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“Bollywood has always been around but it is time for us to be independent and take over” – In Conversation with Aamir Rizvi

A singer-songwriter from Kolkata, Aamir Rizvi has been one of Kolkata’s modern songwriters. He has released 10 original songs on all streaming platforms including his latest single, “9999 Miles”. He has been an opening act for Vir Das, Anuv Jain, Osho Jain, and many more indie acts. Aamir Rizvi’s music is more acoustic, and filled with real-life experiences. In a conversation with us, he talks about his experience so far.

1. Tell us a bit about your project. How did you begin your journey as a singer-songwriter?

I started getting into writing music when I was very young, probably in class 9. I would play around with the few chords I knew on the guitar and try to make up random scenarios in my head to make a song. The chords and the music always mattered to me first and then came the words. I released my first single as a completely inexperienced teenager in 2018. Now, 6 years later, things have changed quite a bit and I’m happy to be where I am right now. 9999 Miles was my 10th single. I now have my band called The Riz Connection, we play a bunch of my music here in Kolkata. I’ve also been lucky enough to be featured in magazines and have toured three times now, twice in Delhi and most recently in Nagaland. My sound has been slow, soft, soothing, pop and truly the modern definition of indie. I’m really looking forward to working on my new album which I would want to put out either at the end of the year or at the beginning of 2025. 

2. Which bands/artists were your first love and who is your biggest influence?

I never had any influences growing up. It’s funny but it’s true. The guitar greats, the rockstars and the frontmen never really appealed to me. For that matter, I never heard a lot of music growing up too, but somehow things panned in the right direction since 2017. Some of the bands that have stuck with me since then include The Smiths, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Police and Parekh & Singh. My current influences are quite local and I like it that way. Prateek Kuhad as a musician played a big role in helping me develop my sound but I wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of Raghav Meattle. So I would probably go with Prateek Kuhad and Raghav Meattle. 

3. Tell us a bit about your latest single ‘9999 Miles.’

I wrote 9999 Miles in 2020 when the lockdown had just started. I had just got out of a long-distance relationship and I wasn’t emotionally ready to handle things well at all. 9999 Miles was in real life, 9999 kilometres which my partner had travelled to come see me. That defined the meaning of long-distance to me. Trust, respect, love, support – and there were some things that I couldn’t offer back. The only way I could truly express myself then was to sort of write about my relationship, the experiences, both good and bad and some memories that I never want to forget. 

There’s a line in the song that says, “You travelled the distance for me, but I couldn’t do the same for you” – that’s because I never got the chance. So in a nutshell, this is a very personal song which means quite a lot to me. 

4. What is your music-making and recording process like?

It all starts with a melody. I dont like to call myself a pseudo-poet. The melody, the music, the chords, the sound always comes to me first. And then, I take out my acoustic guitar and I start experimenting. It’s a really fun time but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a recording or music-making process. It’s an idea which later turns into a bigger idea, which then helps me decide what I want to tell my listeners next. It’s a vision, to be honest. Every song has a meaning and every song is a real-life experience. 

5. Why do you make music? What drives you as a musician and what are your songs about?

I make music because I wasn’t searching for this life. This life and this world of music came to me at a time when I wasn’t looking for anything. I think I owe it to the universe and to my 12-year-old self to be on a big stage with a guitar and make my listeners feel happy. The thing that drives as a musician is my way of expressing myself to people cause I don’t see myself being the small talk guy or somebody who can start a conversation. So music has sort of become that kind of language for me. My songs are all stories from my life. Chapters is a better word. There’s no other way to say it.

6. Which Indian bands or artists do you admire? And why?

This might be a long list but it’s worth it. Prateek Kuhad and Raghav Meattle have been my biggest influences. Some of my friends including Abdon Mech from Nagaland, Shikhar Chaudhary from Bhopal, Nida Siddiqui from Pune, and Aadya Jaswal from Delhi are artists I truly look up to. In Kolkata, Parekh & Singh & Murphy’s Paradox have been acts that have inspired me in a lot of ways. I also owe my career to my teachers, Amyt Datta – one of the country’s finest and most creative guitar players, Pradyumna Singh Manot a.k.a. Paddy – arguably the country’s best jazz pianist my elder brothers Aditya Servaia – one of Kolkata’s best bassists and Faraz Rizvi a.k.a. Rfaraz – a deep house producer based in Canada who is also the reason I am a musician. 

7. What’s your take on the independent music scene in India?

The independent music scene in India is growing day by day thanks to people like all of at The Indian Music Diaries, Firstwav, Represent MGMT, Misfits INC and so many more. There is a will to write original music and it’s not going fade anytime soon. Bollywood has always been around but it is time for us to be independent and take over. 

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