Jovan Heer speaks exclusively to Manni Sandhu who has been making hit track after hit track in the UK music industry, recently with Makhaul which seemed to blow up all over social media and is all over the music charts.
Manni Sandhu shows his versatility and progression as a music producer with Makhaul, which incorporates heart-rending Sarangi alongside Akhil’s soulful and melodic vocals. Manni musically ventures into fresh territory with Makhaul, being the first single of this kind he has released. Makhaul promises to be a hit with both those who prefer soulful and melodic songs and those wanting to hear innovative, groundbreaking music.
The story behind this song is a rather interesting one. Manni met newcomer Akhil in a Jalandhar based Recording Studio whilst recording for his forthcoming album, Against All Odds, in 2013. The singer who was looking for his big break auditioned for Manni on the spot. Impressed with his vocal abilities, Manni took Akhil under his wing; Makhaul has been in the works ever since. Akhil, who hails from Nurmahal in Panjab, is also a talented songwriter who penned the emotive lyrics to the song.
The music video to Makhaul was shot in India earlier this year by newfangled video directors Tru Makers. The video brings to life the emotive lyrics to Makhaul, in a heart-wrenching video featuring Manni Sandhu, Akhil and Indian actress Priyanka Bhardwarj.
Welcome Manni, How did you get into the music industry? What did it take for you to become some a big name in the UK?
Coming into the music scene was never really something that was planned. I’ve been producing music since I was about 13 years old. For around 6 years I used to practice music and production every day and release mixtapes/studio session videos online. At this point I just used to do music as a hobby and looking back, it was probably the best time I had with music. It was so care free and it was all about having fun.
I used to try my best to be creative with the music and how I released it – eventually I started to build up a buzz on the internet and in 2009 I got signed to an independent label, Brown Boi Music, for a one album deal. I just want to make it clear that it was never my intention to get signed.
I was so happy with just making music in my bedroom and releasing it on the internet for people to listen to. When Brown Boi Music approached me I declined the deal at first because I didn’t think I was ready to start working on an album. It was my brother Jazz that pushed me into doing it.
Once I agreed the deal with Brown Boi Music it was mine and Jazz’s vision to make sure whatever we did was to a high quality and different to what was out there. The scene in terms of music was mad different compared to how it was when I was growing up. I wanted people to hear/see my product and for it to take them back to the early 2000’s. So in 2009 I started working on my album My Time which included tracks like Door Ni Kulne, Sona, Balle Balle, Husna Di Sarkar etc.
After 3 hard years of blood, sweat, and tears I released my album ‘My Time’ in February 2012. I’m glad it took me so long because I learnt so much throughout the whole journey.
Who inspired you to get into music?
I used to watch my brother Jazz remix music back in the days on a software called Atomix MP3. Watching him doing this used to amaze me. Back then he would be remixing Punjabi tracks with Hip-Hop/Garage beats. I started to copy him and became obsessed with it; it got to a point where I was doing it more than him. Eventually he grew up and packed it in, but I carried on and went into music production. It was around then I fell in love with music and ever since then I’ve been riding along on this music journey.
Who would you like to work with in the future? Who is your favourite artist you have worked with in the Punjabi music industry?
I’ve always tried to make the effort to make sure the artists I work with are skilled singers. Anyone with a good voice is a pleasure to work with because they’re all truly god gifted.
What projects do you have going on at the moment, do we expect more hit tracks like Husna Di Sarkar, Door Ni Kulne & Makhaul soon?
You can never say if a song’s going to be a hit or not. Pick any one of my tracks - I guarantee you before I released them I was just sat there thinking “Are people really gonna like this?!” If you go out to make a hit – it ain’t gonna happen. It has to come naturally. In terms of projects I’m working on an album called Welcome to the Future which features a host of new singers from Punjab.
This was a project we decided to put out before my album ‘Against All Odds’. There’s been times where I let pressure and “the industry” get to me and it affects my music – but with Welcome to the Future I literally closed myself off from everything and everyone and made what I wanted to make. Music that sounds good to me and the people around me. It’ll be interesting to see what people think of it.
You interact with people via social media, is their something you would like to say to all your fans?
Respect to everyone that’s supporting me and my movement. I’m trying to prove that you don’t need big labels, PR, finances, industry contracts and cheesy music to be heard. If the music is genuine, coming from the heart, and you’re creative, that’s all you need. As long as I’ve got the peoples support I can carry on with my vision.
