Sammy Chand’s brand of music combines a distinct mix of elements from around the world. His music has been featured in shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show, So You Think You Can Dance, No Reservations, America’s Most Wanted, and over 50 other television programs around the world. His groundbreaking Indian hip hop fusion sound has been noted by the Smithsonian Museum, The NY Times, The Hindustan Times, MTV, BBC, WNYC, and KCRW, including the subject of several books about the emergence of his pioneering accomplishments in the genre.
His collaborations include work with the Wu Tang Clan, RahatFateh Ali Khan, Satinder Sartaaj, Michael Franti, Tisha Campbell Martin, Karmacy, Ozomatli, Chali 2na, Asha Puthli, Kanwar Gill, RasikaMathur and many other talented artists. Sammy’s recent work as Music Supervisor of the film SOLD has engaged his passion in the fight against Human Trafficking. He also worked alongside John McDowell on the film’s score. Sammy’s Los Angeles based label Rukus Avenue, the first of its kind in North America, will be releasing the Soundtrack to the film SOLD.
Please tell us a bit about your academic/family background?
I’m Punjabi, born in London, and now living in Los Angeles. I went to college in California for Marketing and Psychology. I have a brother and a sister, and my parents live in LA. I’m married to my wife Anchal and we have two children.
Why be in the arts?
I’m on a quest to help make a change in this world and use my creativity to leave a mark. I have a deep passion for music. The arts are to me is the most impactful way to tell a story about life and the human condition. Music does it in ways we can’t tangibly see. Music articulates our emotions.
What is it for you? American music or Indian music?
Equal doses of both. I can honestly say, my favorite artist of all time is NusratFateh Ali Khan, but I’m known for my pioneering hip hop sound. My music is really a perfect reflection of me. I’m proud of the fact that I can blend the two cultures seamlessly and I feel that anyone from anywhere can relate. The world is so much smaller now, and we’re a multicultural world.
Why do you think many modern songs & music videos are not like evergreen songs & music videos of the past?
I think the younger generations have a wider taste in music because they have access to so many different genres now. The songs may not seem evergreen to us, but all music is evergreen. It’s about your perspective. Just like our society, it’s all evolving. Do you believe art is for entertainment or for social awareness? One can argue that with so much disturbance in life, people would like to enjoy art for relaxation purpose only.
Music has always been the soundtrack to life. We make music that reflects our society and the condition within. For me, I’ve always tried to carry a social message in my music, and it doesn’t have to do with lyrics or words.
I was the first to start rapping in our South Asian community perhaps worldwide, and I did that because it was the best way for me to tell my story.
It is obviously entertainment, but ethnomusicology has a greater story that sometimes stretches beyond borders and cultures. I’ve worked on music with RahatFateh Ali Khan that’s releasing on my album this year, but there has to be some reason why a Punjabi man in Los Angeles is releasing Qawwali music. It’s the magic of the greater story of music.
What’s your family’s reaction to your profession choice?
You can’t do this without your family being behind you. I have two children and my wife has to often carry the greater load of raising them while I’m so busy. My family is the reason behind my success.
Is it a profession where you can make money?
Yes, but at some point you’re put in a position between your own ambitions and success in the business of music. The two are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist. The successful ones have it their way with equal parts of both.
Do good looks matter? Do they get you into the door?
I have no hair and I could use some time in the gym, but the music business has been kind to me! Not sure if looks matter, but personality certainly does. Work ethic certainly does.
How do you keep yourself fit?
I try to run everyday, I drink plenty of water, and I certainly watch what I eat. With that being said, I think I could use some more time at keeping fit.
How much time do you spend on social media?
I spend sporadic moments on social media. I have so many motivated and hard working friends that social media is the best way for me to keep up with them, so I spend some time everyday. It’s also become a major source of news too, I keep up socially through Facebook, but informationally through Twitter.
What kind of pressures do you feel as a professional?
For me personally it’s balancing all the different facets of life. I’m engaged in so many different things at one time that I have to utilize my time efficiently. With all that being said, the pressure I feel comes from my desire to spend more time working on the creative side, because now you must spend time in other aspects of the business to remain successful.
Is the industry different for men vs. women?
I can’t say I’m the best person to answer that. I do know that from the women I’ve worked with in this industry, that it is challenging to balance between societal expectations and the pursuit of their personal dreams. Especially those that maybe viewed as unconventional. It’s never easy for anyone to challenge the status-quo.
What and who do you turn to when depressed?
I turn to music, I always turn inwards when I’m down.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?’
On stage at the Grammys collecting an award. Thanking all the failures I’ve suffered for bringing me to this moment!
What would you like to change in the world. Do you associate yourself with any charities?
Well the film Sold and my involvement as a composer and the music supervisor has really brought the fight against Human Trafficking to my attention. I’ve been involved with many different organization ranging from the United Nations to New Light in Kolkata.
New Light is run by our friend UrmiBasu and my wife and I have been very active in supporting women and children that have been rescued from sexual slavery. These women are taught new skills so they can pick up an alternative ways to make money. This way they don’t get pulled back into their old life. Their kids are then rescued off the streets and provided safe homes, an education, and access to healthcare.
Yourfavourite male artist
NusratFateh Ali Khan
Yourfavourite female artist
Lauryn Hill and MIA
What are you currently working on, and what’s coming up in the future?
I’m currently finishing work on the Sold soundtrack with music by John McDowell, Salim & Suleiman, Michael Franti, Cappadonna, MidivalPunditz, and more. I’m also working on my album which will feature music by Satinder Sartaaj, Ozomatli, Tisha Campbell Martin, RahatFateh Ali Khan, Michael Franti, Divine, Kanwar Gill, Cappadonna, and more. I’m also working on a couple of new films right now, but my favorite is making albums and songs with artists. You can always keep up with me at Sammychand.com.