(December 13, 2022) “I can officially say that I exist in MCU,” exclaimed Tesher in excitement. You know you have arrived as an artist when Marvel Cinematic Universe features your song in one of its series. And that’s exactly what happened to Indian-origin Canadian artist Tesher who found his popular song Jalebi Baby in episode two of Ms Marvel. “In 2019, I was remixing Marvel theme music on YouTube. 3 years later, my music is in episode 2 of Ms Marvel. It’s no secret I’m a big Marvel fan so being Kamala Khan’s mental thirsting soundtrack is an absolute dream come true for me,” he wrote on Instagram. In just four years, Tesher has become a global name, thanks to his quirky mashups and dope originals.
The 29-year-old is making waves in the international music circuit with his singles and remixes. So much so that global artists are now queuing up to collaborate with the Punjabi boy. His remixes are nothing short of international music for a global party that everyone is invited to. With each song, he breaks the mould by repurposing numbers and combining them with witty lyricism. But what makes Tesher a celebrated name is his love for Indian music, which he beautifully fuses with international hip-hop to create a perfect blend.
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“It feels like any time an Indian origin person was able to make it big in music, they would have to be either here or there. Like, you either have to make one kind of music, like AR Rahman, or go to the other side like Jay Sean. That is also fine but in this new world, I am envisioning to make music which works in both worlds, like Shakira,” he told Hindustan Times, adding, “It’s high time for South Asian artistes to be known as multi-dimensional artistes, not just for making Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil or Telugu. They can also make English music, or put it all together.”
For someone who started making music at the age of 11, Tesher wanted to draw from his Indian roots. “My Indian identity is so core to who I am that it will always be a part of my music in some small or a big way, depending on the song,” he told the daily. Global Indian turns the spotlight on the Indo-Canadian artist who is transcending boundaries with his music.
A DJ who became a YouTube star
Born Hitesh Kumar, into a Punjabi family living in Canada, Tesher was raised in Saskatchewan. His Punjabi heritage and upbringing had a deep influence on him in his early years as he always found himself drawn to Bollywood, bhangra music and Western hip-hop playing at his home. That’s when his interest in music started to bloom, and by the age of six, he began making mashups by fusing Bollywood with hip-hop songs. He soon started tagging along with his father, who was a videographer by profession, to South Asian weddings and functions. At one such wedding, the clients inquired about DJ services from his father, to which he replied that his son likes computers and music. At 15, Tesher’s journey as a DJ began.
For someone who just started with mixing Bollywood and hip-hop, Tesher found a perfect balance between his South Asian roots and the Western world. Soon he began experimenting with R&B, house, salsa music and pop as an extension of his personality.
In a conversation with Urban Asian, he said, “My music reflects who I am, and who I am is a Canadian-born Indian who’s managed to balance the Western culture I grew up in with my South Asian heritage. I am the blend of two cultures, and so is my music. If I didn’t incorporate sounds and influences from both sides of the world, it wouldn’t be me.”
What began as a mere hobby for this self-taught musician would soon turn him into an international music artist. But Tesher was yet to discover this. Oblivious to what fate had in store for him, Tesher began studying the music landscape on MTV and radio to understand where he could fit in his talent. That’s when YouTube came to his rescue.
He started putting his mashups on the internet, as a sort of his preparatory ground for what was about to happen. From country remixes to Bollywood and bhangra mashups, every composition of Tesher made its way to YouTube. One mashup caught the fancy of Sony Music India who asked the composer for an official Bhangra remix of Kar Gayi Chull from the 2016 film Kapoor and Sons. A year later, Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt performed to his remix at Miss India 2017, and Tesher was blown away by the fact that his music was making it big in India. “It was definitely cool but interesting; I was an average guy living in Canada, making music on the side, but on the other side of the world, a superstar Bollywood actress is dancing to my music, It’s honestly two worlds – it’s so surreal,” he told Strand Magazine.
The gamechanging viral song
Known to have an ear for groundbreaking mashups, Tesher cooked up a storm by bringing together the least expected combinations, AR Rahman and Travis Scott, for instance, and Govinda and Drake. This very uncanny taste in music earned Tesher fame and recognition when his 2019 remix Old Town Road vs Ramta Jogi went viral on TikTok, leading his audience to discover his earlier discography. The song with all its quirks put Tesher on the global map.
“That experience taught me to put more faith in the audience. I almost didn’t put that mix out to begin with because I thought it wasn’t good. Now it has become a reason why so many people have discovered me and my music,” Tesher added.
A global star
A year later, Tesher was armed with yet another chartbuster up his sleeve when he launched Young Shahrukh. An original rap song performed to the beats of one of Bollywood’s popular songs Bole Chudiya, the single erupted on the music scene with a bang. Such was the craze that Sony Music India picked the single, thus giving Tesher’s debut the perfect launchpad. The single claimed the Number 1 spot on BBC Radio Official Asian Music Chart in the UK and reached Number 4 on Billboard’s Top Thriller Global Chart.
Tesher found the pulse of his audience, but the singer-composer knew he wanted to blow their minds with his next song, and that’s exactly what he did when he came up with Jalebi Baby, his second single in 2020. The song which amassed over 100 million streams also topped the Shazam charts in over 25 countries. The success of the song across the globe prompted Tesher to take it mainstream, and that’s when American singer Jason Derulo came on board for the remix of Jalebi Baby. With bhangra beats and jalebi, Tesher was keen to keep the song unapologetically Indian.
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“From day one, my biggest goal was always to bring South Asian sounds into the mainstream in a way that could push our culture forward and spotlight us authentically, free from stereotypes and overused tropes. Something that celebrated us and that we all could be proud of,” added the artist who received a nomination for Breakthrough Artist of the Year.
Having tasted the success and recognition, Tesher is now gearing up to make more original music and even work with Bollywood in the future. The Indo-Canadian musician is a perfect example that music transcends boundaries and the world is always waiting for good tunes and interesting mashups.