Meet Prateek Kuhad The Indian Indie Star Championed By Barack Obama


Meet Prateek Kuhad The Indian Indie Star Championed By Barack Obama

Last December, Prateek Kuhad was sitting at his family home in New Delhi when his phone lit up with hundreds of messages.

“Have you seen it?” they asked. “This is big.”

“I had no idea what they were talking about,” says the singer. But, a few clicks later, he understood: Former US President Barack Obama had included one of his songs, cold/mess, in his annual list of favourite music.

The song, which hadn’t even troubled the US charts, was somehow in Obama’s top 35 alongside more well-known tracks by Bruce Springsteen, DaBaby, Lizzo and Beyonce. Kuhad says he has “no idea how cold/mess even reached him”, but the endorsement gave his career an enormous boost.

“It was very strange – it just blew up,” he says.

First released in 2016, cold/mess defies any cultural assumptions you might have about Indian music. There are no traces of Bollywood or bhangra. Instead, it’s a quiet, captivating indie ballad about two lovers whose relationship has hit the rocks, but are too scared to let go of the wreckage.

I wish I could leave you, my love, but my heart is a mess,” sings Kuhad, his voice wavering between hope and hopelessness. “My days they begin with your name, and nights end with your breath.

He started playing it in concert four years ago, and immediately noticed the effect it had on people.

“At a show where nobody had heard the song, I would get a really overwhelming response. So I was like, ‘OK, this song’s going to be important,'” he says.

Inspired, he constructed a six-track song cycle around cold/mess, for an EP of the same name. “All of the songs were about the same relationship that I was in,” he says. “So it starts with a hopeful love song and ends with heartbreak.”

‘A landmark for India’

Before Obama’s intervention, the EP had already been a big hit in India, against many people’s expectations.

“There’s a big bias in India that to be a successful musician, you have to have songs in Hindi,” explains the 30-year-old. “English songs would be like, OK, you could maybe reach a few people in Delhi and Bombay and have a small, dedicated group of fans; but cold/mess really broke that perception.”

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By the end of last year, Kuhad was playing to an audience of 9,000 at an outdoor concert in Delhi’s Garden Of Five Senses, capping off a huge, 30-date tour.

“That was quite a landmark,” he says, “because the culture of buying expensive tickets and coming to concerts is not there in India”.

The gigs were the culmination of eight years’ hard work for Kuhad, whose fame has been building gradually since his first release, Something Wrong, in 2011.

Meet Prateek Kuhad The Indian Indie Star Championed By Barack Obama


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