From losing loved ones in the pandemic to creating a vocal booth out of a laundry basket, this independent rap artiste has come a long way.
“Ghissey itne jootey par kitna chala hun, lage ussi jagah hun
Kya jootey bole jhoot ya shuru jo kia aake wahi khada hun”
Hip-hop artist Aditya Guglani’s recent single ‘Ghissey Jootey‘ is a haunting track, a reminder of the pandemic and its chaos. In his own words, it is a product of his “frustration because of the lockdown, captured into a four-minute track”. The rest of the song and the video are akin to a recurring’s nightmare, a madman’s reality — falling from grace, stuck in a loop, romanticism of the humdrum.
But Guglani explains ‘Ghissey Jootey‘ to be “about a common man with a broken soul, struggling to express his emotions amid the mundane episodes of life”. It is open to interpretation, but the artiste says the man (in the oeuvre) is blinded by the clouds, “but when they clear, the sky will be the limit”.
Guglani’s stage name is ‘Qoini’, a term derived from the Hindi phrase ‘koi nahi‘, and Ghissey Jootey is not his first. The emerging 28-year-old songwriter, rapper and entrepreneur from Delhi calls himself “the voice of the misfits in the world”. His oeuvre comprises some other tracks: his first two singles ‘Hum Jaise Hain‘ and ‘Ban Na Chahu Qoini‘ released in 2017 and 2018, respectively, followed by ‘Uth Ja Aaj‘, ‘Where Did We Go‘ and ‘Bhaage Khudse‘ in 2019.
But it was ‘Ghissey Jootey‘ — released early 2021 — that comforted him and his listeners in the pandemic. In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, Guglani pours his heart out, talking about his losses, humble beginnings, pandemic troubles, and such.
“Deciding on a name took 10 minutes, but the journey was long and filled with ups and downs,” he says of how he became ‘Qoini’. “I have always been a shy kid when it comes to expressing my emotions. So, the writing was the only thing that was my comfort zone. I started writing when I was 13-14 years old and I’ve been listening to hip-hop since I was 11-12. I used to take printed sheets filled with lyrics of Eminem, Linkin Park, The Game, and many others, to my school days. I would mimic their style and delivery in front of my friends. I was trying to be quirky and funny but because of that, I met the right people in school and started performing at events. But it took me many years after that to find my own sound and vibe.”
Guglani claims to be a “self-trained hip-hop artiste”. When he had just started, “there were not many local artists or communities”. “So I was, in a way, self-taught. The thing which attracted me to music is the art of expression and the impact it has on people. I still find that freedom fascinating — that artists can create their own personas, tell stories and be influential in a positive way. This keeps me going because I have a lot of stories to tell,” he says.
The artist says he bettered his craft “by making bad songs and working on the feedback”. For “if an artiste stops listening to feedback, they become complacent, and that blocks any growth”. “So, I made terrible songs, sat through many mocking feedback sessions, and worked on the things which I felt were necessary to succeed. I guess, it is about being patient, persistent, and open to learning anything new. To this day, I listen to every possible feedback I get from anyone, and analyze it,” he says, adding that for him, “it always has been about music and not just hip-hop”. “From Frank Sinatra to Metallica to Kendrick Lamar, I try not to limit my listening to one genre. If we talk specifically about hip-hop, then Eminem, Mac Miller, and Kendrick Lamar would be the artists I idolize. The intensity, the introspection, and the music are so well-connected and coherent. Outside hip-hop, I am a huge fan of Liam Gallagher and James Hetfield.”
When he recorded Ghissey Jootey, Guglani was “vulnerable in those tough times, while also trying to keep a ‘chin-up attitude’”. “There were a lot of things going on in my personal and professional life, and whenever I feel overwhelmed, I write. So, this track was born in the lockdown and was released a couple of months after that.”
The artiste was struggling to cope with the loss of three of his family members. “That is so unfortunate and probably the worst phase of my life,” he says. “Since they were all infected by the virus, we couldn’t really stay together, as everyone was quarantined. I was never into meditation, but during that phase, I started to meditate and that made me feel better and positive. Apart from that, I always had music by my side, I wrote and recorded so many tracks. It was really therapeutic for me.”
The pandemic also impacted his career, as it did for many others. In 2019, he had “many projects ready to be released in 2020, but the whole plan got derailed”. Guglani could not get to any studio either, to record his music, because his “parents are above 70”, and that would put them at risk. “I could not go out to shoot the music videos for the tracks I had recorded. I waited patiently for a few weeks, then started reading and researching sound-proofing and isolation. I created my vocal booth out of a laundry basket, and I continued my recordings at home. I guess, necessity is the mother of invention,” he remarks.
It irks him that hip-hop is not understood better. That when he started doing rap, it was regarded as “filler music”. “From that, it went on to being a ‘US-based music style’ which could never come to India. After that, people only viewed rappers as gangsters or being associated with misogynistic lyrics. This one is still prevalent, but I feel these notions are being heavily challenged, as more and more artists are coming up and bringing out the positive side of hip-hop.”
Guglani says he owes a lot to music; it made him confident. “Before music, I was just an introverted kid with a lot to say, but no courage to say them out loud. Music really pushed me to uncomfortable situations which I then mastered. The kid in me could never really imagine that I would perform in front of thousands of people, but I did,” he says, adding that because he is an “emotional person”, he writes whenever he feels overwhelmed by something. “There is a sense of energy that I feel. I then know that I have to write it down. I never sit down and think, ‘Okay, I have to write something.”
But besides music, he also has myriad other interests. “I am a curious person who likes to learn and create things and be in an environment that stimulates my creative thinking. I enjoy writing code to solve complex problems. I love to grow organic vegetables and flowers in my small backyard. I also love listening to Joe Rogan and Bill Burr’s podcasts.”
For other independent artists who may be struggling in the pandemic, Guglani has a message: “Hang in there and believe. Being an independent artist is like being an entrepreneur, where you are the product. Many independent artists I know underestimate the business side of things. It is as important as the music, writing, and creative vision. I think many miss out on this.”