Music doesn’t need to run in your blood for you to embrace music as a career. You just need to believe in the power of music to transcend language and cultural barriers through the world of melodies and rhythms.
Nikhil Koparde, our next pathbreaker, Music Composer & Songwriter, composes music for a variety of Live Shows, Bollywood film projects and collaborates with independent Artistes to create music which people can relate to emotionally.
Nikhil talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his biggest turning point when he did the rhythm arrangement for one of the most famous songs ‘All Izz Well’ from the movie ‘3 Idiots’.
For students, a creative field like music is unrelenting and ultra-competitive. But only such environments bring out the best in you by pushing your creative boundaries !
Nikhil, tell us about Your background?
I grew up in Mumbai, the city of dreams. My schooling & college was done here. I am a graduate in Arts from Mithibai College, Mumbai. Nobody in my family is professionally into music.
As far as I remember, my oldest memories of music have been listening to film songs from a very early age and that’s how I remember my introduction to the world of melodies and rhythms. As I started learning, I discovered classical music, especially Indian and that taught me a lot about music as a form of language that does not require words to express yourself.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I graduated in the Arts stream from Mithibai College, Mumbai specialising in English Literature.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
So I have been influenced by a lot of people, especially as I do not restrict myself to certain individuals. I believe you can learn small things from everyone and that’s the best way to go forward instead of idolising one or two individuals. This keeps your vision very restricted. There is a whole world of music out there.
I started learning at the Ustad Allarakha Institute of Music, after getting inspired by Ustad Zakir Hussain & his repertoire of work and approach towards music, and finally ending up being mentored by my guru Taufiq Qureshi.
When starting out, I had been a part of many events, especially live performances and fusion music. Following that, I started working as an arranger under various composers like Vishal Shekhar, Meet Bros, Sajid Wajid gradually moving on to be an independent composer myself.
By 2007, I had performed on a lot of fusion shows and musicals along with some famous Bollywood singers, but my turning point came when I did the rhythm arrangement for one of the most famous songs ‘All Izz Well’ from the movie ‘3 Idiots’. They wanted sounds made from things found in a college canteen. We used things like tables, chairs, glasses, plates etc.
That’s when people within the industry started noticing me as an individual artist and started getting in touch with me for their projects.
Tell us about your career path
Professionally, I started performing with a lot of singers and musicians, often jamming with them, and collaborating with them to come out with newer concepts each time. This slowly led me to a lot of studio sessions as an arranger where I would spend quite a few years arranging songs for other composers. From there, I got my own break as a composer with the live musical – ‘Zangoora’ – the longest running Bollywood Musical in India, from way back in 2009. Till date, I have done close to 8 live musicals globally, along with other Bollywood film projects/songs and collaborations with Independent Artists.
I have also quite extensively worked on music designing for live events & shows like IIFA Awards, IPL Opening Ceremony, Khelo India National Games etc.
How did you get your first break?
I got my first break as an individual arranger solely based on my talent. I not only had to execute that job well but also had to set a benchmark to get other jobs in the film industry. That’s how other people started noticing my work.
What were the challenges? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: being innovative in every project.
I overcame this by constantly listening to new music and thinking about new ways to create sounds & sonic textures.
Challenge 2: Being ahead of the competition.
I have never ever feared competition as that’s a part of the game in every field; so being true to your work and being honest about what you deal with will always keeps you one step ahead.
Challenge 3: meeting deadlines.
With strict time management & discipline, this problem can be overcome not just in my field but in whatever you do in life. As you grow older & start working, you will realise that completing any work before time gives you not only a sense of satisfaction but keeps you in a comfortable spot for the next job to come. Also any overlapping of projects can be simply avoided which keeps your energy positive & balanced.
Where do you work now?
I work as a freelance composer & music producer from Mumbai with clients based all over the globe.
I create music which is fresh, has a recall value, is new and breaks the barrier of monotony which is quite evident in the current music scene.
In my field, you need to have a good understanding of music, especially the details of rhythm and melody. Having a good balance of that will really help you. I started learning tabla, then the piano for building my knowledge base.
After that it’s just practice practice & more practice.
What is a typical day like?
I start working around 10am in the morning till 5 or 6PM. The entire day really involves either composing a new song, arranging an already composed song or editing a completed song or a background score.
What I love about my job is the constant need for creating something new and the constant challenge that I face every day to create something original and that is what keeps me going.
How does your work benefit society?
I strive to be versatile as an artist & create music which helps people relate to, emotionally and not just as a form of another song.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
All the work that you do is special to you, but songs like All Izz Well – 3 Idiots, Ishq Sufiyana – The Dirty Picture, Cham Cham – Baaghi 2 & Hymn of Hope – my original composition for Earth Day 2020 on Youtube are some of the songs close to me.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
If you want to get into the music field then learn the basics and make your fundamentals stronger. Post that, learn each day from every Artist. Do not reject any form of music as each & every genre will teach you something new. I always advise anybody who seeks guidance to complete their education first & then get into this field. That is very important.
2021 has many interesting projects lined up for me. As a composer this year I have a few singles, two movies and a live musical all lined up for release. I am also keen on exploring music for kids & working on the relation between Sound & the Cosmos as that’s something that really excites me.
I am extremely thankful & have a lot of gratitude towards the universe for all these opportunities.
Some links to your website, work and other references for students?
Website – https://www.nikhilkoparde.com/
Hymn Of Hope – https://youtu.be/NCC1em4wivQ
Latest Single ‘Tum Jo Nahin’ – https://youtu.be/4CBg0hqAOBQ
Instagram – @nikhilkoparde