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Mumbai Singer-Songwriter Winit Tikoo Takes the High Road on Upcoming Fusion Rock Album

Mumbai-based Kashmiri singer songwriter Winit Tikoo embraces fusion on debut album ‘Tamasha’

Anurag Tagat Sep 11, 2014
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Winit Tikoo at Sula Fest in Nashik last year. Photo: Shrey Chauhan/Courtesy of Sula Fest 2013

Winit Tikoo at Sula Fest in Nashik last year. Photo: Shrey Chauhan/Courtesy of Sula Fest 2013

When he was growing up in Srinagar, Winit Tikoo de­veloped a keen ear for folk music listening to traditional Kashmiri songs at weddings and festivals. Says the 35-year-old singer, who moved to Mumbai in 2002, “When you stay away from your home, you realize there’s noth­ing like that [Kashmiri folk music] any­where else in India. When I started sing­ing, I just naturally followed the Kashmiri folk singers, who really throw their voice from the stomach and make it loud.” The singer, who also trained in Hindustani classical music for 11 years, converted into a rock fan when he first heard Guns ”˜N Roses in the early Nineties. He adds, “I picked up the guitar because I wanted to learn some harmonic instrument, but I have always felt the need to reconnect with my traditions.”

This year, Tikoo will bring his musical in­fluences together on his debut album Tama­sha, which will include everything from alt rock to grunge to fusion rock. The singer says that it was his band’s performance on music show Coke [email protected] in October last year that first convinced him about re­thinking his sound. Tikoo roped in saran­gi player Shahrukh Khan and tabla player Vaibhav Wavikar for a fusion rendition of their song “Pagal,” which is now the band’s best-known track. Tikoo says performing “Pagal” with Indian classical el­ements [as was required by Coke Studio rules] changed his previous­ly-rigid “pure alt-rock” approach to music. Tikoo adds, “Eventual­ly, I thought it best to use Indian instruments where they add color as part of the alt sound and not as a part of a fusion ensemble. The album now has Indian instruments on three of the eight songs.” In addition to Khan’s sarangi parts on “Pagal” and “Zinda­gi,” flautist Shriram Sampath features on “Faiz” and alt rock band Split’s vocalist Gar­reth D’Mello does a harmonica solo on the title track “Tamasha.”

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Tamasha was originally set to release exactly a year ago, but the artist decided to shelve all his home-recorded materi­al that was ready to be mastered into an album. Says Tikoo, who has been writing songs since 1999, “Not recording the album in a studio live with the band made me feel I was compromis­ing and that would have meant a lifetime of mental discomfort, if not regret.”

While Tamasha was originally mixed by producer Shane Mendonsa, Tikoo and his band [who came together in 2012] headed to Mumbai’s YRF Studios in April and sought out recording engineer Shan­tanu Hudlikar’s help. Tikoo says it was a risk starting over. “But knowing what Shantanu has brought to the table, it has been a decision that fills me with hap­piness. I am assured now that the songs have got what they deserved. It’s a great feeling.” In August, Tikoo and his band, comprising guitarist Vinay Kaushal, bass­ist Aditya Kadam and drummer Yohan Marshall, went in for additional track­ing of the remaining songs on the album.

With Tamasha due in October, Tikoo says the album is meant to be heard in its entirety, regardless of popular catchy singles like “Pagal.” Tikoo adds, “I do not write music to fill spots. If I com­plete a song, I more or less really like it or I don’t bother completing it. I would love for people to hear them as one whole album more than singles. That’s the way I listen to music. That’s the way I have created music.”

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This article appeared in the September 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India.

Winit Tikoo performs at Hard Rock Cafe, Worli, Mumbai on September 11th, 2014, from 8:30pm onwards. Entry: Rs 500 (including Rs 250 cover charge).

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