent live performances. 

How challenging was it to get into the music industry in the USA? 
It was extremely difficult. I have faced a lot of upfront racism and it’s disheartening to see that some people are still not open to my culture and race. Anytime, I tried to say anything to certain people, I was told that ‘your culture is different therefore you can’t understand mine’ — which is definitely heartbreaking. It’s true that some people cannot see past race and though they may seem to be supportive, they think very little of you in their mind and when you find out about that, it breaks you. I am often told that I am too young to have an opinion of my own and that I don’t know what I want which isn’t true. 

When it comes to music, what is the most important advice shared by your father that has come in handy? 
Believe in yourself, do your vocal exercises every day, never give up, and wait for your time and luck to play their part in making your future. He also told me to ‘never consider myself as less than any other artist because they have been on the same road as you and they’ve struggled just as much as you’. 

Which international and Indian musicians have inspired you?
I’d say Céline Dion because the first song that I ever learnt to sing was My heart will go on. I also am inspired by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. As far as Indian musicians are concerned, I’d say, apart from my dad, Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Alka Yagnik, and Shreya Ghoshal.

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