Kumar Sanu’s daughter and singer Shannon K on music, anti-bullying, love, and more
Following in the footsteps of her famous musician father Kumar Sanu is not easy. But at 18, Shannon K has already made a name for herself in the US and is making waves in Bollywood as well.
Her anti-bullying anthem Give Me Your Hand, and recent single, I Do, have become extremely popular. I Do is a bittersweet love song produced by Infinity, who has worked with artists like Rita Ora, Ludacris, Mary J Blige, and many more.
Shannon made her Indian debut with father Kumar Sanu for a song titled It’s Magical, and is popular on the show circuit in New York, New Jersey, Houston, Florida, Washington DC, Dallas, Atlantic City, and Los Angeles, among others.
The singer also made her Bollywood debut recently, when she sung Duggi from Himesh Reshammiya's film Happy Hardy and Heer.
Juggling between her academics and a blooming singing career, Shannon has already been featured as the ‘Artist of the month’ on B4U-UK, awarded the Best Original Singer for “Latel” by IFAB USA, and has been featured on the covers of international magazines.
She is gearing up for a string of singles this year, each with a different flavour and story to it. As a student, she wants to study and become a psychiatrist to help teens who are the victims of social media trolls and who could potentially harm themselves. She wrote the song Give Me Your Hand on this very subject.
For Give Me Your Hand, Shannon worked with Academy Award nominated producer Kyle Townsend. The track has received immense love and support from Hollywood actors such as David Arquette, Brittney Snow, Molly Burnett, Ed Westwick, Ian Bohen, Chrissie Fit, Kelley Jakle, and Briana Evigan, to name a few.
In a conversation with HerStory, Shannon K talks about her music, collaborations, bullying, and living up to the popularity of her father.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
HerStory (HS): Can you tell us a little about yourself and your growing up years?
Shannon K (SK): I am an Indian-American singer/songwriter. I was born in India, raised in London, and I trained in music from Royal Music Of London. I then moved to LA to pursue my music further, and now I’m based in LA.
HS: You debuted at the age of four. Tell us about this and your earliest memories of music?
SK: I was always involved in music and dance, and at the age of four I had the opportunity to perform kathak on stage at my dad’s concert. I remember being nervous, but as soon as I stepped onto the stage, all my fears vanished and I knew this is where I belong.
When it came to music, I was absolutely fascinated about it since I used to go along with my dad to his recording sessions and I dreamt of becoming like him.
HS: Your father, Kumar Sanu, is a very popular singer, a sort of cult figure. What are your memories of music with your father?
SK: Both my parents have always been extremely loving and have taught me to appreciate the little things in life. They taught me to be kind. I was fortunate enough to have music in my house, and I grew up listening to all kinds of songs, including when my dad would play some old songs for me and that’s something we still do. He’ll play a song of his and whenever I’d ask him how to sing a particular line, then he’d give me tips on how to sing that.
HS: You live in the US. How has it shaped you as a musician?
SK: I do believe that living in different corners of the world has definitely influenced my music. The environment and lifestyle has reflected in my songwriting many times. I’ve trained at the Royal Music Of London and when I came down to LA, I had great vocal coaches who enhanced my pop style. Along with that, I always had a bit of Bollywood in me from the beginning since I used to listen to my dad’s songs. That helped me with understanding and delivering emotions from a very young age.
HS: Tell us about your anti-bullying anthem, Give Me Your Hand, that made waves. Was it your personal experience with bullying that made you compose it? How much of an impact did it leave on you?
SK: Give Me Your Hand was written by my sister Annabel and me. It was beautifully produced by Kyle Townsend. This song talks about my experiences of how I faced bullying, along with that this songs gives a beautiful message about not losing hope, fighting for yourself, and being nothing but your true self.
The video was just as amazing as the song, I had some great actors such as David Arquette, Ed Westwick, Chrisse Fit, and many more who came on board to support the message, and it absolutely felt incredible! I realised there must be thousands of people out there who are still struggling to raise their voices about this issue and we tend to ignore it, which is why I wrote this song to tell them that they aren’t alone. I’m very grateful and thankful for my fans who showed so much love and appreciation to the song, which led to me receiving an award.
I think Give Me Your Hand paved a way for me to connect with people. I’m all for supporting people in tough times and the fact that so many of them overcame their depression by listening to Give Me Your Hand really makes me feel happy. There’s a quote of mine which I would like to share: “You are made for a reason, to SHINE!”
HS: What else are you doing for the anti-bullying cause?
SK: I’ve been in a couple of campaigns and I’m always trying to spread awareness of bullying/cyber bullying as social media is a big part of our life.
HS: Tell us about your collaborations and how have they benefited your music?
