EXCLUSIVE: Armaan Malik on Echo, taking I-pop global, dabbling with wanting to breakout and fear of rejection
Music transcends boundaries and language. Singer Armaan Malik proves that yet again with his latest single Echo which is a collaborative work with KPop singer Eric Nam and Indian-American musician DJ Kashmr. Echo has already crossed over 8 M views on YouTube and has been seen as a window for many more Kpop meets I pop collaborations in the future. ‘Echo’ flirts with the pop theme as Eric Nam and Armaan lend their voice bringing their individual style in the verses they sing. While Armaan beautifully transitions between Indian classical touch and western music beats, Kashmr puts it all together with his effective EDM blend. As the song continues to grow on you, we reached out to Armaan Malik for a candid chat about the music, the idea behind the collab, was it liberating, and if this will help Indian music reach globally. Armaan Malik in a chat revealed the cross-culture collaborations offer unique voices while making sure “none of us lose our true artistic identity.”
Firstly, a very very heartiest congratulations to you Armaan for the success of ‘Echo’. The song truly has been something that touched my heart. Eric, you and KSHMR blended the melody, the verses, and the emotions so beautifully.
Do you feel validated and liberated with the reception to Echo?
Thank You for your kind words and really happy to hear that ‘Echo’ resonates with you. The love that’s been pouring in from Armaanians, NamNation and KSHMR’s dance music community is just unbelievable! When I see the responses and comments on YouTube and elsewhere, it’s evident that the song has struck an emotional chord with the audiences and that’s a huge win for all of us.
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It is your first of the many cross-culture/region collaboration. We have always said Music transcends language and boundaries but taking that first step is never easy. What were the two things you kept in mind while working on the music and song?
‘Echo’ is a never seen before story of three artists who have a deep- rooted Asian heritage and have united to celebrate May as the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM). Even though Echo is an amalgamation of all the three artists’ musicality, we made sure that none of us lose our true artistic identity. It’s unique and different yet at the same time it’s so us and that’s the beauty of this collaboration.
Echo is being touted as the first I-Pop meets K-pop song. With the reception it has received, do you feel this will make way for more cross-cultural interactions and collaborations?
One of my goals with my international music is to pave the way for the next generation of musicians to be able to create more cross-cultural collaborations that aren’t geographically bound. I sincerely hope, ‘Echo’ is one of those tracks that gives hope to artists to dream bigger and homegrown artists will get more opportunities going forward!
In the past too, you had always emphasized how you wanted to experiment and take Indian music globally. Do you see Echo as a step forward in that direction?
I am just trying my level best to go beyond the preconceived thoughts as to what I was thought to be capable of as an Indian artist and shatter those stereotypes against Indians as well as Asian artists in general.
We have heard many musicians in India speak about how they feel restricted when they write songs for films. Was it the same thing that sort of makes you want to break out and do what you really want to?
I am so happy to say that there are so many new artists emerging in the scene and I’m glad that shift has happened. For non-film music to be as big as film music it will take a few years but it will definitely happen. I believe the main moving piece for this shift will be when all mainstream Bollywood singers start making their own non-film music and albums. It will help boost it to another level altogether.
I’ve always consciously made an effort to do non-film music and champion the independent music movement in India. Not only can I dabble into my own crevices that I always wanted to explore in the global music sphere, I can do it without external pressure.
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While we talk about pop music globally, including the influx of KPop domination especially BTS across the world, where do you see I-Pop and its status in all this?
I truly believe that India has a lot of talent and potential. We never really knew how to go about making a plunge into the global music scene up until now. In the past few months, a lot of things have changed for Indian artists and I can foresee Indians being up there with the big mainstream western and international acts.
Correct me if I am wrong but I feel like we have the talent to take Indian music globally but we are complacent with what we have been doing so far. However, I see singers like YOU or say Shalmali trying to break out from that. Do you see a change of course within the industry as well?
There’s a lot that needs to change internally and I don’t think just one person can action that. But yes, I believe that a lot of Indian artists are now trying to break away from just doing film music and have begun exploring their inner musicality and putting out songs that truly defines them as artists.
Fans obviously love what you do, but does that ever limit you from taking risks?
It was quite daunting to re-introduce myself and start my musical journey all over again in this new big world of global pop. A lot of people here in India thought I was taking the biggest risk of my career, not knowing how it will pan out and if it would affect the career I’ve built in India all these years. But I think the biggest fear I have as an artist is not being able to express my true self. Everyone expects you to be a certain way and create the music you’ve always been known to create, but somewhere there’s always some part of your art that stays within because it may be too different to your usual work, and there’s that fear of it being rejected by the public. I like that I am known for singing beautiful romantic songs, but I hate being typecast. I know I am so much more. However, I also believe in the fact that don’t open all your cards at once. I am still young, I’d like the world to know me better and differently as time goes by. I wanna keep surprising them with my musical capabilities year after year.
Where do you see the future of I-Pop in the coming years?
We have really talented artists out here in India and I definitely believe that it’s just a matter of time when we’ll be seeing our names on Billboard charts, list of Grammy winners, sold-out international tour flyers, and playlists all around the world.
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You mentioned recently that there are days when you don’t feel too okay, how do you destress or manage those days?
I simply take some time off, that’s it. I have underestimated the value of resting so much that I forgot to unwind once in a while to concentrate more. Surely, music has been my only saviour all throughout the lockdown(s) but at times, even that becomes overbearing. The last 10+ years have been about constantly hustling and running around to “make it”, that I couldn’t enjoy the simplest things in life like eating a tub of ice cream while watching my favourite movie or going with my dog ‘Handsome’ for a walk. I am fortunate enough to be able to take a break when I feel burnt out and come back stronger each time.