Pianist Minu Puri is the first Indian woman composer to publish a book on her original piano pieces, Easy Piano Melodies. The versatile artist who took Nigeria by storm and in this interview narrates her musical journey, right from being honored by Trinity College, New Delhi Centre to being awarded by Penaaz Masani and the release of her latest song Jaane Jaan. Read on!
Global singer and ambassador of musical confluence would perhaps best describe artist, music composer, and pianist Minu Puri. The artist who spent a decade in Nigeria where she strummed music in her mid-30s cannot be confined to a specific genre or label, particularly, where she boasts of the rare distinction of bagging an award from the prestigious Trinity College London, New Delhi Center for excellence in music teaching.
The singer and composer who recently composed Jeena to Padega during the lockdown share her journey, as she harks back on the music scene in India cum her experience and exposure in Africa. Needless to say, she is on a high with her new song Jaane Jaan collaborating with her son and releasing it today (Thursday) where she has signed up as an artist for the single to be aired on Songdew TV.
Grooving to the ‘mirasi’ tune, East Piano melodies and harmony in choir
The Calcutta-born artist recalls her musical journey as, “A wonderful tryst which afforded and helped me carve an identity for myself with this beautiful feeling of being respected, wanted and needed as a person. I am basically a composer and armed with a firm belief to think about myself as humble, loving and eager to learn from others while helping them growing at the same time.”
Being awarded from no less than the prestigious Trinity College of Music London, New Delhi Centre for Excellence in Music teaching where Nicholas Keyworth was the Chief Examiner, Minu Puri today runs her own music institute and boasts of the rare distinction of being the first Indian woman who published a book carrying 12 original piano pieces called Easy Piano Melodies sold by Furtados in all their India stores. Having learned piano in class 6 from the legendary Georgio Banks and ABRSM-Solo Piano in Grade 5, she recalls the unique experience of choir singing as a child that was ‘absolutely delightful’.
It feels like a live experience as the talented singer hovers back to those days: “As your ear is attuned to listening and learning harmonies from a tender age grooming seamlessly from an aesthetic point of view and we were fortunate to learn under the tutelage of an excellent teacher from America.”
Music training started early in the Puri household where her father was born and bred in a joint family where evening time was something to look forward to with all cousins coming together to groove. She tells that the family would call a ‘mirasi’ to accompany them during the routine ‘evenings’ to discover the depth of music. Mirasis are the names given to gypsy singers in Pakistan. “My father’s joint family who grew fond of the singers would regularly invite them at home where singing along became a unique and enthralling experience. I wasn’t even born at that time.”
“I grew up listening to my father and cousins singing with the mirasis where I recently sung and recorded one of their songs,” the versatile singer fondly tells. It’s only natural for Minu Puri who was exposed to such rich music with exquisite musical talent and passion was passed to her led to intone music motifs weaved through decades of passion and practice.
Crooning a tune in Nigeria, Piano tales
The musical bones in the singer who made Nigeria home for a very long time led her to croon a Hindi song with a band out there and ushering at the start of her professional vocal training. It was at Muson in Nigeria under the tutelage of famous teacher Princess Banke Ademola that she sang in the language as part of exams is a tale that deserves to be told about an Indian making the country proud and spreading her wings in the far off Africa hinterland.
In those days, Minu Puri was interviewed on the Benie Uche show on NTA, Nigeria blending diversity and musical kaleidoscope. “The African song was part of my vocal training at Muson and I can definitely tell that Afro Music has very different rhythmic patterns conveying different messages laden with a variety of vocal styles. My teacher Princess Ademola was well versed and experienced, backed with a degree in General Musicianship from London.”
A young Minu Puri in her mid-30s was already composing music and straddling across Nigerian studios, telling that she had ‘lots of free time’ at hand in channeling all energy on music which encapsulated her love for it. What started as a great hobby eventually turned into an even greater passion for the craft. “I started learning piano, music theory and western vocal from various teachers.” She says while remarking that nothing much was happening in the music industry during the 90s.
She calls it a great experience recording in the studios at that time, telling, “Even Ezra was one of the best and all the musicians recording for advertising agencies were very professional.”
On Om Puri, she says: “We used to call him Om Ji. Extremely humble and jovial. A great human being and it’s very difficult to find such a person in Bollywood. Success never went to his head at all and we requested him to attend the event launching our son into music.”
