Darshan Raval Curated
An Indian Singer, Songwriter, and Composer
CURATED BY :
You started making music when you were relatively young, but when did you first know it was what you were meant to do with your life?
When I was very small, I was away from my parents–I was in day-boarding and every kid had to take up an activity. People took up things like horse-riding or other such activities but I failed in everything! Now there was a huge hall where students used to practice music. One day I was very homesick so I went and sat there and listened to them and it was so pure and beautiful and that’s how music came into my life. It’s how I started to listen to music and then I wanted to make songs, I wanted to make melodies like that, I wanted to write songs. The entire purpose of my life started.
It does make a big difference for sure, to see a young male artist like you creating music that connects to women’s rights, friendship, sexuality–it’s part of the new India we’re talking about, where we need young people with platforms like yours to push forward acceptance.
That is what I completely believe in. My mother has always taught me to respect women and it has never been about men above women, or women above men; it is about being completely equal. I believe everyone has a right to speak and think what they want to. It’s what I would want to tell people: that this is me and this is what I believe in.
Since you’ve started writing and composing at such a massive professional scale within the industry, what have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
When an artist is growing, spending time in the field and learning from people, an artist gets spoiled. I always believe that music is a business of emotion. Sometimes we lose the innocence in it. When I made “Tera Zikr””¦ it was an emotion for me. [After its success] people said, ”˜Arrey, yeh gaana hit ho gaya! Let me make something like this. (Wow this song was a hit! Let me make something like this.)’ But you can’t duplicate that. For me, it used to just be about making a song but now I know the big business behind making music, but I don’t want to go there. Because I know that if I go there, the soul of my music will die. That’s why I don’t make a hundred songs a year”¦ I cannot. For me it’s about one song, living it and giving it all my focus. I now know everything that goes on behind a song or what could happen behind a song, but I don’t want that. I know that if I make something like that, it’ll get picked up, but it won’t have any soul.
How are some ways in which you’ve learned how to cope with all the fame and the attention on you? Because you’re immensely famous, but still so young.
The only pressure I get is that I don’t sleep. I need to perform and I need to rest but that’s the one thing I’m not getting! [Laughs] Pressure for me”¦ I don’t think about what people are going to think or say about me. I am what I am and I don’t care what happens. I have to be in the present scenario and I have to give my best and that’s all. I know how beautiful a feeling it is when you get up in the morning knowing that there are millions of people behind you. What bigger strength could you have in life? I think that motivates me and keeps me away from all the negative things and keeps me positive.
What’s one thing that you hope people learn from you as an artist?
I think people always learn what they want to learn, I can’t tell them what to see. But I remember when I was young and people used to ask me, ”˜What do you want to do in the world?’ I used to say I wanted to make songs people could cry to, that people could feel safe. I want to make songs like that because you can only cry with a person that’s close to you, feel safe with people who love you. I always want to make songs through which people can feel loved and safe. You know what I’m saying? Songs that evoke feelings that only other human beings can.
Are you interested in Music by birth or there is any story behind your interest in music ?
I was always interested in Music since a very small age. That’s the reason I left engineering to pursue my career in music.
Some information you would like to share about your family.
My Father is a Senior Journalist in Gujarat and My Mother is a House Wife.
From where are you getting the courage to face problems?
Music is my passion. I enjoy every bit of making it, I have the right team of management who guides me and encourages me to keep doing good work.
You’re a good looking guy, so do you want to go with acting?
As an experience, I am doing a Gujarati film but music is my passion and first priority.
Most important part of your music is originality. You don’t make cover songs. Your composition and lyrics are original. So what do you think about it?
Only few artist in this country makes original music. While internationally all the icons are know for their original music.
How did music happen to you? Who or what inspired you?
I was in hostel and was very young, maybe in 4th or 5th standard. I was away from my home and would feel terribly homesick. My only companion, or rather say solace, was music. I just started listening to music and would feel very good listening to different songs and different artists. That’s how music entered my life. Then I started listening to a lot of different artists and that’s when I decided to give music a try and I also started singing. That’s how music entered my life and became a part of my being.
How did your entire experience with India’s Raw Star happen?
