Delhi-based rapper Aditya Guglani traces his journey from being an introvert to Qoini

Aditya Guglani's latest single, Ghissey Jootey, released earlier this year, is the outcome of self-isolation and personal loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Aditya Guglani, popularly known by his stage name Qoini, is a Delhi-based songwriter, rapper, and entrepreneur. Starting his creative career in the hip-hop world at the age of 14, as a writer, Aditya incepted Qoini (or ‘Koi Nahi’ in Hindi) in 2017.

Aditya Guglani aka Qoini

A Computer Science engineer by education, Aditya first released his single, Hum Jaise Hain in 2017, and another in 2018, Ban Na Chahu Qoini. He has also released freestyle videos on his Instagram and YouTube channels, which helped him catch the attention of event organisers, eventually landing him with distinguished hip-hop gigs like the Spit Dope. Today, Aditya aces genres including classic boom bap, hip-hop, and trap music.

The 28-year old launched his first video, Uth Ja Aaj in 2019, receiving an overwhelming response. The video also crossed one lakh views in the first few weeks of release.

As Qoini, Aditya wished to establish a brand that supported artists from various genres and backgrounds. More recently, he launched BUSQBOX, a company dedicated in promoting and supporting artists across the country.

Aditya’s latest single, Ghissey Jootey, released in early 2021, is an outcome of self-isolation and personal loss during the COVID-19 lockdown. In a recent conversation with YS Weekender, Aditya talks about his journey, his inspiration, and the story behind Ghissey Jootey.

The cover of Ghissey Jootey

Edited excerpts from the interview:

YS Weekender (YSW):Tell us about yourself - your educational background and what was your childhood like?

Aditya Guglani (AG): I did my engineering in computer science as I always had a knack for coding and understanding how modern technology works. I was an introverted kid from a middle-class family, trying to be heard and fit in.

YSW: Growing up, what are the few things that influenced and inspired you?

AG: Anything which I could take and add to my own creative mind and make it into something fresh and new always attracted me.

From writing my own comic book when I was in Class 4 to developing complex coding algorithms -- my curiosity to learn and create something always inspired me. This habit of mine gave me experiences from which helped me to reach my first love, which is music.

YSW: Did you always want to become a hip-hop artist?

AG: While growing up, I was always fascinated by so many things but nothing hit me with the intensity like music did. I can vividly recall that moment when my elder brother gave me his discarded CD of english songs. I was just testing my DVD player and the first song that played was Business by Eminem. I could not understand a word as I was just 10 or 11 years old but that intensity of storytelling was magnetic. You can say that was love at first sight and hip hop has been with me ever since.

YSW: Were your parents supportive of the idea?

AG: It is a challenge to explain to Indian parents that you want to pursue music. From many discussions turning into arguments, to many bitter conversations -- I had it all.

I remember not having a mic to record, so my friends chipped in and got me my first mic when I was in Class 8. I still have that mic with me. I genuinely believe that if you have a plan, the skill, and the will to execute it, you will have your parents by your side. And that is what I did; I practised and wrote daily and I sharpened my skills and worked hard to be where I am today. So it feels good to have them on my side now.

YSW: What was your turning point? When were you sure that you wanted to pursue a career in hip hop?

AG: Well, there were many small incidents that pushed me into the right direction. But there was one moment when I realised that I was actually good at what I do.

During the recording of my first track as Qoini, I met a promoter who was interested in having a launch event for the track. I was a little unsure about the whole thing but I went along thinking that there was nothing to lose. The event was on a weekend at Adventure Island, Rohini, and close to 1,500 people attended that event. After I was done with my track I got off stage and people cheered and demanded an encore and I did that track a couple of more times. That moment still has an impact on me and it motivates me to keep on going.

YSW: Explain your journey from Aditya to Qoini. Why ‘Qoini’?

AG: The journey from Aditya to Qoini has been a bumpy one for sure.

Aditya is a shy introvert kid and Qoini is his voice. From sharing my personal lyrics with my friends to performing in front of thousands of people, Qoini took me places which I never thought I could go. It really helped me to become a better person and leave most of my fears behind.

The reason I chose Qoini was because I believe that to become something you have to start from nothing. To be somebody you have to realise that you are a nobody. The word “Nobody” when translated into Hindi is “Koi Nahi”. I tried to make it look cooler by writing it as Qoini (laughs).

