Hi Sukhi Sivia, please introduce yourself to the readers and tell us how you got into the music industry.
I was born into a musical family, in which my dad – famous song writer/composer Swarn Singh Sivia had been quite a big hit before I was born. His written songs were sung by Amar Singh Chamkilla, Bibi Amarjot Kaur; such as ‘Baba Tera Nankana’. So, my infrastructure in my childhood and growing up was a very musical infrastructure. I remember singers used to often come to our house, I used to listen to them sing and practice; this then led to me being even more attracted towards singing. I then started to dream of singing as my profession in the future, and so I started to concentrate more on my singing.
Growing up you were surrounded by some of the biggest names in our industry; Amar Singh Chamkila, Surinder Shinda, Kuldeep Manak. Tell us how it was like growing up with them.
I had never seen Amar Singh Chamkilla Ji because I was quite young when he passed away, but I had seen Kuldeep Manak Ji, Surinder Shinda Ji, …….. as they used to come to our house. I have even done a couple of videos with them and sat and chatted with them, as well as taken lessons from them. I feel as though even if these icons do not go to someone’s house, you still have a lot to learn just by listening to them through cassettes etc. I feel as though I got a lot of help, and built my confidence by being around these really talented artists. I believe they came to our house because my dad is really quite talented, so I was fortunate enough to be able to interact and learn from being around such talented artists aswell. I used to get a lot of personal satisfaction from their presence and it used to motivate me and make me believe that I could become someone someday too; alongside this my dad’s guidance motivated me aswell. By listening to their music again and again, I was able to learn alot from which I was able to learn and develop techniques on how to sing and ultimately learnt why people called them legends!
Your father is a well known and respected lyricist who has written for some great singers including Amar Singh Chamkila. Was he your main influence to start in the music industry?
My dad gave quite alot of new talent opportunities. Charanjit Ahuja (who’s son is Sachin Ahuja) knew my dad quite well, which at the time was one of the music industry’s Samraat. My dad had quite a good link with him, my dad introduced Sardool Sikander into the music industry, aswell as Satvinder Bugga and Jazzy B. Jazzy B’s 1st hit song ‘ghoogian da Jhora’ was written by my dad, and lots of other singers’ top songs.
However, there were such incidents that led to my dad losing trust in the industry and he didn’t want to train anyone further. It used to take a lot of effort, time and money to train someone, but when that singer would become successful and a hit singer, they wouldn’t acknowledge what my dad had done for them, wouldnt come see him or even give him any money for his work! There was no appreciation.
This then led my dad to put his efforts into me and train me up with all his heart; he trained me vocally from scratch, he taught me techniques on how to sing, how to sing live and in the studio. From there I adopted this profession as I wanted to continue my family’s’ work in the music industry and it was definitely by choice, as I wanted to be a successful singer.
You first emerged into the public eye with the phenomenal track Sarkara featuring Shortie and the world renowned Dr Zeus. For a debut song, you made an incredible impact. How did the collaboration happen and will we see more songs with you and Dr Zeus in the future?
I would like to thank Merci Records that did my debut song and bought me into the music industry, with a song I did with Dr.Zeus – Sarkara. I am thankful to Dr.Zeus as he allowed (me) someone new to work with him, which I can imagine is hard for someone well established in the industry. He trusted me and my ability to sing Sarkara. I personally hadn’t met him, because I actually recorded the song in a separate audio session in London. My vocals were then sent over to Dr.Zeus via Merci Records, at which point he agreed that he wanted to do this song with me. Then following this, I actually met him at the video shoot, he helped me even without me knowing!
I would like to take the opportunity to work with him again if I ever get the chance, but he’s a star! So let’s see!
You then went on to release your second single with Desi Crew called Canada. How was it like working with Desi Crew; who are very talented and popular producers?
Actually when Sarkara was quite a big hit, I then went to visit my parents in India (as I am based in England); it was then that I had the opportunity to meet Desi Crew, I met them via Speed Records – which I had approached as I told them that I wanted to do a song. Therefore they introduced me to Desi Crew to start something off.
The song Canada was written by my dad at my request because I really liked its’ composition, which was of Surinder Shinda’s song ‘cheti borh Mirzia, ve maapeyan viah thar dita mera’ – a song about Mirza, which I really liked and so I wanted the song written on the same melodies.
What recent music are you currently listening to? Do you have a favourite track at the moment?
