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John Oinam from Manipur was not a very known figure to the music and entertainment industry in Manipur, at least not until he secured a spot in the reality entertainment TV Show, The Stage season 2, India's only English singing talent hunt, in the Colors Infinity channel, from September 17. Picking up gradual momentum with two of his bands, Avahan and Blend Twins, John gathered the limelight after auditioning for The stage season 2 ans since then, he has been the talk of the town.
TNT- The Northeast Today got into a conversation with John Oinam where he talks about his journey at The stage and beyond. Here are excerpts from our interview with him-
TNT: Please give us a brief introduction about yourself- your background, place of birth, hobbies and the likes.
JOHN: Hi I'm John Oinam, from a very small place called Thanga which is located near Loktak lake. I was born at a place called Oinam, after I was born,we moved out from Thanga,to a small town called bishnupur .I did my pre-elimentery schooling from bishnupur public school.As my father is in army we have travelled places,exposing us to people from different region,caste ,culture and traditions which resulted in a lot of learning and I was exposed to competitive surrounding.I have done my schooling from delhi(1st to 6th standard),Srinagar(7th to 8th standard) and Kolkata (9th to 12th standard)from kendriya vidyalaya schools and I'm a very proud kvian.From my childhood days,I was involved into singing and dancing.Art is something which has always intrigued me.I used to in extra curicullum activities in my school days,I have done acting,dancing and singing and the plateform and opportunity was provided by my school and the teachers.I was also a very good and obedient student,very studious and teachers they used to adore me.after completing 12th standard,I came back to Manipur as I wanted to do my further studies from there only.The reason being I stayed out of the state entire life of mine.I wanted to know the people,I wanted to understand culture and tradition and wanted to learn my beautiful mother tongue.I stayed at my aunties (my mothers sister)place.There I went for coaching classes for AIEEE and I was also doing the regular B.Sc course in DM college of SCience in chemistry honors.I cleared the AIEEE exam but then I don't wanted to do engineering so didn't even attain the counselling for it.I was confused what to do with my life.I was listening to other people and I was doing what was told or adviced .Then in college days some amazing friends they made me realised that I was good at singing.then from I was involved in college fest and competitions.I realised I'm actually good and I can sing and people are liking it that gave me a kick.
TNT: Please tell us about your journey with The Stage season 2. How and when did you decide to be a part of this.
JOHN: the stage is the first English singing reality show in the country.I followed it in the first season and for the second season open auditions were going on.Though I have never learnt western I wanted to try cause I love English songs.I sing Sufi and Bollywood songs with my band.I went for the audition I sang no woman no cry by Bob Marley and price tag by Jessie j I got selected after clearing all the rounds.I came to the dream city Mumbai for the first time,it was like dream coming true.I was working in a bpo.if you love your work then you enjoy it but a call centre job I was not liking it.I was doing it just to pay my bills off.I always felt I don't belong there.then i left the job to come to Mumbai and now Im a part of the show.
TNT: What inspired you to be where you are now?
JOHN:My mom is the biggest inspiration for me.She has done a lot of sacrifices and struggles in her life to give us a good life and good education.She was the only bread earner before my father joined the army it was tough on her but she is a hard working and a very strong lady.she always taught us to be humble,to work hard and to be a good person.
TNT: Please tell us about , when did it all begin? What was the story behind them both?
JOHN: I secured 1st division in BSc chemistry honors in 2014,I came back to delhi to stay with my parents again,I joined coaching classes for competitive exams as I wanted to do a job so that I could help my family as my father is the only bread earner in our five member family.Here I met one of my band mate Sahil Gupta inside a bus by his look he was looking like a musician so went to him and I asked if he had a band,we had a conversation ,we exchanged no..After few days he called me up saying they need a lead vocalist I went for audition they liked my voice and I became a part of the band avahan.Now I have completed 2 years with the band.Avahans music is a combination of versatile melodies and simple lyrics based on specific themes creating audible impact.