YSW: Who do you look up to in the Indian and international hip-hop scene?

AG: I actually do not limit myself to just hip hop. I love music (irrespective of the genre). From Frank Sinatra and Metallica to Kendrick Lamar, I listen to everything.

But if we specifically talk about hip hop, then Mac Miller’s lyrics and music had a long-lasting impact on me. In India, there are so many artists I admire like Emiway for his consistency in releasing back to back projects to Prabh Deep for experimenting with sounds and making hip hop more melodic.

YSW: Tell us about your recent release, Ghissey Jootey. What’s the story behind the track?

AG: For me, Ghissey Jootey encapsulated what I felt during the lockdown. It is a track that was conceived, written, and recorded during lockdown. I had so many projects that got shelved by the pandemic. Then I lost three very close relatives to the virus in a very short span of time. On top of it, we as a family, could not meet each other. All of this actually took a toll on me. I am not a very talkative person when it comes to sharing feelings. So that frustration grew and grew and one night I just vented out on a piece of paper and that is how Ghissey Jootey came to fruition.

The crazy thing is that the track is very personal and I thought that I should not put it out there. So I shared the track with a couple of friends and they loved it and they convinced me to release it. I never thought that so many people will relate to it and the response has been overwhelming for me.

YSW: What challenges did you face during the lockdown? How did you overcome the pandemic blues?

AG: Pandemic has been bittersweet for me. Throughout my life I struggled with anxiety and stress. So in the starting weeks of the lockdown, my anxiety increased exponentially as all of my music projects were shelved. The nail in the coffin was that there was not an end date to it. But the blessing in disguise was that I never got this much free time for self-help.

Meditation is something that I never tried before but you have to try anything when your back is against the wall. So I started meditation and that was very therapeutic for me and now it has become a part of my daily routine. I can say that I have almost battled anxiety, thanks to the lockdown.

YSW: Tell us about your home studio that you set up during the pandemic?

AG: That is a funny story actually. I could not go to any studio in 2020 as my parents are around 70 and I did not want to put them at risk. So I did my research and studied about sound isolation and sound proofing. Then I made a vocal booth from a laundry basket that I ordered from Amazon. I recorded Ghissey Jootey using that laundry basket and that is portable as well! I can safely say that this pandemic made my home studio.

YSW: What does music mean to you?

AG: For me music is everything. Every day after I wake up, the first thing I do is play something and after the day is over the last thing I do is pause the music to get some sleep or sometimes I fall asleep listening to something. It has been this way since the last 14 to 15 years. Music is the medium to feel so many emotionsl it can inspire you, it can make you feel less alone, it can do so many things. Magic is what it is.

YSW: Tell us about your work, past collaborations, and artists you want to work with in the future?

AG: Ever since I started releasing music as Qoini, I have released three singles and a six-track EP Ghar Se Door. Every project introduces me to a new set of creative minds and that is always exciting. For a few tracks like Hum Jaise Hai, Uth Ja Aaj and Where Did We Go, I got a chance to collaborate with Sez On the Beat. I am a huge fan of his work and he might be the best producer in India.

Then for the track Bhaage Khudse, I worked with Vaksh Vimal, who is an extraordinary director…the list goes on and on. There are so many talented artists out there that I want to work with in the future, artists like Prabhdeep, Badshah, MC Kode, and many more.

YSW: Tell us about the hip-hop scene in India?

AG: It is very exciting to be a rapper in India at this time. Hip hop in India is growing so intensely, we have so many artists experimenting with a wide set of sounds. Indian hip hop has already gone international. In a few years, I think hip hop will be the mainstream Indian music.

YSW: How easy or difficult is it to be in your profession?

AG: The most challenging part in being an artist is that there is no blueprint. Like there is not a set of tasks that you couldn't do and be successful. You have to carve your own way. It's not necessary that if something worked for someone then that will work for you. I found it difficult in the beginning but creating your own path gives you the freedom to do it on your own. That perk of having this kind of freedom to be who you are is what that makes the journey a little bit easier.

YSW: How do you manage to stay relevant and how do you study your listeners?

AG: I believe that the only obligation of an artist is to be honest to his work and that is what I try to accomplish with every project. Relevance is not something that can be chased. All emotions are universal, so if I am expressing something with my music, some people out there will relate to it.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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