JumpinGenres Ajay Randhawa Jumps onto the Chicago Bhangra Scene

JumpinGenres Ajay Randhawa Jumps onto the Chicago Bhangra Scene
Ajay Randhawa aka JumpinGenres/ Photo credits to NoBuJatt

Ajay Randhawa, known by his alias JumpinGenres, is a talented all round musician who has not only introduced himself as a worthy addition to the US bhangra scene with a fresh and at times gritty sound, but as a musical aficionado who enjoys music as a whole.

With the ability to practice and master an array of music, he is ready to ‘jump genres’ in the musical world. Ajay gives his time for a QnA with me.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Hey Sunny, what’s going on man! Thanks for taking time out for the interview. My name is Ajay Randhawa aka JumpinGenres. I just graduated from Chicago's premier Digital Media Arts College known as “Tribeca Flashpoint”. During my time at Tribeca, it was run by a local hidden legend, Howard Tullman, who I look up to in an entrepreneurial sense. Howard Tullman partnered with director, producer, and actor- Robert De Niro- to join two companies to create Tribeca Flashpoint.

Describe your style of production.

My production style is infinite and has no boundaries. Anything that vibrates is fair game when it comes to the Universe of sound. I received a degree in sound engineering from Tribeca Flashpoint, but my main focus was sound design for visual arts. I really don’t have a formula that is permanently set in stone like most producers or composers have nowadays. When it comes to creatively making music, I go with the flow by whatever I feel in the moment; that way it just comes out naturally instead of being forced.

You left Chicago to move to India where you lived and attended boarding school for two years. What brought about the move to India?

Haha. Not many people know this fact about me so you’ve done some research! I lived in India for two years at a boarding school. I did not go by choice, and I would say I was sent there to be disciplined due to my nature to question things (LOL). When I was younger, I was told that I didn’t listen to anyone and I was a bit of a troublemaker haha.

I lived alone at boarding school so that helped me gain my independent view of the world. I moved from America to India during the middle of 5th grade, and it was a total culture shock and clash for me. I was a regular kid who loved playing video games. The day before I was supposed to leave, I just beat the Golden Eye 007 game for Nintendo 64!

I lived half of the year in Amritsar, Panjab with my dads side of the family in the pind. The other half was in boarding school in Himachal Pardes, located near the periphery of the Himalayan Mountains just north of Chandigarh. It was a beautiful area to grow up in and to be exposed to at a young age.

During your time in boarding school, you struggled to relate to your fellow students there. Did that stem from mainly a language barrier and cultural differences? Tell us about your experiences there.

Yeah man, it was life changing. It was emotional knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see my family after a year at such a young age. I didn’t speak Panjabi fluently, and I had to learn two new languages, Panjabi and Hindi. The culture was obviously much different from the States. Everything seemed like a 360-degree change for me. There was hardly electricity that worked. The schooling system was much different, and little details added up when it came to everyday activities. When I reflect upon those years, I learned that I took many things for granted while I grew up in America.

This led to you realizing your passion for music. Please reflect on your experiences in discovering your passion for Indian instrumentals.

My musical journey began at the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) that my boarding school had on campus. I was really into the Tabla and began to take formal lessons from a local teacher who would come to the school to teach dedicated students. I ended up being the only serious student out of the school to learn tabla since everyone else on campus was there to become a doctor, engineer or I.T. specialist. I would like to thank my tabla teacher, whose name I honestly don’t remember, but I would like to meet him again soon to personally thank him. He formally taught me for 3 months. I ended up dropping out of the boarding school and came back to America.

On your return back to the US, what musical aspects from Chicago’s rich musical history influenced you?

When I was a kid, I was never consciously aware of music. However, I was a big fan of good music, and enjoyed a lot of the stuff Chicago's radio stations were playing in the 90's. B96 and Q101 were big during the 90s! Chicago's jazz music has made a big impact on me after I came back to the States.

