With the recent success of his latest single, Blue eyes, and Sunny sunny (Yaariyan), Honey Singh continues to be one of the busiest musicians in Bollywood. From singing songs penned by veteran poet Gulzar, to controversy over his lyrics having sexual connotations, the rapper, known for his Punjabi R&B music, has consistently been on the radar. In this interview, he opens up about his target, his comparison with Mika Singh and more.
How did you get into Bollywood?
It has been a struggle for more than a decade. I started as a music director in Punjab and then started singing. When Punjabis all over the world admired my work, there was buzz in Bollywood as well. The team of Cocktail (2012) approached me for ‘Angrezi beat’ and Akshay paaji (Kumar, actor) approached me for ‘Party all night’ (Boss; 2013). This is how my voice connected with the people.
We often get to hear that you have replaced Mika Singh. How do you feel about that?
Nobody can replace Mika Singh; he is an amazing artiste and a legend. People know me for only two-three years. So, comparing me with Mika is an insult to him. He has been in the industry for over 15 years. I don’t sing as many songs as he does — I only did ‘Lungi dance’ and ‘Party all night’ last year, besides my single ‘Blue eyes’. Then I had ‘Sunny sunny’ this year. I am offered over a hundred films, but I don’t take them up as my target is something else.
And what is this target?
My dream is to take the Indian independent music scene to an international level. People like Alisha Chinai, Baba Sehgal and Daler Mehndi took it to a very high level. My ultimate target is to win a Grammy. I don’t want to primarily be a Bollywood playback singer.
The lyrics of your songs are often under scrutiny due to sexist remarks…
I think I have been projected in that way. People are unable to digest how an artiste, who has no godfather in the industry, can make such music. Many years ago, there was a song ‘Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salami lele’ (from Ram Aur Shyam; 1967), it is the sexiest (sic) song I’ve ever heard and I think it is gross. There’s another song ‘Husn ke lakho rang’ (Johny Mera Naam; 1970) which I find gross and stupid. Writers could get away with such lyrics as they were all big people.
I believe an artiste is a reflection of society. I write what I see. I am not a scholar, I am just an entertainer. I cannot change the way people think. I tried to do that with my song on Bhagat Singh, ‘Teri photo kyon ni Bhagat sian lagdi nota te’, in 2009 as I thought that the youth knows about Valentine’s Day, but they don’t know about the day the legend died. I wrote songs on kids from Punjab who sold their ancestral lands to go abroad. These songs were super flops and I had no work for three years. But when I gave a song like ‘Dope shope’ to the society, it worked.
You are known largely for Punjabi R&B. Which other styles do you like to sing in?
I can sing any kind of song. I have various soft songs in my stock as well. I sing in Gujarati too.
So, what is your genre?
My genre is Yo Yo music (laughs). I am a genre myself. I wanted to give India a rock star and I did that in the form of Yo Yo Honey Singh. I am a three-in-one music- making machine. I can write a song, compose it and also sing and perform it. This is my USP.
Who are your music idols?
I idolise AR Rahman, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saab, Dr Dre, Gurdas Mann and Jazzy B.