Arjun Kanungo is best known for his songs, Baaki Baatein Peen Baad, Khoon Choos Le (Go Goa Gone) and Gallan Tipsiyaan. These songs have become staples at clubs and parties across India. The irony, however, is that Arjun Kanungo had no focus on music till he was 18 years old. The centre fire pistol champion and national-level basketball player is also a trained actor from Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City.
He used to perform in a band with Asha Bhonsle when Sachin Jigar noticed his talent and onboarded Arjun for Go Goa Gone. Arjun Kanungo’s incredible journey continued, composing music and singing songs for films as well as singles. He has worked with big music labels including Sony Music and very recently with Believe Label & Artist Solutions.
It’s good news galore for Arjun Kanungo—he recently got married to his girlfriend, model Carla Dennis. Just prior to that he released his debut music album, Industry. An association between his own label One Mind Music along with Believe, and across all major streaming platforms. He gives credit to the Believe team to deal with his artistic tendencies— “I’m finicky with everything, so I’m very happy that I’ve got someone that understands that and maximises that. I’ve had a great experience with them. They are much more than just being distributors. I want to give them a lot of credit for this album because they have really worked hard on promoting it and giving it that spotlight which I think it deserves.”
Some of the highlights of Kanungo’s album Industry are collaborations such as the official Indian rendition of Vaultboy’s international hit Everything Sucks, Foto’ featuring Rashmeet Kaur and Ishq Samundar featuring KING. The album is a showcase of Kanungo navigating his signature pop-music style while incorporating more experimental music concepts. Of the need for an album release today he says, “I felt it was time to put myself artistically forward in a way I hadn’t done before and began working on the album. I wanted it to be raw, real but hyperbolic in its vibe. It took me about 9 months to write the 12 songs and for the last 2 months, we’ve been working on concepts for the music video.”
Zee Zest delved deeper into Industry and Arjun Kanungo’s multifaceted life, here is what he had to say. Edited excerpts:
1. How would you describe the overall sound and vibe of Industry?
So, Industry is my baby, like I have been conceptualising it for two years now. It is quite autobiographical. It is about my experience in the industry, it's about my own music. You know it's very personal, that's the vibe, it's a personal vibe but sonically I would say it's modern, it's urban. It's got a lot of melody in it, but it's got some high-energy beats as well. So yeah, I would say it’s unique for sure.
2. How did the collaboration with Vaultboy come about?
I was approached by Vaultboy’s team to do the Hindi remix of his track, Everything Sucks. Initially it was supposed to be a single, but I liked it so much that I asked them if they were interested in putting it in my album. They loved the idea and we just kind of went with it. It was a very organic kind of collaboration, there wasn’t much back and forth at all. I am very happy with the way it turned out to be honest.
3. What was so special about the song, Everything Sucks, that you chose to give it your spin?
I loved the song! I think it's a great song and people all around the world love it. It's a huge song in the US, China and Korea. It's a bonafide worldwide hit. On TikTok it's huge, on reels it's huge. I think that everyone understands what's awesome about this song and that's why it's done so successfully. It's a unique song and I was very happy to be offered to be a part of it. Honestly, you know I think it's taken the song one level up because I think it's made it so desi and it kind of has that vibe that people in India will vibe with. I’m super happy that I did it and I think it's a great song.
4. What is your take on social media and its impact on the popularity of music?
I think that social media is very important, I think it's so important to be a musician and be active on social media today because everybody is on social media. It's growing more and more every year. I think it's now more important to musicians than legacy media because that's where people discover their music. I think that in today’s day and age a musician’s focus should be social media, it should be digital. I think that's where your audience is and especially your younger audiences, that's where they find their music.
5. You also have songs with Rashmeet Kaur and King, which are very distinct from each other. Can you throw light on the process?
Every song I would say is a different process. My process with King was different, my process with Rashmeet was different. With Rashmeet, the song was ready, and she just came and sang it whereas with King it was a much more collaborative process. We both wrote our own lyrics and King wrote the hook line. We sat together and made the song together, so it was a very different process. King was a very strong collaborator with me on Ilzaam and on Ishq Samundar so I think that it's different for every song. With King it was a chill and let's write a song vibe and with Rashmeet she just came and sang the melody and lyrics that were already made. I would say it was definitely more collaborative with King but I don't want to take away any credit from Rashmeet, she has just taken Foto to that next level which you know I think the song deserved.
6. Why did you choose to release an album in today’s day and age, when singles tend to do better?
I don’t know if singles tend to do better. I mean worldwide people are dropping albums and I think that culture is really going to pick up in India because young people today are listening to non-filmy music a lot more than they used to, and they are cheering for their best artists. They want to spend time listening to their favourite artiste’s music more and more. So, it's very important to have many songs out and not just a single because your audience is looking to consume more and more music every day. So, I don’t think it's better than dropping a single. I think both of them have their own purpose and their own function and I think that the more types of formats there are the better it is because the audience is hungry for more music.
7. You wear multiple hats, from an entrepreneur to an actor. How do you juggle these various roles?
I feel like it's all connected, like a lot of people tell me that I work too hard, and I work too much. I am obsessed with my job; I can’t think beyond it. I don't have any work-life balance, I just work because I love it so much. I don’t feel like it's work, I live for it, so I suppose I’m unique in that case. I’m obsessed with my job, like I don’t want to go home and chill and do other things. This is my work, this also my playtime, it's everything.
It’s not so much about juggling but about using my time efficiently. I think the more I do things the more I become an entrepreneur and a musician. I say ’become’ because I feel like every year, I become a better musician and a better entrepreneur. I think that even acting falls into the same category, everything is so mixed today that you have to be an influencer, you have to be a musician, you have to be an actor - all at once. I think those are the guys that are successful because there are so many opportunities today.
8. What is next in the pipeline for you?
So, next in the pipeline for me is a lot of singles! We’ve released only part 1 of Industry, part 2 will release in October-November. So, I’m just preparing for that and we are halfway through. It should be ready in September. There are a lot of videos to shoot, there's a lot of acting also. There's a short film that I just finished, which is going to release at the end of the year.
I just started a company called One Mind Music, we are signing artists as well. It's like a label and an artist managing company so I’m doing that as well. Along with that, I’m working on some international collaborations. There's a lot of international work happening in the next 365 days because the world is getting smaller and people all around the world are collaborating and audiences are becoming global.