Every kid wants to go to Mumbai and try his luck. So after a point of time during my school life, I realized that music was what I wanted to do. I told my parents I wanted to do music as my career. My father started laughing and said this is not a serious profession. He said you can do this as a hobby, but not as a career. So then I started making videos on YouTube, because that was easy and I could make them anywhere in the world. I did original songs first, but they weren’t successful then. So then I started doing covers and people knew the song, so the covers started getting popular. Though it wasn’t my interest, I had to start somewhere so that people start to know who I am.
If not music, what would you be doing?
If I would have not been doing music then certainly I would have been a photographer or a film editor. It’s because I really like editing stuff. Also, I would have been an RJ.
Who is your favourite singer in Bollywood?
There are two, three of them but for me, there are only two who I will always regard as number one at the same time, they are Arijit Singh and Kishore Da (Kumar).
Any international artist(s) you would love to collaborate with?
Yes! Alan Walker. I really like his music a lot!
Which is your personal favourite song from your own compositions?
My own favourite from my own compositions are ‘Saari Ki Saari” and ‘Tera Zikr’.
How has the journey been from being the runner-up on India’s Raw Star to be on the top of the charts?
It’s been amazing! It’s like living a dream. I have enjoyed my journey and I am blessed to have so many people following me and loving me. I think I am completely living a dream.
How did the idea for ‘Do Din’ come to you?
Sony Music had arranged a music camp. We were in this beautiful house where I met Eric Lavander, who has produced this song. Also present was Kunaal Verma who has written some beautiful lines for it. All of us were jamming and trying to create something. We discussed how everybody is making something sad or intense tracks these days. We decided to make a happy song. We came up with the line ‘tumse miley do din huye, phir kyon lage na dil’. Although the song is called ‘Do Din’, it was made in just a day. A lot of preparation went into making the video. Shiamak Davar’s team got on board. They were very co-operative and helped me learn the dance steps. Divya Palat has directed the video.
Divya Palat has several music videos in the past. How was it collaborating with her?
It was amazing. It is my first music video directed by a female director. She was full of energy. During the shoot, she kept telling me to smile all the time. I had a great time working with her.
You have composed the song yourself. Would you like to compose for Hindi films?
I have composed for a couple of Gujarati films. Given an opportunity, I would love to compose for a Bollywood film.
I have seen your earlier videos. In almost all your videos, you have been presented very well. Would you like to act in a film someday?
I just want to focus on singing at the moment. My fans want me to see act, so I act in music videos. But, I do not want to get into films right now.
Your songs “Kamariya” from ‘Mitron’ and “Chogada” from ‘LoveYatri’ have become huge hits. Both the songs have a distinctive Gujarati flavour to them. Was that the reason you were brought in board for these tracks?
Chetas and Lijo, who have composed both the songs, are very good friends and know my vocal texture. Both the songs have a mix of Hindi and Gujarati lyrics and they thought I will be able to do justice to the songs as a vocalist.
When people started to recognize you and share your tracks, like ”Check out this guy’s cover of the song I like"?
Yeah, exactly! I used to change [the songs] a little bit to my style because I could never sing a song the same way another singer has done it. I thought it was a weakness back then and that turned out to be my strongest point. That’s how people started knowing about me and I started performing in Ahmedabad. I did a lot of shows, like three shows in a day. I had a band and it was three people in the band and we performed everywhere. We used to do a lot of Bollywood songs, but then we’d add one song at the end that was original. Then people used to ask, ”˜Oh what song is this?’ and we’d say it’s an original and they would love it. Slowly people started following our band, come every weekend to listen to us. One fine day I got a call from a girl who said she likes my voice and that I should participate in an upcoming reality show. I told her, ”˜I’m not interested in any reality show because I don’t think they’re real. I can’t a song the way it is, so maybe it isn’t my thing.’ She said it’s a different kind of reality show and that I’d be able to do the songs my way. So I did my online audition and sent it in. At the same time I was earning pretty well [through gigs] so I took my parents to Europe and I didn’t think I would be selected. While I was there, I get a call telling me I had been selected for the Top 40. My father said, ”˜Yeh sab se kuch nahi hota (Nothing can come from this.) Enjoy your holiday instead of going back.’ But my mom, she saw I was happy. She said even if I don’t get selected, this would boost my confidence. Now I’m a Gujarati kid, so I also had business in my head! Even if I come on television for 10-15 seconds, I’ll utilize that. So I came back, auditioned, shooting started for the first episode”¦ I just wanted to come on for 15 seconds, that’s it! I thought I’d be the first person to be removed from the show!
