The last time Mona Singh released a bhangra single was smash hit duet Saadi Marzi with late great legend Labh Janjua in 2010.
The bhangra princess may not have put out a commercial song since then, but she has remained very active musically with live tours, two gurbani shabads, singing a playback track for National Award-winning Punjabi film Nabar and a number of personal projects, including helping her parents with their charity work.
More recently, Mona co-composed the opening song for hit animated film Chaar Sahibzaade – Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur with her dad Channi Singh. Now the London-based singer/songwriter is back with her brand new single Koka Silver Da, which shows she has lost none of her magic.
That is probably why she was in good spirits when Eastern Eye caught up with her to talk about Koka Silver Da, musical travels, future plans, inspirations and more.
Have you changed as an artist since your hiatus?
I would say I have become more mature and more of an all-rounder in terms of skills, from writing and composing to singing and having more of an in-depth understanding of the commercial and legal aspects of the music industry. I have also gained more experience and knowledge of studio work and programming.
What led you towards your latest single Koka Silver Da?
I was always being asked by my fans and well-wishers when the next release was due. Although I had wanted to release some material earlier, the different projects I was working on were taking up a lot of my time. As they started finishing, I decided I wanted to focus on my own recording projects again.
One day I was talking about getting my nose pierced, like my mum had done, and the next thing you know, my dad and I had come up with a concept for this single.
Tell us about the song?
As you know, the song is called Koka Silver Da. Popular songwriter Kumaar, who has penned some big hits in Bollywood, wrote the song and the music was provided by acclaimed Punjabi music director Jatinder Shah. My legendary father Channi Singh produced it.
What was the biggest challenge of putting the track together?
When you are collaborating with other artists, the challenge is to ensure the overall vision is achieved, which I believe we have accomplished.
You always deliver eye-catching music videos. Tell us about the one for Koka Silver Da?
We shot the video in a little village in Rajasthan. It was a full-day shoot which started very early in the morning. There were lots of people on set and everyone was singing the song and dancing, which made it really enjoyable. We had to retake so many shots as the backing dancers and extras kept singing the song while shooting, which was really funny. Sandeep Sharma, a renowned video director from Punjab, has made it. Like all my videos, this is a family-oriented video for all ages to enjoy.
How does this single compare to the others you have done?
I would say this is a first in terms of an international collaboration with two extremely well-known figures in the Punjabi and Bollywood music and film industries (Kumaar and Jatinder Shah). It was a great opportunity and honour to work with them.
Do you prefer dance numbers or the slower, more romantic ones?
I absolutely love dancing and am usually the first person on the dance floor, so definitely the dance numbers. But I am also a romantic at heart, so I do like listening to the slower numbers when I’m in that mood. As an artist, I am very versatile and have recorded both dance and romantic numbers in my albums.
You must be pleased other British-Asians women are following you into Punjabi music?
It is good to know that other British-Asian females are following my footsteps to represent Punjabi music. It would be nice to see more representation, as we are still a small number in this male-dominated industry.
What is the plan going forward for you?
Keep making quality music and tick off some of my unfulfilled ambitions.
So what is your greatest unfulfilled musical ambition?
Recording a duet with my dad. We’ve been talking about it for so long, but haven’t got around to it. We have performed live on stage together a few times, but we definitely need to record a track together and hope to do this very soon.
What inspires you today?
I would say my parents. My father inspires me as to what he has achieved in his musical career and continues to achieve. He has been in the industry for over 35 years and his journey is extremely inspiring. He is a great role model and I hope to carry on his legacy of promoting our culture.
My mum also inspires me immensely. She is so full of life and always so positive and giving. She started the free eye camp projects in India a few years ago and has continued to do them each year. This has really inspired me as it is so rewarding to help others, and I hope to do more over the coming years.
You are great on stage, Which has been your most memorable live performance?
(Smiles) Thank you. I love performing live on stage, especially with a full band and dancers. I have to say the most memorable performance would have to be in Muscat when I performed live on stage with the great Labh Janjua. We sang our song Saadi Marzi for the first time and the crowd absolutely loved it. We had a fantastic show.
Another memorable performance that comes to mind was in Karachi. I was on stage and the crowd started chanting my name and then began jumping on the stage to dance with me. Suddenly, the security just rushed on and lifted me up and off the stage, put me in a car and drove me to a safe area.
Who is the most interesting person you have met on your musical travels?
I am fortunate that while I was growing up, pretty much all the musical greats visited our house. I have met or collaborated with them during tours, but the most interesting was Asha Bhosle. I met her for the first time when she recorded the song Chham Chham Nachdi Phiran with my dad in the UK. I remember going to see her record in the studio and being so inspired by her recording style and work ethic.
What is the best advice your father Channi Singh ever gave you?
Be original and the best you can.
Which classic song do you love singing most?
Kehnde Ne Naina by Noor Jehan is my all-time favourite that I love to sing. It was one of the first songs I performed on stage when I started singing at the age of six.
You seem really lovely, sweet and the girl next door, but do you want to say anything controversial?
(Laughs) You obviously don’t know me very well, cos you ain’t see the other side of me!
Why should we pick up the latest single?
It’s a definite must have. It’s a very catchy dance number and I know people will love it – after all, it is a Mona Singh track.
Finally, why do you love music?
I’ve had music around me since I was born so it’s a part of me. I am constantly humming, singing or tapping my feet to a beat. During my younger days, my dad’s band Alaap were always at the house rehearsing and I used to look forward to listening to them practice with live instruments.
Growing up, songs of the legends such as Mohd Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Noor Jehan and Jagjit Singh would always be playing in the house, and that’s how I came to appreciate good quality music.
Music is universal and brings people together. It touches people in different ways and can evoke different emotions. I’ve performed in front of many non-Asian audiences and seeing their amazing reaction to songs in a language they don’t understand is the wonder of music. Music is the language of love so one cannot but love music.
Koka Silver Da by Mona Singh is out now. For further information or updates follow Mona on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @monasinghmusic or log onto www.monasingh.co.uk