I have quite a few favourite tacks, it’s hard to state just one! But generally these days, I listen to Mohammed Rafi’s, Kuldeep Manak’s, Chamkilla Ji’s and Shinda Ji’s old songs quite a lot, they are my all time favourite singers. I often listen to one of Amar Singh Chamkilla’s song – “Tavi da rang lal dekh ke’ – this is a religious song, its’ composition is quite hard and it’s hard to sing – it was sung by Chamkilla beautifully, with really nice lyrics by ________?.
2016 saw you release your third single featuring the iconic Panjabi MC. It was an unique and emotional song and something different from your previous releases. The track has a very interesting back story, tell us how the track came about and also how Panjabi MC got involved. What do you think of some of the lyrics on songs coming out today?
I don’t want to comment on anyone, on how they sing or write; as I am just competing with myself. I would like to tell you the story of my song ‘Meri Bhain’ – a song I wrote for sisters. I wrote it as a surprise for my cousin sister that got married here in UK in 2014. I surprised her by performing this song for her on the wedding day at the reception party, before her doli. My sister was overwhelmed by the lyrics and the meaningfulness of the song and really enjoyed my surprise as did many guests at the wedding. Luckily, one of the guests present was Punjabi MC and his wife. They told me that they really enjoyed my song and that it was really meaningful, which even led to a lot of guests to cry while listening to it. PMC compelled me to work on this song with him and release it; of course, I agreed! I didn’t think anything about whether or not this song was catchy or not, or what impact it would have on my career, I just wanted to release this song sincerely from the bottom my heart for all sisters, as it meant a lot to me. I wanted to dedicate it to all the sisters in the world, as a gesture from all brothers.
How would you describe your sound and music style?
I would class my style mainly as folk and folk vocals, however I have also had hip-hop songs swell such as Sarkara – which I had sung in folk but it transformed into hip-hop; Canada was a folk song, and then Koka was again hip-hop. I always try to sing in folk style, and deliver something different; I have a high pitch vocal, so I like singing in high-pitch and my new song ‘Tere Karke’ displays my vocal capability
Your videos are always clean and family friendly. Is this something that you make sure for your videos?
Actually everything is credited to my dad, he has a good reputation in this industry and I have always been conscious of maintaining this. The way I was brought up swell as the expectations placed on me from my dad are the reasons and basis on which I aim to keep myself clean as a person and keep my videos clean and family friendly. I am also proud to be wearing a turban and am very conscious of representing and respecting my dastaar. In videos, I am very much involved in keeping the image of the models to meet my expectations in meeting this clean image, as I know my sisters will be watching these videos aswell. At the end of the day, I believe that if your lyrics are good and you have sung the song well, then it doesn’t matter what the video looks like, there’s no need to do any ‘revealing’ videos; as long as you have good music and vocals, this should be sufficient to make it a hit.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
One memorable moment was when I was shopping in a mall in India with my friends, this was after Sarkara was released in the UK (but not released in India). There was a boy shopping with his friends, and one of them was singing Sarkara – my friends were shocked at this as they didn’t seem to know how big that song actually was in the UK. I then went over to the boy and asked him where he had heard the song, and he explained that the song was very famous in Chandigarh and was a song from the UK. He said that it was quite a hit in India and that they all listen to it quite a bit aswell. So, the song came from UK to Delhi, then to Chandigarh and then into the rest of Punjab. Speed Records had released Sarkara a while after the UK, however it was already being heard all over Punjab. So, someone singing my song in my presence was quite memorable and surreal for me. A big moment for me in my career.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t really have any spare time, I have quite a busy life as I have been working hard to fulfil my music dreams. Generally, I am so engrossed in music and practising whatever chances I get. I try my best to look after my health aswell, so when I do have the little free time, I pay attention to my physique and keep fit by going to the gym and going running, and catching up on my sleep.
What would you say was the biggest challenge you had when you first decided to become a singer?
I didn’t see singing or competition as the challenge, I found understanding the industry the biggest challenge – as it has a lot of two-faced people, and this was very different and hard for me to understand. Some would say something but hen do something else, so this made it hard to trust people in industry. With time I understood, and had to make the right choice to lead my path – as I quickly learnt that no one really helps you along the way, so the choices I made were very important. Even till now, this is still a challenge – knowing how I will be able to reach my dreams. I have faith that god will help me in fulfilling this to the best of my ability.
Which singers are on your Punjabi Singers Mount Rushmore? (Top 4 Singers)
Mohammed Raffi & Kishore Kumar are my favourites, among others: –
Yamla Jatt Ji
Amar Singh Chamkilla
If given the chance, which music producers would you like to work with?
