Interview With Incredible Musician Shaunak Roy Aka Royal
Interview With Incredible Musician Shaunak Roy Aka Royal. Shaunak Roy is a medical student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences (UTCOMLS) who hails from Cleveland, OH. He aims to be a physician uniquely equipped to innovate at the intersection of engineering and medicine. Shaunak is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and fusion music producer. Originally trained in Western classical piano, he began producing and arranging in high school. During college, Shaunak competed at over 21 national competitions in his tenures with Dhamakapella and Case Kismat Fusion Dance Team. After college, he began releasing his own music under the stage name ROYAL and founded ROYAL Productions, a music production company uniquely designed to provide audio production and a Cappella arrangement services to fusion artists and hobbyists. Through both avenues, he hopes to continue to push the musical and performance boundaries of the genre.
Tell us about yourself…
My name is Shaunak Roy aka ROYAL and I am a musician and medical student! On the music side, I started playing piano when I was four years old and arranging/producing music when I was in high school. As an undergraduate at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), I began creating South-Asian fusion a Cappella arrangements and audio mixes as a member of Dhamakapella, a fusion a Cappella group, and Case Kismat, a fusion dance team. After college, I started releasing original music and working with artists around the world! On the medical side, I have a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, a master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, and am currently a first-year medical student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.
Tell us about your childhood…
I was born in Jamshedpur, India and immigrated with my family to the United States when I was young. We bounced around between cities for a few years, had a brief stint in the United Kingdom, and then ultimately settled in The Land: Cleveland, Ohio! I lived in the suburb of Mayfield Heights for a while before we moved to Shaker Heights for high school. Overall, I think my younger sister and I had a fun childhood! Since it is just the four of us, and with our extended family halfway across the world, my immediate family is extremely close-knit. I am blessed that they are so supportive of my passions for the arts and medicine.
What music you grew up on?
When I was very young, it was mainly Bollywood music and the occasional Western pop song on “Radio Disney” when we would be driving back from school haha. Once I moved to Shaker Heights High School, it was predominantly American hip-hop/rap music and Bollywood. There was also a good amount of Rabindra Sangeet and Bengali folk/pop music sprinkled throughout thanks to my parents, our local Bengali community, and the annual North American Bengali Conference that we have provided media coverage for since 2007.
Choli ke peeche….. quite a fun song. Tell us about your experience.
I’m glad you enjoyed it! That project was so much fun and I’m thrilled with how things turned out. Anisha Babbar and I first got connected through a mutual friend of ours, Dr. Srimix. At the time, she was looking to create a full-scale choreography video to “Choli Ke Peeche” but with a fresh take on the music. I knew early on that I was aiming to achieve that through electronic dance musical elements, but wanted to fuse in Indian instrumentation. That’s why when we go full trap in the middle (my favorite part of the song and the video) you can hear those grungy 808s hitting alongside a dholak and tabla. Of course, the video ultimately took the remix to a level I could’ve never imagined. It was awesome to see Anisha and the other dancers (Saleena, Meghna, Val, and Shweta) have so much fun with it and to see our extended communities really vibe with the project.
Did you take any formal training?
I did! My formal music training is in Western classical piano, I started taking lessons when I was around 4 years old and kept up with them until my senior year of high school. That foundation in piano is definitely everything for me. Whether it’s the instruments I taught myself how to play, arranging and producing music, singing, etc, I know it comes from piano.
Tell us about your next project….
Hmm there’s a couple honestly! On the original music front, I’ve been collaborating with Jai Matt on a few projects that we are really excited for. Jai and I linked up after he heard my acoustic version of Jaz Dhami and Eren E’s “Bomb Bae” and our musical chemistry has been fantastic. On the remix front, Fateh and I are working on an official remix of his song “Gang Gang”. We linked up after he heard the unofficial remix that I released last month. On the mix/mashup front, I’m the co-host of this year’s Legends Bollywood Dance Championship Mixtape Contest alongside DJ Anupya. We’re really looking forward to showcasing some top-notch upcoming DJs/producers/artists involved in South-Asian fusion music to a larger audience.
What does a regular day look for you?
I’m usually up by 6:00AM and am doing administrative work for music over breakfast. From 8:00AM to 5:00PM, I try to keep it all about the medicine (but honestly, sometimes things come up haha). We typically have lectures, clinical skills training, or anatomy lab dissection take up a good portion of the day followed by “self-directed learning” aka me studying in a random nook of the med school. I hit up the gym after 5:00PM and then come home and study/review for a little more. At around 8:00PM, I’ll make dinner and start on the music grind! This could be editing client mixes, having phone/video meetings with artists that I’m working with, or just creating for the sake of creating! I usually try to wrap things up by 11:30PM but as you can imagine, sometimes the creative drive pushes me well into the night, especially with time zone differences! I remember when Haude and I were working on “K Para Ho” I would get messages from him at the most random times.
Did you have a mentor?
I’ve had a few for sure. Barbara Watkins throughout my piano training, Bill Ransom when I was in the drumlin and percussion section in band during high school, my parents and teammates in Dhamakapella when I started teaching myself how to actually sing in college, and honestly all of the artists/producers who graciously share their knowledge, tips, and tricks, on the Internet!
Some words for your fans…
Above all, thank you! These past few months have been crazy and the love and messages that I receive from you, whether you’re a fan of the music or a fellow producer/artist, is really encouraging and makes me want to keep creating and stay on my grind! I’m hoping that it’s going to be an awesome year for us and we’ll be able to push out some new originals, collaborate with some great artists around the world, and continue to spread our genre and sound. I’ve been toying with the idea of an urban Bengali track… what do you think? #ThatsTheRoyalty 👑