I am a huge 80's and 90's fan when it comes to hip-hop, rock and other musical styles. That era of music had much more cleaner mixes, melody and smoother harmonies. There are still artists that are keeping this art alive, and are easy to find through the Internet if you know where to look. Quality artists are dropping in numbers when it comes to creating music that comes from the soul. I believe technology has a big role behind that. At the same time, I am not down playing technology because it has provided many benefits in our day-to-day living. I always try to keep the right balance when it comes to blending live instruments with electronic influences.

As a bhangra producer, how would you assess the bhangra scene in Chicago?

The bhangra scene is starting to pick up. There's not that large of a Panjabi population here compared to England, but that doesn't mean other individuals who love music cannot enjoy the sound of bhangra. Earlier this month I was privileged to open up for the R&B legend, Chaka Khan, a 10-time Grammy award-winning singer. I consider it to be a big thing, since Chaka Khan has been produced by legends such as Quincy Jones, who worked with Michael Jackson.

To celebrate her 30-year anniversary in music, Chicago band Funkadesi had the chance to open for her concert. Funkadesi is a really unique band consisting of top-notch musical ambassadors, each representing all sorts of different sounds from across the globe respectively. Shot out to Rahul to making that all happen! I was on the Dhol with Funkadesi that night and performed at Chicago’s Millennium Park, which is a prominent piece of Chicago’s fascinating architecture and design. A few years back, also at Millennium Park, I was blessed to play on the same stage right after Ustad Zakir Hussain’s set. For those of you who don't know who Ustad Zakir Hussain is, he is a Master Jedi on the Tabla and quite a humble person. His classical tabla compositions and solos are nasty.

Other than that, I usually play the keyboards when commercial Panjabi singers or groups come to the US. My first time on stage at a Panjabi gig was with another legend, Muhammad Sadiq . I have also performed with Surinder Shinda a few times, as well as KS Makhan, Nachattar Gill, Sarbjit Cheema and many others.

As your stage name ‘JumpinGenres’ suggests, you produce music from any genre. What other genre have you produced music in, and is there any non bhangra projects lined up?

I am formally trained and have studied several styles of music from both Western & Eastern cultures. This includes classical music, jazz, funk, hip-hop, house, jungle, Panjabi & even 12-tone. I don't consider myself a master at any of them, but I keep an open mind to keep learning as much as I can and to really push the limitations of sound to its fullest potential. I’ve released three instrumentals in the past: The Renaissance 2010, The Renaissance 2012 & The Paradigm Shift.

JumpinGenres,The Renaissance 2012/ Photo Credits to NoBuJatt

JumpinGenres,The Renaissance 2012/ Photo Credits to NoBuJatt

I also am a Sound Designer and have done some TV spots for Kellogg’s (shot out to Paul Rogers) as well as a Honda Accord commercial with Vince Lawrence. Vince was the first person to have a house track on the Billboard charts in the 80's. He is a pioneer of house music in that sense, and I respect him for making house music a global sound.

I am working on some hip-hop tracks at the moment. They are more like conscious hip-hop. There are also plans underway for releasing Spanish songs with a close friend of mine, iLLeGaL. Check out some of his stuff on the Internet! I'll be producing his album Natural Human Vibration Frequencies!

I have also been considered by many to be outspoken for my political views in many positive and negative ways. I am into politics, which seems like a boring subject to many music fans, but just because you don't have an interest in politics doesn't mean politics doesn't have an interest in you. I am a strong supporter of the Libertarian Party, which has grown tremendously in the States these past few years. I grew up in a liberal environment, but began to see all the problems and dangers modern liberalism has caused around the world and made the switch. I consider myself a strict libertarian because you either have liberty and freedom or you don't. Any individual or group of people can not just "choose" what freedoms you are allowed to have and which ones you are not allowed to have. Strict libertarian principles do draw a line in the sand when it comes to freedom; you are allowed to do anything you want as long as it doesn't harm others physically or mentally. The Libertarian party is based upon the firm and easy-to-understand principle of non-aggression, which means to never initiate force against someone else. In a Libertarian Society there is no Military Industrial Complex. Peace can never be achieved by force, only by understanding. That being said, I am releasing a Ron Paul Tribute on my next Paradigm Shift album. I might even make something for his son, Rand Paul, who is changing up the Republican Party currently.

