Canadian-Indian musician Tesher, best known for his singles "Old Town Road vs Ramta Jogi", "Young Shahrukh" and "Jalebi Baby", hopes his songs have a universal appeal and reflect both the cultures he grew up in. The rapper-singer, whose real name is Hitesh Sharma, was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. His parents moved to Canada from Punjab. Tesher calls himself "fully Canadian" but at the same time, the musician is aware and proud of his Indian heritage.
"I am fully Canadian. I was born in Canada. My parents are from India, we spoke Hindi, Punjabi, watched movies and attended Indian functions. But at the same time, I had a good grasp of Western society as well. You should embrace both cultures, you need to find your balance," Tesher told PTI in an interview.
The 28-year-old actor said since he comes from two different worlds, his music should cater to both. "I am from two worlds, so it makes sense that I make music for both. I want to be able to go to India and maybe make a string of Bollywood songs. And then, go to America and make a song with like J Balvin or something," Tesher added.
Gone are the days when artists were looking for fame and recognition in the US as Tesher believes that musicians can get the best of both worlds -- the West and their native country.
"Anytime we had an Indian artist blow up in America, they usually had to fully go the Western route, but I think people's tastes have evolved so that they don't have to categorise it in the world of music anymore. I think a pop artist in America can be an artist that sings not only in Hindi, but Punjabi, English, Spanish and all different kinds of languages."
Tesher gave the example of "BTS", the K-pop group that found a die-hard fan following in the US as well as in other countries with their music.
"If BTS can do it, there's no reason that I or any other South Asian artists can't do it. One can be successful both in our native diaspora as well as just America and the mainstream western world as well," he added.
Having grown up listening to Indian and Western hip-hop music, Tesher counts A R Rahman, Kanye West, Blue Veins, Sukhwinder Singh, Sukshinder Shinda, Bally Sagoo and Himesh Reshammiya as his inspiration.
His claim to fame was his 2019 track "Old Town Road vs Ramta Jogi" which went viral on TikTok in 2019, leading listeners to discover his earlier discography.
With "Old Town Road vs Ramta Jogi", Tesher mashed Sukhwinder Singh's track "Ramta Jogi" from "Taal" soundtrack, which was composed by Rahman, with Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road".
"'Old Town Road' has a cowboy western aesthetic and the closest thing that came to my mind was that wandering spirit and 'Ramta Jogi’ has a bit of mysticism to it. The theme worked for me," he said.
Tesher later churned two other hit tracks "Young Shahrukh", which had a beat taken from "Bole Chudiyan", a song from Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...".
The song was the musician's way of revisiting his childhood Bollywood memories.
"My childhood is 2000s Bollywood records. I thought I might as well use ‘Bole Chudiya’ and I heard it at a party the weekend before I made the song. So, I just recorded the first verse in one night and put it out onto my Instagram and it got a really good response.
"It was just to say, I feel like Shah Rukh Khan. It means I feel like the king of the world. Anybody who's my age will know what that will entail. So, I was really using him as a metaphor to explain that. Thankfully, people were able to get the reference and understand what I was trying to say."
"Jalebi Baby", his latest song with American singer-songwriter Jason Derulo, is making waves on social media.
The song is the reprised Hollywood version of Bollywood's popular item number, "Jalebi Bai" from the 2011 film "Double Dhamaal". Tesher said he loves the Indian sweet 'Jalebi' and that's how he thought of making a fun song around it.
"The song is about 'Jalebi' so we had 'Jalebi' imagery in the music video. We just wanted it to be both reflective of not only Bollywood and my memories of watching Bollywood but also growing up in Canada, going to weddings and the kind of a mix between both these worlds," he said.
"I have grown up in a culture, where we have friends of different races and cultures come and join in and celebrate with us. That's where Jason comes in and all his dancers and it ends up being this big cultural mosaic. So that's really what we wanted to show and pursue," he added.
Going forward, Tesher said he is open to creating music for Bollywood movies.
"As for collaborations in Bollywood and the Indian music industry, I would totally be open to it and there's been a lot of love being shown. I really want to be an artist that can exist in both worlds," he said.