SK: Collaborating is finding that spark within a musician and a producer. I get to learn so much from producers like Poo Bear, or Kyle Townsend, Himesh Reshammiya and many other producers I’ve worked with, and it’s a privilege that as a musician I long for. I want to learn from everyone and that’s what pushes me as musician.
HS: Tell us about, A Long Time written by Poo Bear. What is it inspired by?
SK: Working with Poo Bear was absolutely amazing. I never imagined myself working with such a great producer at 16, and so it was truly an honour. I had so much fun and I got to learn a lot of things from him as a songwriter and as an artist. He tested me on my ability as well because I didn’t know what I was gonna sing till I got to the studio, which was new for me. He was so enthusiastic about it that it really helped me to get through the whole process. He treated me as a child and encouraged a lot. It was truly one of the best days of my life.
HS: How has your experience with Bollywood been as a singer? How was your experience working with Himesh Reshammiya for Duggi song.
SK: It was an entirely new experience working in Bollywood. I was pretty nervous since I’m not really fluent in Hindi, but I somehow managed to understand the meaning of the song. It was super fun working with Himesh Reshammiya, he’s an amazing producer and all his songs are absolutely phenomenal. He’s a music mystro I must say! I enjoyed singing for Zee5’s web series The Casino too. These songs brought out a different side of me, which I loved!
HS: Do you think your father being a famous musician means there are a lot of expectations riding on your talent? How do you deal with them?
SK: There’s not a single day where I haven’t felt the pressure of living up to my dad’s legacy or living up to people’s expectations. I knew the moment I’d start my music career, everyone would have their eyes on me to make their judgement, but I get told by dad that I’m climbing up the ladder step by step, doing well and succeeding, which is why I shouldn’t let the pressure affect me.
Somewhere at the back of my mind I’d always be reminded of the legacy that I gotta keep up to. However, that pressure will always keep me in the right direction and will help me know where I want to be. Having the pressure of social media can affect you in an awful way.
When I was quite new to social media I had a fear of being myself. I remember trying to fit in with the rest, and I didn’t quite feel right about it, but I was worried about being judged by the society and being told how to look a certain way, how to talk a certain way, behave a certain way. Dealing with the trolls and haters was something that took me a while to learn. I went through a phase of depression, which led me to self harm because of all the hate that I was getting.
I had haters say that I’ll never be like my dad because I’m not his biological daughter and that I have no talent in me, I’m not beautiful, I can’t sing, and many other disgraceful comments.
Luckily, my family had my back and pulled me out of the black hole and made me reconnect with my passion. So now all I do is ignore. Someone once said that the number of haters show how successful you are, so if you’ve got people talking about you, it’s probably cause you’re doing something awesome!
HS: What role does your father play in your music now?
SK: Since my music is quite different to his style, my dad mainly helps me to prepare for a recording by giving me tips and advice. He respects my ground as an artist and helps me not be overwhelmed by his knowledge, which is a big relief because I’ve always felt that if I wasn’t as good as him, I wouldn’t ever be good in general. He helps me understand that I don’t need to sing like him but sing as best as I can.
HS: How are you spending time during the lockdown? How has it impacted you as a musician?
SK: I’ve been writing songs and exploring myself with skills that I would’ve never tried if I was not in lockdown. This time has really helped my creativity to expand more, it has made me think and focus about the world and things that I wouldn’t have acknowledged if I was busy doing my work. It has taught me a lot about life itself. I also came down to a realisation that we should find happiness in the little things in life and be grateful to be given another day to live. These thoughts have definitely inspired me to write more thoughtful songs about our surroundings.
HS: Did you take a stand during the recent protests in the US? What is your opinion on #BlackLivesMatter.
SK: I donated to many charities and have been using my platform to share links where people can sign petitions and donate. Currently, there is a curfew which is why after a certain time, no one is allowed to step out. I think black lives have always mattered and people are now really dedicated to ending racial injustice in the US because they’ve had enough. It’s a movement that’s bound to change our system and leave a mark in our timeline.
However, I really hope this isn’t just a temporary effort made by people to achieve temporary peace and justice. There are many people who have been severely injured, so let’s not let our efforts go waste. We have to keep all POC motivated so we can fight for justice and make a permanent change.
HS: What kind of music do you like listening to or are inspired by?
SK: I love to explore various genres as I like being versatile. It’s great to learn and challenge myself to singing out of my comfort zone. I like listening to Pop, R&B, and Jazz. Apart from my dad, I’m inspired by Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey.
HS: What are your plans for the future, as a musician and in your personal life?
SK: I don’t know what the future holds for me, but what I do know is I want to see myself at a stage where I’m able to help youth with my experience and knowledge.
The biggest thing I want to achieve is people’s love and blessings. I want to tell people if I can do it, so can you. Last but not the least, I want to build a beautiful orphanage for abandoned and orphans like myself and provide them with great education. Along with that, I want to continue to support animal equality and anti-bullying.