Crown The Brown Exclusive: Kabir
Exclusive Crown The Brown interview with musician Kabir. Kabir’s music stems from his upbringing in a close-knit and musical family. His paternal lineage includes the world-renowned group of Indian artists, the Partap Brothers. Growing up surrounded by their sounds inspired Kabir to pursue his own musical path.
Over the course of his adolescence, he discovered the power of his singing voice. He developed a certainly eclectic taste in music. Hence, ranging from the classical Indian styles of his family heritage also to American classics and contemporary music.
All of which inform the Pop and R&B sounds that define his style today. We had the privilege of learning more about this amazingly talented young man! Above all, here is what he had to share with us!
When did your passion for music start and what inspired you to drive towards music?
I woke up to music every day, as far as I can think. I grew up in a house full of musicians. Saturday morning I would awaken to my dad and uncles singing Kirtan, practising the tabla, sarangi, violin, you name it. That 24/7 exposure to classical Indian music shaped my childhood and everything I have done since.
Fun fact, I actually played the violin from elementary to middle school, but then I took the leap towards choir. That gave me the confidence to chase my passion for singing. I believe the key to happiness is living in the moment. Music transports me to a place where my mind and body are completely connected. All the worries of the world melt away.
That ability to stop time and relay a powerful story that evokes an emotional response in others is something I am constantly chasing through my music.. In many ways, I felt it was my responsibility to carry on our family legacy (of storytelling through music?) but in my own unique way.
Who are your musical idols and why?
A few artists who certainly come to mind right away: Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Mohammad Rafi, Frank Ocean just to name a few. These artists were soundtracks for challenging periods in my life. They got me through countless hardships, from heartbreak, school, work, and everything else in between. Most importantly, I admire these artists for their unparalleled talent, timelessness. Their ability to become titans of their own respective genre. To me they transcend time, and I have no doubt their legacy will stand the test of time.
As a South Asian musician, what are some of the challenges you face in the music industry?
I have always wanted to use my platform as an opportunity to break down stereotypes. To challenge listeners when they hear my music. I believe what I’m doing is something that’s never been done before. I am a Sikh male with a turban singing Western music.
If you were to play any of my singles for a new listener and then showed them my photo. They probably would have never guessed a South Asian American was the person singing. I want people to challenge their own notions of what an artist can sound and look like.
How do you as a public figure use your platform to encourage other South Asian artists?
I think of myself as a trailblazer. What I’m doing right now is creating a new space. I’m putting myself out there in such a unique way in hopes of encouraging the next generation of artists. When other South Asian artists get to experience my brand, I hope they realize that they don’t have to follow societal norms.
If I could quit my job in finance to pursue my passion, then anything is possible. I hope they see someone breaking the mold and it gives them the confidence and permission to do so too. It’s also important to remind myself that I don’t have to have one identity.
When you experience such an intense cultural duality, you don’t have to choose between one or the other— the blend is where the beauty is. I am just as American as I am Indian, and I’m just as Indian as I am American. Radiating who I am in every way imaginable.
I want people from all walks of life to feel like they know me through my music. I’m leading by example. I’m challenging the status quo, and that’s exactly what the world needs right now.
What is one thing you’d like to change about the industry and why?
Basically this idea of inauthenticity for the sake of “branding”. It seems like now more than ever, you need a gimmick or a hook to “make it big”, but I don’t think that’s what the world wants right now. I believe audiences want to connect with artists who are themselves, who embrace their insecurities and encourage others to do the same. The artists who do just that are beloved for it.
As a new artist, I’ve been guilty of this over-reliance on gimmicks and creating an image you think people will love even though it might leave me empty inside. Putting stuff out there with the mentality that this is what people want to see instead of what you genuinely like and find interesting doesn’t allow you to embrace your artistic superpowers.
There have been times where I held back projects because I was afraid people wouldn’t vibe or it would flop. I believe that listeners have an uncanny ability to perceive when an artist is being real and are truly putting their passion into what they’re doing. It’s going to be 100% authentically Kabir.
What do you think the stereotypes are pertaining to South Asian artists?
A few come to mind that I am personally trying to break, for example, that desi artists need to stick with just Indian music sonically and lyrically. I don’t believe that to be true whatsoever and want to encourage as many South Asian artists to experiment with new sounds and genres.
As a Desi artist who doesn’t sing in Punjabi, it really does throws people off. They see a turban and automatically ask when I am releasing Punjabi music. It would be great for everyone to realize that each artist is truly unique and can reflect a range of complex emotions, sounds, and genres, regardless of how they look.
How would you describe your sound and what do you think makes you different to other artists?
Every artist is inherently different, I’m still developing my sound. I have a clear vision for what I want my sound to be— smooth, romantic, sensual — but it’s challenging trying to translate that into a finalized art form that I’m proud of.
It’s a learning process, and every new artist has to go through that struggle to really refine their sound. But I’m realizing that this is the fun part, getting to learn more about yourself and hopefully, discover your purpose in life along the way. But a few adjectives to describe my sound..sensual, smooth, dreamy, relaxing.
Who do you wish to work with in the future and why?
The list is deep, dream collabs would be with Frank Ocean and Kanye West. Two musical legends who helped shape my teens and love for music in general. But two desi artists who come to mind are Prochec and Jaz Dhami..the latter who I had the opportunity to see live at the BBC concert March 2nd. Reevna from Brooklyn also comes to mind because I know we would crush a duet together!
Last but definitely not least, it would be a major goal to work alongside my family, the Partap Brothers. All of these artists I mentioned have this amazing sonic quality, it would be a dream to see how my sound would mesh with theirs.
What future projects can we expect from you?
A lot of new music on the horizon! I’m working on a few collaborations with artists from all over with different sounds that I think will shock a lot of listeners, one that’s a throwback and one that’s going to be wavy for sure. A project with my family that incorporates traditional classical Indian music and a fusion twist is definitely something on my radar as well.
My goal for the end of the year is to release an EP that captures my true essence as an artist, so I’m hard at work! Of course, a few surprises along the way that I can’t disclose at the moment, but stay tuned.
Describe your Turban Day experience and how did it feel to perform in Times Square?
In a few short words.. A dream come true. I’m so humbled and honored to have performed in the crossroads of the world so early on in my career. More than anything, to me it genuinely felt like a shift in what a desi artist can look and sound like. I had an entire jazz band present and performed a few standards mixed with an acoustic rendition of Everybody Loves Somebody. My theme around my set was love and acceptance and it was great to see so many people resonating with my sound and message.
What advice would you give other artists who are struggling in the industry?
Just be yourself. Don’t ever let others dictate your vision of art because otherwise, you defeat the purpose of being able to add your specific talent and perspective to the world.
Secondly, find your army of people that love you and will never shy away from holding you accountable to who you are in every aspect.
Furthermore, Turban Day would be nothing without amazing artists showcasing such talented work in a Western society! It is truly refreshing to see someone showcase their talent and embrace their identity in the manner that Kabir does! Be sure to follow Kabir and Crown The Brown to show your support!