Who would you like to work with?

I’d like to start off with whom I am currently working with. I’m working with Chicago based rapper iLLeGaL on his debut album ‘Natural Human Vibration Frequencies.’ We grew up together since high school and we both are fans of 90s hip hop. You know the stuff Nas, Eazy E, Pac & Wu Tang were doing.

I am also working to launch Gary Kahlon who has a unique style of his own. He has a vocal presence that derives from Kuldeep Manak (who no longer is with us) mixed with lyrics of his own that mention topics many others in the Panjabi game don't sing or talk about. I am also working with Chicago local artist, Vicky Singh, so watch out for some deadly stuff out soon. The tracks are done, and have not been released yet. I am also working with Jasbir Gunachauria, who is a dope lyricist. I am finishing up a track currently with Sukhwinder Paanchi called "Shaunk Jatta Da," which will definitely be refreshing to the whole Panjabi Scene. I am also working on a Jungle DnB track with one of Ustad Zakir Hussain’s students, Nishad Parmar. Nishad is one of my musical teachers. Expect that collaboration between us to be next level.

I would like to work with anyone who has something of substance or has a message of some sort to tell. I think a collaboration between me and Lupe Fiasco would def represent Chicago. I’ve been a fan of John Williams the film composer. There are way too many artists who I would love to collaborate with so I won’t list anymore. I am not down with the manufactured, coming-out-of-the-music-factory box that all use the same sounds and chord progressions etc. If you give the audience only what they want, they may never end up knowing what they were missing. You get the point.

In your music video ‘The Struggle’ with vocals from Gary Kahlon, there’s a scene with images of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh adorned alongside other cultural figures. Does faith play a part in how you present your music?

Fans have come up to me and said that the scene stood out and was controversial.

The idea came from myself and my homey Harpreet Mann (NoBuJatt) who has done all of my video work till this day.

NoBuJatt/ Photo credits to NoBuJatt

NoBuJatt/ Photo credits to NoBuJatt

The lyrics in the song mention breaking the metaphorical chains of imprisonment and we both thought of people who at the time were influential to us. Guru Nanak Dev Ji really challenged people's school of thought during his time traveling the world. Guru Gobind Singh Ji helped me personally understand that even during tyrannical times, one must uphold truth and justice fearlessly. It is the will of the Creator that allows such bad events to take place. Yet it serves a purpose; it helps the human conscience evolve and progress to a state of consciousness so that we do not repeat the brutalities of the past.

Martin Luther King was a key figure during the African American Civil Rights Movement in the 60s who used non violent civil disobedience. Aaron Swartz used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but rather to make the Internet and the distribution of information more accessible to the public.

Ron Paul really woke me up to the dangers of central banking, which occupies the American government, and the model of central banking (The Federal Reserve) that is implemented in almost every country today. The Federal Reserve is not Federal nor does it have any reserves. In other words, America isn't a free country like I was told during my years at school here. It’s an updated way of tyranny, making the person believe they are free, but in reality they are not.

"When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, it is the bankers, not the leaders of the government, who are in control." - Napoleon Bonaparte of France.

Many of these historical figures' philosophical ideals resonate with my own personal beliefs, and have helped provoke thought in my listeners.

Tell us about your upcoming album ‘Timeless.’

I can’t say much, but what I can say is it will be a true representation of my name JumpinGenres. The album will be tuned in the 432 Hz Harmonic Series. But before Timeless releases, I'll be dropping the Paradigm Shift version 2.0 and a Panjabi album with strong, new, and diverse musical influences.

Thank you for your time Ajay.

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