Exploring the Indian musical scene and breaking new grounds
It was in the 2000s that she came back to India. While the cherry on the cake was obtaining an award from none other than the legendary Penaaz Masani but on the other hand, she was in for a rude shock seeing the musical scene. She candidly tells, “It was the time that I tried to make it as a composer or singer when I got the shock of my life with things getting very difficult and was even told that a music composer should not come on time but rather come after everyone has reached the venue.”
Calling it sheer luck for being selected in a music competition hosted by Kala Darpan which she calls surprisingly well organized, Puri narrates, “We performed at the Talkatora Stadium and I was awarded by Penaaz Masani where one thing led to the other with offers started pouring in. It was quite exciting but I didn’t find the venues or payments appealing enough or crossing the deserved marks. I refused all of them.”
The entire experience of performing in front of a teeming crowd at Talkatora stadium was one of a kind experience coupled with all cheering, excellent band laden with good production values such as sound quality and lighting effects, she reminisces. However, she rues on today’s scene with small pubs sprouting where no one is listening while being quick to add, “Of course, things are different for the famous artists and it should be. They definitely deserve all the applause and recognition.” She adds, “I performed at a well-organized concert at the DLF City Club Phase 4, Gurgaon,” arguing on the essence of well-hosted shows to click with the audience.”
Sharing her experience, Minu Puri insists on the need to encourage more concerts, backed by proper sponsors on board to ensure the performance quality remains uncompromised which in itself will help ride over challenges faced by artists. “I am the founder of Karaoke Kittens where we hosted an event at PlayBoy Gurgaon which turned into a huge success,” she shared.
Singing a different tune and carving a unique signature style
It was during the lockdown that Minu Puri composed the song Jeena Toh Padega that won her accolades and critical acclaim. The beat, hymns and tune are soulful, reverberating and capturing the senses. Every tune hits the right chord and permeates the senses with meandering flow adapting to every tune, hitting a high and tender flow at the same time. The composer tells, “Jeena Toh Padega Na was created many years back before my son left for New Zealand and in the context of the now, I am more aware of the power, reach and impact of social media which prodded me to release the song. The lyrics is better suited for everyone living in the tough times.”
There have been many songs composed by the versatile artist such as Loockchuhup Kare Ishare, Dekha Na mujhko Aise, Tere Liye, the musical video dhuan Dhuan and Bollygood Jollwood. Quizzed on the varied genre and future plans, the musician who calls her signature style as varied which ranges across folk, pop, rock, indie, fusion, classical and instrumental says: “Future plans are on hold. I am looking for a good team to work in a professional studio.”
The future seems bright for Independent Indie music in India with a gamut of digital and social media platforms mushrooming offering artists an opportunity to sell their music online. Puri argues on the need for sponsors to help support the work of artists similar to the world of sports coupled with funding needs that will go a long way in ensuring excellent sound quality venues.
Running online class, Grooming home bred talent, and funding for artists
A call for support, particularly for female artists and musicians is what she advocated together with quality event management crew on stage to supervise and help spot talent before the latter is allowed to perform live. It will help to pave the way for more opportunities landing on the lap of musicians, according to Puri.
Minu Puri who taught Mira Kapur, born Rajput and married to Superstar Shahid Kapur says that she was very intelligent, polite and an enthusiastic learner at a young age.
We are living in tough times with several lockdowns in place during the pandemic which has impacted career and earnings taking a beating. Minu Puri calls for proper facilities and financial support as a dire need to support artists during such harrowing times.
“Support system is necessary and the constitution of a board with the registration of event managers and artists will help us not only solve financial woes but also decide on a fee quantum to be apportioned between client, middle person and artists. Let them flesh out some set rules in the form,” she proposes.
The singer urges that it is the right time to groom home-bred talent by encouraging students to perform in shows for the pure joy of entertainment and flung on the throes of learning at the same time. “We need more piano bars to give exposure to the host of young and talented Indian pianists that we have.”
A typical day in the life of the artist starts by powering the mind with music and juggling between yoga, dancing and fitness before getting into the groove of teaching themed piano, albeit, running her institute MMP in Gurugram. Her USP lies in individual online classes. “I don’t have one size fits it all formula and create my pattern of teaching tailored to the student needs. What makes music successful is when both the teacher and student enjoy the class.” You can contact Minu Puri on her website.