Manchester has a history of musicians whose skill became overshadowed by their ego. It seems barely a day goes by without some petty new controversy from the Gallaghers or fresh outrage from Morrissey.
It’s so refreshing then to meet a musician for whom the love of making great music remains what matters most in their work. Prateek Kuhad, who broke into the New Delhi music scene in 2012, is just that musician.
Growing up in Jaipur, India, Prateek moved to the USA to study at NYU and fell in love with the New York music scene, discovering Elliot Smith, Laura Marling, and Nick Drake.
He has already achieved marked success in India and the USA and is now beginning his first world tour, playing at Manchester’s Deaf Institute on Wednesday, November 27.
The first thing you notice about Prateek is his modesty. He speaks thoughtfully, his obvious love for his craft running through everything he says. Although he writes his flowing songs in both English and Hindi, he is keen to stress that for him, it is the music which matters most.
He told MM: “You can listen to a Hindi song that could have been written by any sort of indie folk artist, like Bob Dylan, it’s just in a different language. I’m not trying to put them in a box. I think music should be language agnostic.”
It seems odd at first that, in spite of his fame as a bilingual songwriter, Prateek does not appear to make much of it. But really, why should this be so important?
As Prateek explained, he writes songs in both languages simply because he can – and it’s the joy of songwriting and making music what he loves the most.
If music is what matters most, the quality of Prateek’s work speaks for itself. His most recent work, Cold/Mess, which was released last year, leads with a rending ballad reminiscent of Fleet Foxes. Although the main track is slightly more electric than Prateek’s earlier work, this does not come at the expense of his expressive and intimate vocal style.
The musician made it clear in our interview that he is very keen to get away from more traditional Indian music. He revealed: “There’s this perception of Indian music being a certain way and Indian musicians only doing a certain kind of music.”
This could scarcely be clearer in Prateek’s style, with songs like Oh Love, from his 2015 album Tokens and Charms, featuring finger-picking to rival Richard Thompson and Nick Drake.
In his outlook, Prateek reminds me of Nick Drake in particular, confiding that his main pleasure, even more than performing, is the process of writing and producing his music. He divulged: “I am still at heart a studio musician. When I am in the studio I am not thinking about anything else. It is very easy for me to stay focussed because I get completely absorbed.”
For the 29-year-old, songwriting has become an essential part of how he sees the world. “It’s just a part of my every day. Being a writer is about being observant, being aware of your own emotions. If you have a unique experience to share then you have a unique perspective,” he said.
There is a romantic tone to Prateek’s creativity. When I asked him about where he feels his music comes from, he told me: “When I started writing it was more of a catharsis than anything else.
Sometime last year during the house gig tour I did, @mohitkapil shot this for me somewhere on a terrace in Nagpur lol. A lot of people have been asking about tour dates in India and I promise you, we are on it! It takes a lot to put a tour together but for real there’s nothing more I want right now than to have a bunch of shows for you all to come out to. More on this vv soon. Also, this song is with you/for you and I recently put out a music video for it and you guys should check it out and give it some love xx
“When an experience affected me in any way it would naturally come out in the form of a song, I just instinctively move towards it.”
This sense of catharsis certainly comes through in Prateek’s songs, many of which tackle personal subjects such as love and creativity with a deeply intimate tone.
Nonetheless, Prateek’s increasing fame does not come solely from his desire for catharsis. He explained: “I have changed a lot as a songwriter. Over the years I started realising how much more important craft is to songwriting.
“It was more about being smart and being active about it. That’s something I think about a lot more today than when I started out.”
Prateek Kuhad will play at The Deaf Institute on 27th November, tickets are available to purchase here:
Prateek, now setting out on his first solo world tour, has clearly come a long way from his early days of song-writing at university. The most popular of his songs, Tune Kaha, has over five million views on YouTube, with two others, Cold/Mess and Oh Love, both breaking one million views.
What is most clear about Prateek is that he has grown from an inexperienced songwriter with great instincts into a focussed and disciplined artist.
He confessed: “It’s become more organised now, which is something I really enjoy. I like that aspect of it being more conscious.
For all that, he has not lost sight of the feeling which first drove him.
When I asked Prateek if he thought his music had that “unique perspective”, his response was as modest as I had come to expect by this point.
“I hope so. That’s something for people who are listening to my songs to see.”
*Prateek Kuhad will play at Deaf Institute, Manchester on Wednesday, November 27. You can buy tickets HERE.