If I get a chance in my life I would like to work with Charanjit Ahuja, I hope god keeps him in good health and he keeps on entertaining everyone with his music; I also like ‘Panjabi MC’ TruSkool’s, Tigerstyle’s and Dr.Zeus’ music as well, and would like to work with them in the future.
So far we have only seen solo songs; is there a collaboration in the works? If not who would you like to duet with?
I have trained my vocal so that I can also do Punjabi duets aswell, as did Chamkilla Ji. I can sing on high pitch both in solo and duet style, but I want to accomplish myself as a solo artist first. If I get the chance to do duets in the future I would like to do them in the true folk style, so lets see what the future holds.
What is your process when making a song? Do you start with lyrics or music first?
If I am writing the song myself then I try my best to base the story on something different that no one has sung on or used before. If the song is written by my dad, then I just sing them in the style he has intended, as he is such a good lyricist and he knows the best style my vocals will suit the song. The songs story leads onto the composition, then the music choice and then finally the video and production.
What advice would you give to those out there who want to pursue a singing career?
I would say that you work hard without thinking of the result and work honestly, and god will surely listen to you. You need to work with strong determination, patience and concentration on your own path and do not pay attention to the fame and money side of the profession, as these things are short-term; you want to establish your self for the long run as a clean and capable singer.
Tigerstyle are a very dynamic and creative music duo who always bring new unique styles of music to the industry. You collaborated on the song ‘Koka’. How was the experience like working with Tigerstyle.
Firstly, both Pops and Raj Paji are such good hearted people, it felt really good working with them both as they were so friendly and understanding of me. They guided me to do a song in the the style of Koka with them, which was similar to the style of Sarkara; I had initially intended on doing something more folk, however they worked with me to deliver something mor familiar for the UK market. The composition and lyrics were mine, and they provided the music for which I am very thankful. They’re such good artists, and I believe they deliver good music because of them being so good natured.
What is the one thing you would change about the Punjabi music industry, and why?
I don’t think I am in a position to change the industry, because I haven’t even fully understood myself yet and my direction. So, give me some time, maybe in the future I will be seen as an influential artist, which may be able to make some changes for the better.
Lyricists rarely feature in music videos; how important is it to mention the name of the writer in the songs?
My opinion is that if the lyricist doesn’t write good songs, then the song will never be successful. I think the true value and credit should be given to the lyricists, as the artistic nothing without them. If you look at Hollywood, the lyricists and story makers are given a lot of recognition for their work, in comparison to our industry. In the Punjabi music industry it is quite unfortunate that the lyricists do not get the recognition they deserve; this is very sensitive subject for me as I have seen this firsthand as my dad’s work was not appreciated and recognised by the majority of artists he has written for. Thus, I have decided to become a singer and showcase my dads work.
Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?
Not really to be honest as I enjoy singing and performing, the size of the audience should not matter either as long as you concentrate on delivering your best. I’ll be so focussed on working hard that this naturally instills confidence in me when I am on stage.
What are you working on at the moment?
Quick fire round
Sarkara = This song changed my life
Amar Singh Chamkilla = I saw him as my dad; he’s an unforgettable true legend and a very good human being, which left his unique mark on the Punjabi music industry, forever.
Kuldeep Manak = There was and only ever will be one like him, always straight from the heart; his songs will be alive forever within the Punjabi industry eternally.
Swaran Sivia = My dad, my idol, my teacher/guru, my everything.
Tigerstyle = My music producers, my friends, my well wishers.
Punjabi music industry = My home, for which I am trying to do my best.
Gulaab Jaman = My favourite
Baba Tera Nankana = My Dad’s debut song; I love this song because it’s not only for Sikhs but also for humanity, as it teaches you lessons on how to live your life.
What can fans expect from you in 2017?
I am working on many things, so lets see how they go. I am trying to deliver some good tunes, hopefully with the grace of almighty God I will be able to do this.
Where can fans contact and interact with Sukhi Sivia?
I have a Facebook account, you can send direct me messages on here – search for Sukhi Sivia & on Instagram, and Sukhi_Sivia on Twitter.
Finally do you have any messages to our readers?
I just want to encourage all Punjabi’s (especially those internationally), to use our mother language as much as possible in your homes and with your children. I would also request Punjabi’s born outside of India to encourage this amongst your peers; it’s important to maintain this, else we will loose our mother. I would encourage you all to listen to Punjabi music, especially from Amar Singh Chamkilla & Kuldeep Manak – as this will not only entertain you, but it will also teach you deep Punjabi and meanings.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
We’d like to thank Sukhi Sivia for taking time to do this interview. Check out his music collection here!