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Interview: AMiR

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AMiR’s music may be fun and lively, but his take on traditional Indian culture is anything but: blunt yet fair, he reflects the trend amongst many young British Asians veering away from traditionalism.

Image credit: Karim Abdul

A listen through AMiR's back catalog, and one of the first things that stands out is his vocal similarity to the King of Pop himself. His most popular single ‘Drench Me With Your Lust’ is fragrant and harmonious, exemplifying his talents perfectly. “Michael was always my favourite. Growing up he was my biggest influence on my music, so when I was singing I was without meaning to, shaping my singing voice to sound like his.”

However, the vocal influence is not just limited to the King. “As I got older I got into Craig David, so when I was singing lower, I started to sound like Craig. So, everyone always says to me that I sound like a mixture of those two!”

The influences for AMiR extend far beyond pop, into rock (“Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Oasis, Queen, Aerosmith”) and hip-hop, namely Eminem. The hip-hop influence is perhaps the more outlandish, since AMiR’s music is so stylistically distant from the genre. “All the influences seep in, but not in a sense that I’m going to decide to just rap fast like Eminem! Often when I write I tend to over-write, so I write mega rhymes with loads of syllables and then I chop it to pop-style. So, it seeps in that way but not in the final product.”

When writing music, AMiR’s storytelling tends to come from personal experience, warts and all. “I’ve read back some of the lyrics I’ve written, and I wish it was a character. Sometimes it’s hard. I do write from personal experience, regardless of who I’m working with in the studio and who I’m about to open up to. Regardless of whether people think ‘oh he’s talking about another girl again’ these are all at least semi-autobiographical songs. ‘Drench Me With Your Lust’ for example really was written in five minutes, it just poured out of me.”

That ability to truly open up in the writing process has essentially turned into a form of therapy for AMiR. An exclusive outlet for his feelings that, sometimes, can't be put into words in a conversation. “Writing is completely therapeutic for me. I’m sounding like a complete mess-up but I’m not! It’s just some people are geared that way. I’ve been accused so many times by I don’t know how many girls of not sharing enough, but then they listen to my songs and they’re like ‘why didn’t you just tell me that’. Well, because you’re not a sheet of paper and a microphone.”

It's not just romantic relationships that AMiR touches on in his songwriting, but also familial relations, particularly in the context of Indian traditionalism - something that has created turbulence in his upbringing and he's now turning around to challenge. “I’m not a very political fellow, I’m not going to talk about Corbyn or May if they do something stupid; I’m not a political figure, I am just a musician. I don’t make the rules, I only break the ones I wish to break.”

Disclaimer: I do sound like I’m angry at Asia, but I’m not... but there is politics in families, and I’m backing the underdog, the ones that say: ‘why can’t I have a beer, dad, when you go have beers?' because you’re a grown up? That’s just ridiculous and it makes no sense. Even at pubs there will be this really loud bunch of lager-swirling Asians. Honestly, most of that group has children, and they never behave like that, because they’ve been told not to, but then why are the parents allowed to do that? It’s just a joke."

AMiR is clearly impassioned, even enraged, by the years of pretending to look past certain hypocrisies. "I go to a Punjabi wedding and everybody has to eat vegetarian in the morning and pray, but then you can go and eat lamb chops and get absolutely bladdered in the evening! Is that really the case? I’m quite happy to eat lamb chops and get bladdered, that’s the bit I want to do. It is actually quite hypocritical of everybody else, I’m just admitting it. There’re so many people who will go the morning part and pretend they’re the most holy people! Like, I know what you did last weekend! So, I’m sick of pretending and have been sick of pretending for years.”

Translating such a complex and multi-faceted analysis of Indian traditionalism is by no means a simple task, particularly as AMiR's writing process revolves around speaking from the heart, and wholly in the moment. “When it comes to music, I just write whatever’s in my heart, and often it’s not this Asian thing, but now that you’ve said it, I think I might write one!... It’s a type of oppression in a way; it’s not on the level of slavery or the female struggle, but there is a slight oppressed nature about it because all we want to do is be ourselves, follow our dreams and make our parents proud. But we either make our parents proud, or we do what we want to do, we basically have to sacrifice two of the three things we want to do in life, and that is just not acceptable.”

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