You started out with a reality show. Do you think reality shows provide a good platform for young people to showcase their talent?
It definitely turned out to be a life-changing opportunity for me because everybody started recognizing me and my voice after watching me in that show. I met Himesh (Reshammiya) ji through that show and he gave me my first break in ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’.
Today, multiple singers are tried for a song. How do you look at this trend?
I think it is fine to try multiple singers for a song. I am a composer myself. If I compose a song, ask a singer to sing it and I feel his voice does not suit it, I will get another singer to dub it. You have tp keep several factors in mind while composing for a film. You have to keep the situation in mind, you have to think which voice will suit the actor. If any music director calls me to sing a song and replaces my voice with that of another singer later, I would be okay with it. Initially, when something like this had happened to me, I was very hurt but now when I understand the reasons behind it, I do not think it is a wrongful practice.
Gujarati cinema is growing at a rapid pace. Do you want to do something Gujarati music reaches?
I am already doing it. I have sung and composed for Gujarati films and songs like “Kamariya” and “Chogada” which have a strong Gujarati flavor to them have reached out to people living abroad as well. I am definitely contributing towards taking the industry forward.
Is there a song you wish you had sung?
‘Channa Mereya’. It is a beautiful song. Any singer would have loved to sing it.
Do you think the digitalisation of music has helped young artistes?
Yes absolutely! I started out with fifteen subscribers on YouTube and now, I have 1.2 million subscribers. When I opened my Instagram account, I forced some of my friends to follow me and now, I have 1.7 million followers. Earlier, artistes had to look for ways to reach out to the right people or to find a platform. Now, you can create a platform for yourself on the internet. People can put their work on their social media accounts or YouTube channels and directly connect with the audience.
The music video of Tera zikr is woven around heartbreak and it’s deep. Did the theme have any personal connection?
The heartbreak was turned into passion, that was the message. I have seen a lot of this in my life around me, so you can say there’s a reflection of that thoda thoda. I don’t want to be very specific about it but thoda idhar udhar se, thoda khud se....
What is your inspiration behind singing love or heartbreak songs?
In entire life I think love has been a very, very important factor. It started from my mother actually, I was very close to her and she has always been my inspiration. Then, as I said, I have seen a lot of things around me and I can feel it so that inspires me while writing or making a song.
Since love is so vital, tell us... are you single?
Yes, I am definitely single! I keep saying that I had crushes, I used to like girls… but I am not in a relationship... agar hota toh I would have put it out.
So what is the reason behind being single?
I think it is difficult to have two things together right now and for me actually, having music and somebody in life is difficult. Also, I am not mentally prepared for it and I am waiting for the right person... so all the criteria are falling short right now. I also think I am too young for it. I don’t want to have flings, if I find somebody she will be there forever.
Define your type of girl...
There are no major specifications. I would like her to be good friends with me... a nice voice that I would feel nice hearing. That’s it, I guess! Mere andar mein bhi itna kuch khaas nahin hain. I think a friend is what I need because I feel this whole cute-looks thing is very temporary.
Was being part of the show what you thought it would be? How much creative freedom did you end up having as an artist?
This particular reality show did give me a lot of freedom to select songs and do it my way. I even used to write a few lines and add it to a song. So it was different from what I had seen on television.
Being a ’90s kid, which singers or bands have you grown up listening to?
All the songs of Lucky Ali, then Kailash Kher’s Toota toota ek parinda, Dooba dooba rehta hoon (Silk Route).... Atif Aslam’s album came out and his song Kuch iss tarah… I was really hooked to this it! Then Aa bhi ja was good too.
Party or love song — your pick and why?
Hundred per cent love songs! I relate more to love songs though I can sing anything, because today party number mein bhi love hota hai.
Is there any genre that you would want to explore?
