Ankur Tewari on his latest EP, his love for vinyl, and why we need more storytelling

In 2000, with a hotel management degree, and a dream to record an acoustic album in an era dominated by electronica, Ankur Tewari set out from Roorkee, Uttarakhand. It took him 10 years—from dealing with snide hotel guests in Delhi, to living in a chawl in Mumbai while he made the rounds of music label offices—but Tewari finally released his debut album, Jannat, in 2010. Today, having made a mark with his band, Ankur & The Ghalat Family, penning lyrics for big Bollywood films like Soundtrack (2011) and Chef (2014), and supervising the music for Zoya Akhtar’s next, Gully Boy, the 41-year old is one of the most sought-after Hindi singer-songwriters in the business. We sat down with him in Mumbai and got his thoughts on:

HIS LATEST EP, DUUR: “It is a three-song EP. I wanted to go back to writing easy acoustic songs with strong lyrics. When you play big stages, somehow you stop playing easy numbers. So, for me, Duur is nostalgic. I have revisited themes from when I started out.”

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WHAT’S NEW ON THIS ALBUM: “I’m going back to sounds that I had stopped using. We recorded ‘Jahaantak humein yaad hain’ without a click, the old-school way. In ‘Bebayaan’, I used the sound of waves, recorded in Goa, to create an effect. I like the imperfections that existed in the analogue world.”

HIS INFLUENCES: “Somehow, I’ve had more influences from outside the music world. RK Narayan and his world of Malgudi inspired me to create my own worlds and characters. There was a phase when I was only writing protest songs, inspired by the anger of Charles Bukowski. I’ve also been influenced by Mehdi Hassan’s ghazals, and Kashmir.”

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On Tewari: Cotton shirt, price on request, Rishta by Saluja. Cotton pants, Tewari’s own. Jersey socks, stylists own. Leather boots, Rs 7,998, Kompanero.

HIS LOVE FOR VINYL: “It reminds me of the time I used to listen to music without skipping songs, unlike on apps, where I’m usually doing something else most of the time. It is like a date with music. The album art is a big factor, too.”

HIS ARTS ORGANISATION, KOMMUNE: “It was started by Roshan Abbas, Gaurav Kapur and me. We realised that storytelling, although one of the world’s oldest professions, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. So, we started organising gigs in spaces that were comfortable and less intimidating, like people’s living rooms. We invite people to tell their stories through poems, songs or any other way they’d want to express themselves.”

Photograph: Shubham Lodha

Sittings editor: Divya Gursahani

Hair and make-up: Jean-Claude Biguine

Assisted by: Kavisha Khandelwal (Styling)

Location courtesy: Ministry Of New, Mumbai

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