What does the future hold for Manni Sandhu? What are your career goals?
At the moment my only aim is to push good quality music and videos through Collab Creations. I’m done with thinking about chart positions, being in the best playlist, all over TV and radio and having a dancefloor hit to get bookings. I went through a phase where I thought that’s what I had to do and it was probably the most unenjoyable time I’ve ever had with music. It was horrible and it put me off music so bad.
I’m glad my frame of mind has gone back to when I started. The future for me is just releasing good music – that’s it. I’ll be grateful for anything that comes my way after that.
What makes you different from others in the Punjabi music industry?
Every artist that stands out in the industry has their own sound. After years of making music and listening to various respected artists I’ve been able to develop my own sound. The fact that I produce and mix down all of my music in my own studio without a sound engineer plays a big part in this. Some people have access to sound engineers that can easily tweak things here and there and give them a better sound. I’ve never had that so I’ve always had to learn the hard way by researching on the internet or through trial and error. Years of learning this art and being in Newcastle in my own space completely secluded from the industry has let me develop that signature sound people feel every time they hear a Manni Sandhu track.
How are the concepts for the tracks created? Do you just sit in the recording studio with an artist and brainstorm ideas?
Every track has a different story - it depends on the situation. I prefer sitting with the singer and going through lyrics until we find something we like - then the lyrics can be composed and recorded.
Last year me, my brother and Sangra Vibes went to India and booked a studio for 12 hours - we invited 6 different singers down and told them to bring all the songs they had. Gopi (Sangra Vibes) took a few singers and I took the rest. We sat there the whole day going through lyrics, composing, and recording. It was such a good experience because we had 100% control and recording with the singer always gives you a better result. Even the singers were saying they’ve never experienced anything like that.
But it’s not like that always. For example, yesterday a singer sent me a voice clip of a new track over WhatsApp. I liked it so I asked him to send me a dummy vocal - he sent it within hours and I was up all night working on it. I sent him a clip back on WhatsApp the next day and he was feeling it - so now we’ll get the track recorded and it’ll most definitely be released.
You're very talented at what you do and the music you produce, your fame in the UK is growing with every track - how do you carry that forward to places like North America, India etc ?
I don’t really change myself or my music to cater for a certain part of the world. All I’ve ever done is been myself and luckily people across the world have shown genuine love and respect. The U.K has always supported me - I started here back in the days when I used to make mixtapes and upload vaja sessions to YouTube. Eventually other places like North America started showing a lot of love when my album ‘My Time’ released - I was lucky enough to go out there many times and meet the supporters. India shocked me the most – I went there a year after Sona released and I couldn’t believe how much of an impact it had made there.
When it released I was sat in the U.K the whole time not having a clue that Sona done really well out in Punjab - it was only when I went there I realised. I remember sitting with Bakshi Billa and he was telling me how happy he was with the response the track got. He told me it had literally changed his life (for reasons I don’t want to put out there) but hearing that news from him was crazy - that’s when I realised how powerful music is and how much we need to respect this art.
Will we see a Manni Sandhu world tour soon, much like guys like many others have been doing throughout the years?
To be honest I’m not really the kind of artist that focuses on shows. A lot of people would say I’m stupid because that’s where the majority of the money is to be made. At this point of my life I’m focusing more on the art and not the money. I want to establish myself as a music producer and be known for my production skills rather than just doing shows.
I think this is the best attitude to have because so far my music has allowed me to travel all over the world to countries like Australia, Malaysia, Canada, India - and that’s without pushing myself under a DJ/Roadshow brand. My aim is to focus on the music - if all that other stuff comes, it comes. If not, it’s cool. I’ll carry on making music that’s true to me as always.
Who will we see you working with in the next few years and who would you like to work with?
There’s a lot of exciting collaborations happening in the future - with some well-known singers and newcomers. I don’t want to give away names just yet but what I will say is that we’ve gone out of our way to keep the quality of singers high - so watch this space. There’s a lot of talent coming out of Collab Creations.
Manni, we thank you and wish you the best. With everything you’ve done and continue to do, you have such a devoted fanbase. So, what message would you like to extend to the SimplyBhangra readers?
I thank you all for your continuous love and support! I definitely wouldn’t be here without you all. And thank you to SimplyBhangra for your support.