Blend twins is an unplugged duo band formed with Sahil Gupta playing guitar. We perform western songs and Bollywood songs together hence the name blend twins and it is 4 months old,we formed the band to perform in small cafes and restaurant in delhi
TNT:What kind of music do you compose and sing? What is your inspiration?
JOHN: our music frequently reflects,the feeling of a common man,basically what we see around is what we produce in the form of music.we as musicians do not believe in dividing music into genres
We compose and play what we love.My inspiration as a singer are Kailash Kher, Sonu Nigam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shafqat Amanat Ali,Adele,Sam smith, Jason Mraz and Rihana.
TNT: Please introduce the bands and members to our readers?
JOHN: Band members
John oinam-Lead vocalist
Swapnil Nishant minz-guitar
Vivek Bing thou jams keyboard/vocals
TNT: How would you describe your music and what is the reason behind choosing this genre?
JOHN: I don't stick with one genre,I listen to all kind of music like jazz,blues,rock,pop,hip hop,rnb etc etc.cause if you want to learn then you should listen to all type of music.I listen to artist from different parts of the world.
TNT: Besides the band, what do you guys do as individuals?
JOHN: I have left my job and now I'm a full time musician
Sahil Gupta(guitar)-he is working as a sound engineer and voice over artist at ibroadseven
Vivek ningthoujam(keyboard)-he has just completed his MBA in marketing.
Swapnil(guitar)-he is working as a digital marketing strategist at mapmyindia
Ashoka Prem(drummer)-he is working as a lead model designer at Samsung
TNT: How important do you think is commercialization of a band?
JOHN: Commercialization is very important to sustain ourselves economically as musicians we need money. commercialization helps in getting shows and the right renumeration for our talent,it assigns a band with a numerical value and also shows the position in the market it can also helps in connecting with wider audience,wider audience means bigger market which is something to look forward and to achieve
TNT: What is your take on the current music scene in Northeast India?
JOHN: I think north east musicians are a part of the soul of indie music scene.We have amazing artists from north east who are contributing and making distinctive mark in the music industry to name some papon da,in bands its gingerfeet ,soulmate from Shillong and ofcourse guru Reuben mashangva from Manipur.I'm a fan and they are also my source of inspiration and I look up to them
11-my experience in the stage is far beyond my expectations.its awsum.I still feel like its a dream and I don't wake up,hahaha.the judges are so supportive and their presence always fun.they do constructive criticism and that help us in bring out the best out of us.vishal ,Ehsaan,Monica and Devraj they are mentors and friends at the same time.I'm exploring a lot of new spaces in music with the experts here.My fellow contestants are insanely talented people and they are crazy I love them. And one more thing to notice that 5 contestant are from northeast out of top 22 and that's a big thing.
TNT: How has your experience in the Stage been so far?
JOHN: well as of now I'm doing the show but to find out that you can follow me on facebook and instagram,I will be sharing all the updates on social media so connect with me through social media
TNT: How profoundly do you and your band members follow jam sessions?
JOHN: regular jamming is very important,as most of our members are working we jam every weekend.We do a lot of experiments with our music and we try different stuff with it.So jamming on regular basis is very necessary and we make out time for it cause we love it
TNT: What is the next big step for you?
JOHN: right now as I'm a part of the show and shooting for it.Let's see after the show I'm hoping if something good is going to come my way. (LAUGHS)
TNT: Your message for the youth.
JOHN: I would like to tell you all that if you have a passion for music,dance or acting etc etc. Follow your passion.dream big never give up.work hard to make your dreams a reality.you will find people discouraging you,underestimating your capabilities , laughing at you and they will try to break you down it has happened with me also to deal with such thing is to stay strong and positive about yourself all the time.
–Interviewed by Shweta Raj Kanwar for TNT-the Northeast Today
Picture courtesy: John Oinam Facebook Page