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From Shaan to Sean

Jay Sean raps with Nikhil Taneja about his new rugged look, importance of screen name and Bollywood.

music Updated: Sep 26, 2008 21:06 IST
Nikhil Taneja

Is your new, rugged look symbolic of the maturity you display in your second album?

(Smiles) That’s the best way to interpret it, I guess. You can call it maturing from boy to man but I was actually getting bored of the same look.

You seem surer of your music in this album. Is that why you’re calling it

My Own Way


Yes, exactly. There’s a thread of continuity and sound to the album.

Your lyrics are nothing like traditional r ‘n’ b lyrics.

Yeah, I can’t write about the bling-bling stuff because I don’t know about it and have never experienced it. I have experienced love, heartache and happy times. I write about that.

How important is it for you to have been nominated for the Music of Black Origin Awards?

That’s a huge thing for me. There was always an underlying race issue with an Asian boy making music predominantly made by black people. So being acknowledged by their community is an honour.

How difficult it is to be a South Asian singer in Britain?

(Pauses) Here’s an example. Recently I met a doctor in Britain who thought I was a


singer, when I told him I sing for a living. So there’s this stereotype. But as long as you make good music, you can overcome that.

Why start your own record label then?

That’s because it’s very difficult for British record labels to deal with r ‘n’ b music since rock sells there the most. So, if record companies tell me to change, rock fans will hit me on my head with a guitar.

Is that what happened with Virgin Records?

Yes, they wanted me to play like


and James Blunt. But I said no thanks.

Have you ever faced discrimination?

Yes, I’ve come across situations where I’ve realised it would have been easier if I were a black doing r ‘n’ b or an Indian doing bhangra. It’s silly to pretend it doesn’t exist. But I’m past that stage.. my music is being heard which is wonderful.

How important is it to have a stage name to connect with foreign audiences?

Very good point. For example, if my name was… (pauses)

…Kamaljeet Jooti?

(Laughs) Right, which is my name. But my friends have always called me Jay and I changed my nickname Shaan to Sean. My name should be easier to pronounce.

So how’s it been back in Mumbai?

It’s like I never left. India is the only country where, within 24 hours of landing, I’m on every channel and in every newspaper. It’s incredible.

I’ve heard that you have some Hindi versions of your soundtracks.

(Smiles) I’ve never sung in Hindi before. I’ve experimented this time.. no one’s complained so far. I’ll be releasing the Hindi version of

Ride it


Why haven’t you done anything after

Kya Kool Hain Hum


It’s very important for me to maintain my dignity and do what I like doing. I have met Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy on this trip and they liked my work.

After Bipasha Basu in your last video, which actress would you like to feature this time?

(Smiles) I’d love to work with Rani Mukherji or Kajol.

So you have a thing for Bengali women?

(Laughs) Are they all Bengali? Aha!