In the three years that he’s been an active musician and performer, Prateek Kuhad has established himself as the indie music scene’s perfect example of what one can achieve with just a guitar and talent.
His efforts have been rewarded, with the singer having won the Best Indian Act at the MTV European Music Awards on Sunday. But, the singer — who performed at the NH7 Weekender at Hyderabad on Saturday — says that the only true way indie musicians can achieve success is when monetary expectations are out of the window. He explains, “It’s a small scene, it’s barely getting itself up as an industry. I don’t know why I’ve had even the small amount of success that I do.” He adds, “Honestly, there are many bands and singer-songwriters in the scene that are talented as well. It’s just a tough industry to be in, especially if monetary gain is your criteria.”
Although his latest album In Tokens & Charms has been earning him rave reviews, Prateek hasn’t forgotten how difficult is it to actually crack the Indian music scene. He says, “It’s tough in the beginning — you feel unproductive. I felt that way for the first six to eight months, more so because I believe my productivity happens in bursts. There will be a couple of months where I’ll be productive, and then there will be a couple of months where I’m not able to write songs, produce or do shows.”
Having picked up songwriting at just 19, Prateek is now content that he decided to choose music as a full-time profession three years ago, despite having studied Maths and Economics. “I also gave my time to music parallelly when I was studying. At one point, I just decided to give it a year and see how it goes. That happened three years ago and I’ve been in this industry since then,” he says.
It was his musical influences that pushed him to take up this vocation. Prateek explains, “I had this phase when I was listening to Elliot Smith and the likes. That got me into the genre of music I write currently. Then I started listening to the masters like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and then, more contemporary stuff like Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Nick Drake…”
He does, however, acknowledge that choosing music as his career is indeed a privilege. “Maybe societal pressures are a little more in India, but even in countries like the US, and the UK, everyone just wants stability. My parents have been fairly liberal. I’ve taken independent calls on whatever I’ve wanted to do. That’s how it should be — after a certain age, you should be able to take your own decisions.”