Kamakshi Khanna’s Exponential Rise as An Indie Artist
The New Delhi singer-songwriter’s music video for her latest single “Duur” recently crossed 100,000 views on YouTube
From the outside looking in, it’s fairly obvious that there’s been an evolution to New Delhi singer-songwriter Kamakshi Khanna’s craft as an artist since she released her 2014 debut EP Much Mellow followed by 2017’s full-length record Cakewalk. Ask Khanna if she agrees with our observation? She says, “I would like to believe so because I think there’s a lot more time and love that I put into my work and there are a lot more people and brains involved. Also, the fact that it’s writing in two languages, from English to Hindi, exploring new sounds and not just sticking to what I knew, but kind of challenging what I knew a little bit and changing that. So in that way, yes. I feel like it’s evolved.”
Khanna’s first foray into writing music in Hindi came last year with the smash hit “Qareeb.” While the musician speaks Hindi often and even listens to music in the language as much as she does with English, she admits that writing in Hindi has never been easy for her. “The inner monologue that I have with myself is not in Hindi. The poetic thoughts that I have, the deep thoughts are not in Hindi, and that’s where my inspiration comes from. So, it’s always hard for me to tap into that space and open that door,” she says.
However, Khanna followed “Qareeb” with another Hindi offering recently, the cinematic “Duur.” The track includes lyrics penned by the singer-songwriter as well as from Mumbai composer-producer Sameer Rahat. Although Khanna wrote the song’s chorus back in 2017, she only finished up the pre-chorus recently with help from her parents. As for Rahat, Khanna first met him at a house gig in Pune where they both shared the bill a few years ago. Upon reaching out to Rahat to ask for his assistance, she says with a laugh, “First I was like, ‘What am I even asking? Why would Sameer Rahat write lyrics on my song?’” Khanna adds, “He’s such a genius.”
Once Khanna and Rahat put down the verses and fleshed out the song, the “Qareeb” singer roped in Ahmedabad-bred and Mumbai-based producer Kabeer Kathpalia aka OAFF to bring the song to life while Mumbai drummer Karun Kannampilly (from rockers The Koniac Net and Dino Siren) also laid down parts for the track. She says, “Karun, Kabeer and Sameer have never met each other. Everybody somehow made the song what it is today which is different from my old approach. Virtually, of course, it’s a limitation, but it also opens up so many possibilities, because you can actually work with anybody from any part of the world.”
The singer-songwriter also linked up once again with visual artist Arsh Grewal for an aesthetically pleasing black and white music video. Khanna is at her emotional best during the clip. The video – which was an entirely DIY project – has now amassed over 100,000 views on YouTube. How does Khanna feel about that? She says, “I’m extremely happy. I did not expect that. I was very, very scared about the fact that we’ve put in so much effort and done so much, I didn’t know if people will even watch it.” While “Qareeb” was released via JioSaavn’s in-house label Artist Originals (AO), Khanna terms “Duur” as an indie release with a label approach. “Working with a lyricist, a producer, all the things that you actually do with the label are all in place, but we’re all doing it independently,” she adds.
Away from her own music, Khanna has been teaching for a while now. She’s had stints at Mumbai’s True School of Music as well as at a school in Gurugram. Now, she’s taken her classes online and has found it to be quite good for herself. “It’s been possible to balance my music and teaching really well because you’re at home at the same place doing everything,” she says.
Even though Khanna has toured the U.S. and played gigs and festivals around India, she counts working out of her house in the town of Bhowali in Uttarakhand over the last year as special. “It was just such a peaceful, amazing moment to be able to kind of achieve all of these things and coordinate all these things sitting in the mountains.” She adds, “This reminded me that anything is possible you just have to make the best of what you have.” With a collaboration coming out – that Khanna stays mum about – later this month, it’s only onwards and upwards for this rising indie star.