While Sanam would have been a baker, Samar would have been a cricketer, Keshav Dhanraj a photographer and Venky S a financier if they were not musicians!
In the age of the Internet when talent from every nook and corner of the world is getting adequate exposure, it is no easy task to surpass them all and win over millions of hearts. But India’s popular contemporary music band SANAM has done exactly that with their brilliantly composed singles videos having become the fastest growing independent YouTube channel in the country. I caught up with the band comprising Keshav Dhanraj, Sanam Puri, Samar Puri, and Venkat Subramaniam on their visit to the Capital crooning for a social cause, at their concert recently.
Titled SQS Supastars in 2010 when they won a pop band competition, the band changed its name to SQS Project. “SQS project didn’t sound musical, but more like a company. Initially, when our manager Ben Thomas was trying to spread the message about SQS Project to people, many skipped the band part of the name and rather congratulated him through messages on his new venture into real estate!” explained Keshav. Since it sounded “very corporate,” they named themselves ‘SANAM,’ a term which not only means beloved but also is widely heard in songs. When asked the reason for their maiden name, Sanam said, “SQS stood for Sanam, Keshav and Samar, that’s how the band was formed initially. We chose ‘SQS’ over ‘SKS’ only because it sounds better, it was very random.” (laughs) With Venky joining the trio, SANAM fit in just perfectly.
Their first song to go online was ‘Hawa hawa.’ “Even though the response was amazing, there was no one to take it forward. We were new as a band, and we were just happy to record an album. We didn’t know what to do after that, and expected the music label to help market us, but nothing happened eventually for the three years that we were in contract with Times music. After the contract was over we looked out for a manager to guide us, and coming across Ben, we eventually put up the song ‘Teri Aankhon Se’ on YouTube,” recalled Keshav with a smile.
Once Sanam was approached by Sony for Spider Man with a brief, he thought of a melody accordingly, while Manoj Yadav wrote the lyrics of Main Hoon, and Samar penned down the chorus part. “Main Hoon was composed in four hours, while ‘Itni Door’ was on hold and it took us four years to finish the song,” said Sanam, talking about the time taken by the band to finish a single.
The quintessential 90s kids were all smiles, when asked to share their secret to success. The members said, “Management is a big part of it. Ben Thomas has made a big difference to how we have been pushed, he guided us when we were stuck. Since we were focused with the creative part of the band, he took care of the rest. Besides, the five of us have a balanced chemistry, which enables us to be a band.”
“Evidently YouTube helped us in the journey. We wouldn’t have reached out to so many people if not for this audio visual format that YouTube offers, with the accessibility and the fact that there are no gatekeepers, it is a very friendly interface. There’s no need to go through anyone, or approach any distributor, you just have to put it out there. The beauty about the thing is its accessibility; it is a popular source of information,” expressed Venkat Subramanium.
When asked what other profession they would have chosen, the gentlemen had some quite interesting plan Bs. “If not a musician, I would have played cricket. I used to be a fast bowler, and during college I had to choose between cricket and music. I chose music,” blushed Samar, who also edits their music videos. As seen in some of their music videos, Keshav would have been a photographer, and Venky would have been a financier, having studied Commerce. Sanam’s obsession with video games might be a well known fact, but what his fans did not know is that he might have considered being a baker if not a musician!
With an aim to raise awareness on child sexual abuse, the band working with ‘Justice and Hope,’ a Chennai based NGO, has visited schools for this purpose. Hoping to reach out to a wider demographic, SANAM is on the Pledge Tour with a noble purpose, having performed in Delhi recently. While proceeds from the sales of their merchandise will be donated to the NGO to support their social endeavours, the musicians took to spreading the word across through their performance.
“Bringing the issue to the forefront may help many to come forward and have a healthy discussion at home to make children aware about sexual-predators in the surroundings. Events like ours will give them courage to talk about it,” explained Venky. The band had previously worked on a campaign titled ‘Things Don’t Judge’ to stop sex detection of the foetus.
“Currently, we are working on several originals with our lyricist Siddhant Kaushal, who has written some Punjabi songs,” confirmed the gentlemen, as they are set to launch a new Punjabi romantic number just before New Years. The musicians firmly believe that the single format is in favour of their success, for its consistency, through which they can cater to our audience’s expectations every month. Hence, even though SANAM has plans of releasing an album in 2018, it will be a compiled version of all their singles.
“The single format has become really popular. Unlike listening to an album for an hour, you can just play it and watch the video, and the minute you are done with that you can switch. It requires less attention span of a listener,” said Venky, as Sanam added, “In an album usually 3-4 songs out of 10, may have music videos, but with singles you can have music videos for all of them.”
Their message to aspiring musicians: Keep working towards your dream, be patient and never give up.
Be consistent, and be smart about your direction.
Known your purpose and do it with the right intention.
Learn from the masters, and sharpen your skills when you’re starting off.
Who’s the brain behind all the music videos? Samar being the editor of their music videos said, “Since I know what I’m going to do while editing, while shooting we discuss with our DOP Charudatta Rane about the shots. It is a collective effort of the band, everyone gets to give their inputs.”
“He shot our first videos for us for free. We had no budget, so we used Chinese lanterns, and thermocol, and shot at our houses in a number of videos,” explained Keshav.
Samar: Keyboard and Harmonium
Sanam: Harmonium and Keyboard
The songs they are closest to:
Samar: ‘Tere aankhon se’ was the first song that I wrote, and it was the first video we put up on our channel. Because of this song Sanam got the into Bollywood with ‘Dhat teri ki.’ I also like ‘Titli.’
Keshav: Other than ‘Tere aankhon se,’ ‘Agar tum suno’ is also very close to my heart, bringing nostalgia
Sanam: I honestly love the song, ‘Tumi Robe nirobe,’ I had a great feeling hearing it for the first time as I felt connected to the melody. I asked a friend in Canada who’s a writer and is from Bangladesh, and she helped me with the pronunciation, and we did a cover.
Venky: ‘Itni door,’ ‘Garmi di tu’, and Titli.
Having gifted their fans with covers of ‘Lag ja gale,’ ‘Garmi di tu’, ‘Gulabi aankhein’, and original numbers like ‘Main hoon,’ Tere aankhon se,’ ‘Titli’ and ‘Itni door’, the band is about to release their new single this week. If you haven’t subscribed them yet, do it now!