Hitting the high note

Young talent

Hitting the high note

Her soothing melodies and simple tunes leave the listeners with a warm, fuzzy feeling, and touch the very core of their being. With her Nora Jones-esque appeal, Delhi-based artiste Kamakshi Khanna has managed to enthral concert-goers and online music afficionados within the short span since she entered the world of music.

Trained under stalwarts like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Kamakshi was, in a way, born to be a musician. Her first peek into professional music was when she became a part of The Mozart Choir of India. “I was lucky to be guided by musical greats like Pt Ravi Shankar and Grammy winning composer, Gerald Wirth. When I was 13, I travelled with the choir to Austria and performed at venues like The Golden Hall, The Presidential Palace, and from that moment on, I knew this is what I loved doing and I have never looked back.”

Quest for melodies

Kamakshi was surrounded by music, and like any other youngster, was greatly influenced by an array of pop artistes. However, she believes that the key ingredient in any form of music is the soul. “Growing up, I loved listening to singer/songwriters and pop stars who bared their souls such as Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Joss Stone, and bands such as The Beatles, Coldplay, Evanescence, Bon Jovi, Switchfoot, Greenday, Queen and independent Indian musicians including Euphoria, Indian Ocean, Shubha Mudgal, etc.” However, her biggest inspiration and the one musician who simply takes her breath away every time is A R Rahman. “I grew up listening to music that was always about the song, the melody, the message and the voice, which stands true to date,” she says.

Despite so many influences and inspirations, the 21-year-old has developed her own style and composed songs that are unique in their own way. “When I compose music, I make sure that each song has a strong hook somewhere, be it a piano riff or chorus. I start by thinking of a strong melody that really conveys the message of the song (lyrics). I play it back a number of times but avoid recording it on any device. If I automatically remember the tune the next morning because it got stuck in my head, I know that the job is done,” she explains. Elaborating on this technique, Kamakshi says, “For example, in my song ‘Where Did You Go?’, the chorus came before anything else, after which various ideas just fell into place and got moulded into one simple melody and later into a full-fledged number.”

The song in her head

Well, composing tunes is certainly not as easy as Kamakshi makes it out to be. But her experience with several bands has certainly taught her a lot of things. She has worked with some of India’s top bands, Euphoria being one of them. “Working with Euphoria as a backup vocalist for over two years gave me a strong insight into professionalism and how the music industry works. Performing on stage with them and watching them enrapture the audience and hold their attention for three-hour long concerts with their original music was an eye opener. I have also performed as a singer with the band Obliviate, that comprised my schoolmates and contemporaries, Tarana Marwah on keyboards and Nirupan Sinha on vocals. Working with them over the years has taught me a lot and has left a huge impact on my songwriting and thinking process.”

And the learning does not stop there. Kamakshi is forever improvising with new sounds and artistes. “I am currently working with the Delhi-based soul/pop trio, River, comprising Tarana on keyboards and vocals, Abhilasha Sinha on vocals and Utkarsh Verma on guitar. It’s honestly everything that I love about music under one warm, cosy and comfortable umbrella and I am really excited and looking forward to all the things that we have planned for this year.”

Band with the best

Apart from these undertakings, the young singer has also formed a band of her own, Kamakshi Khanna Collective, and is currently taking the Delhi music scene by storm. “I have worked on the EP, Much Mellow, with my band mates Pranav Pahwa on guitars, Tarana on keyboards, Ishaan Gandhi on drums and Anugrah Pandey on bass. I feel blessed to have had such talented musicians take out their precious time to truly put their heart and soul into my music. Through our music we try to give space to each other and our listeners and strive to create something that people can remember and take back with them.”

Kamakshi is on the pathway to self-exploration and believes that each sound helps her evolve her music. Like most young artistes today, Kamakshi considers social media to be an effective medium to get her music out there. “With the help of social media, it’s actually possible to get your work across to the right audience. I don’t think I can say that I have been able to break it into the music scene yet, but I do feel that people have genuinely enjoyed listening to and appreciated Much Mellow. It’s overwhelming to see how accepting and open the Delhi music scene has become towards different kinds of music.”

The USP for Kamakshi’s music is definitely the relatability factor and clean and simple melodies. “I love how people sing along to my music, remember the lyrics, and someday I really hope that people can find a little hint of themselves and their life experiences in each song,” she says.

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