Yes, comedy love song. I am writing a song which is comedy and it’s a love song! There have been party songs, then heartbreak love songs, but love is also funny you know! The first step of love is funny and all the things you do for love are super funny. The next song that you will be seeing me in will be in a totally different look and we are working with some international producers.
Who do you see as your competition?
I firmly believe that competition is necessary but my competition is with my own self. I am still young and I have to learn from all the singers who are there, hear them well and see what kind of work they are doing. But first I need to outdo myself.
How was your experience doing 'DO Din'?
How the Writer Darshan, Composer Darshan, and Singer Darshan are different?
You are a good looking guy, why don't you try acting?
Tell us about your childhood and early life...
Share some story behind the song 'Mera Dil Dil DIl'...
What's the craziest thing you have done and people don't know about?
What’s something you learned from the experience that you still carry with you?
Somebody told me that a lot of people come on reality shows, and what happens is that with time, they change themselves. They change the way they look at music, the way they have been doing music. If you change yourself, you lose people. If you’re on television and you [create a persona], that is going to be temporary. This stuck with me, that I don’t want to be somebody else. And now that I’m here, I want to stay. I think there was no cover on my face. That’s why people who saw me on Raw Star are still there with me today, supporting me.
Do you feel like in general for a lot of singers, Bollywood is still a necessary step in establishing a fan base in India?
That time YouTube wasn’t the mainstream, it was just blowing up. So I remember that when I used to do shows, I would hear people say, ”˜Arey lekin yaar yeh toh YouTube singer hai na? Issne Bollywood mein toh kuch nahi gaaya.’ (But isn’t he just a YouTube singer? He’s not done anything in Bollywood.’) My management was also facing issues [booking shows] because people would say, ”˜Issne kya mainstream kiya hai?’ I wanted to do my thing but people weren’t interested, they wouldn’t count that because it came from a personal space. So then I went to a lot of composers and a lot of people but things didn’t work out. I thought that maybe this isn’t the right place for me, I should go back to Ahmedabad and keep doing what I was doing. Before leaving I just called Himesh Reshammiya. During [India’s Raw Star] he had told me to call him and meet him, that he’d give me a song. I just wanted to see if that was just a cinematic line or did he really want to work with me. He said, ”˜Come to the studio tomorrow.’ The next day I go to the studio and that was the song I recorded for Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. That’s how I started in Bollywood. After [a few more tracks] is when people came to know that I was more into releasing independent songs and then my own songs also got popular. “Tera Zikr” was the first song that people in India thought ”˜Oh this is not a Bollywood song, but we love this song. Yeh kiska gaana hai? Oh, issne khud banaya hai! (Whose song is this? Oh he wrote it himself!)’ I think that was a good change that came from that.
Now obviously things have changed, people don’t really say, ”˜Lekin yeh toh YouTube singer hai’ about new singers…
Now they don’t. I think now people are with time getting very smart. They’re understanding that if this is a talented person, it works because of the music, on any platform. What I was focusing on initially [with YouTube]”¦ is technically what has happened now. I wanted to reach people with my music on YouTube, and that now that’s happening everywhere.
In terms of digital platforms rising, you recently did a song “Yaara Teri Yaari” for the Amazon Prime show Four More Shots Please–how was that entire experience?
They knew that I was doing a lot of independent stuff and they had seen my work. I got a call from them and went to meet them and they showed me a web series. It’s a very different story and I loved it. I had not seen anything like that for an Indian audience. For me, anything which is changing the mentality of people, I would love to be a part of that project. Like with (LGBTQ+ themed 2019 Bollywood film) Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga being a very different film subject and I got the opportunity to sing [the title track] for that”¦ Even this story of four girls with very modern thought processes, what most people don’t agree with”¦ This is what I want people to understand, this is the current scenario and you cannot run from this and nobody has to run because it’s okay.
That these realities are not something to fear?
Yeah! For me it’s always about equality, so wherever I get a chance, I try to get associated with things like this. When I first saw the series, the first thing that hit me was how amazing these four girls are and how amazing their relationship is. This is what happened with me as well–I have such good friends supporting me.They’re imperfect, they’re very different from me and yet there’s a bond. Very less often do you see a song about friendship on girls. Matlab dosti sirf ladkon ke beech toh nahin ho sakthi! (Friendships like these aren’t exclusive to just between men!)