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Sanjay Maroo: ‘Fake News and Alternate Facts are the New Normal’

The singer-songwriter, producer and percussionist on his political new single “Altered Reality” and why censorship is meaningless in the age of the Internet

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Sep 05, 2017

Sanjay Maroo discusses the inspiration behind “Altered Reality" and the true meaning of freedom in our current global political climate. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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Although he’s most well-known for his skills as percussionist, producer Sanjay Maroo is ready to turn his focus back to vocals and lyricism for his new single “Altered Reality.” On the track, Maroo deviates from his days as a Hindi pop hit-maker (he was behind songs like “Tu Hi Tu” and “Mujhse Banta Nahin Remix”) in the late Nineties and early 2000s by exploring a slightly darker, more overtly political side of himself.

The track’s accompanying video is minimalist in nature. Maroo’s signature drum kit is absent, and he’s dressed entirely in black as he looks directly into the camera to address his audience about the state of the media today. “In today’s global scenario, there are enough instances of distorted facts that mislead people,” he explains. “It’s often intentional and the power with which it works is worrying.”

In this interview, Maroo discusses the inspiration behind “Altered Reality,” the true meaning of freedom in our current global political climate and why censorship is meaningless in the age of the Internet.

Can you tell us a little bit about “Altered Reality” and what inspired you to write it?

Reality is a perception. It can mean different things to different people. In today’s world so much of what we know and see is altered reality, seen through different lenses, created to suit agendas. As a socially aware person I’m concerned about these things and as an artist, I felt the need to express my feelings through the medium of music.

The words ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ flash across your music video; what do the terms mean for you as an artist and for our Internet-fueled society today? 

What you see is not always what you can believe. In today’s day and age, social media and instant messaging like Whatsapp are churning out some crazy stuff, more than half of which is complete shit. Even the more traditionally reliable sources like TV and newspapers often only highlight selective aspects of an issue because it may help them push their own ideologies. In today’s global scenario, there are enough instances of distorted facts that mislead people.  It’s often intentional and the power with which it works is worrying. ‘Alternative facts’ is new jargon and probably the easiest term that one can use for blatantly stating the unverifiable. It’s quite intriguing how language and words can be twisted to mean different things… It’s uncanny how fake news and alternate facts are the new normal.

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Censorship is another deterrent to many existing as well as potential artists in our country. How can we push past this?

Tell me, what can you really censor? I think it’s an old, outdated term that has no relevance in the world as it exists today. Anything and everything that one wants to read or see is so easily disseminated on the Internet that the concept of censorship has lost its importance. People will find ways to get what they want. In a democratic country like ours which prides itself on free thought and speech, censorship appears to have become an irritant rather than a deterrent, because people even in the smallest of villages are watching whatever they please in any case. Freedom of speech and thought will naturally extend to the right to offend. Boundaries to that keep changing with generations.

Do you ever worry about the repercussions of making a political statement or taking a certain stance in your music?

I’ve always written what I deeply feel and I’ve never minced my words. It is not my intention to make any political statement as there are enough people already doing that. I’m just an artist expressing myself about the irony of the things I see around me. I’m encouraging people to think for themselves. But I’ve never been afraid to air my views either. For example my song “Mujhse Banta Nahin Remix” from the album Chaley Jaaon; it was a period when models in skimpy outfits gyrating to old film songs were the in thing and real artists were shown the door. It was one of the darkest periods in the musical history of our country. So I wrote, ‘Mujhse banta nahin remix, kya karun I’m in a fix, copy karke bante hit, kehte hain I’m a lunatic.’ In the same way what I’ve expressed in “Altered Reality” is what I really feel. When there is truth and a genuine purpose there should be no fear.

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What are your plans for future releases? Do you currently have an album or EP in the works, or any collaborations?

I write when I feel inspired. I don’t simply churn out stuff–I do it when I have something to share.  I lead a dual life and my business interests take up most of my time so there’s limited opportunity to collaborate but my home studio provides me with the solace I need to think and create. Currently I have a set of tracks that can be easily converted to an EP and I am working towards releasing more tracks shortly. With the medium turning to digital there is no compulsion to release an album so I’m just going with the flow!

Watch Sanjay Maroo’s “Altered Reality” below:

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