Here’s how Toronto’s JoSH got Indian record labels to say, ‘hell, yeah’ after several no’s

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L to R: Qurram Hussain (Q) and Rupinder Magon (Rup) of JoSH THE BaND, a well-known Indo-Canadian rock group, will be playing a couple of free ONtour concerts in Brampton and Mississauga Sept. 1-2 as part of Ontario 150 celebrations. Photo courtesy JoSH.

 

Indo-Canadian rockers Rupinder Magon (Rup) and Qurram Hussain (Q) of the popular band JoSH have verve and drive, but theirs is a story of perseverance.

JoSH the BaND  has sold some four million albums worldwide, performed in over 100 countries, recorded 4 studio albums and collaborated with heavy-weights such as Sukhbir, Apache India, Nelly Furtado and others.

They have also been irresolute when faced with rejection, time and time again.

There’s ‘Q’ in JoSH?

The band-mates and friends, originally from Montreal, appear to have seized the competitive South Asian market with their signature melodies— a mix of hip-hop, pop sprinkled with traditional sounds of India and Pakistan.

Q and Rup met in the mid-1990s after Rup founded JoSH and had sort of made a name  within the South Asian community in Montreal.

Q who was playing with mainstream bands, found JoSH’s or rather Rup’s approach to fusion music intriguing and interesting. They collaborated.

For the past 10 years, the duo call Toronto home and are yes, true Toronto desis.

Flashback: after the aspiring artists put finishing touches to their demos on Main Hoon Tanha (I am lonely), ten years ago, they hopped on to a plane and headed to India convinced the country and the record labels will woo them till cows come home.

“Our belief was that no one would be listening to music Punjabi, Hindi, or Urdu lyrics in Canada,” Rup notes in a presser. “You turn the radio on, and you hear English music, and rightfully so. It’s one thing to appeal to the world music market, and another to be on mainstream radio. So with that dream in mind, we went to India with our story of two Canadian boys who hadn’t lost their roots, and we thought they would eat it up.”

Except, no one had an appetite. They faced rejections from at least half-a-dozen record companies.

“Even though we were turned down by six different record companies there (India), the comment we heard most frequently was that our music was ahead of its time,” Rup says. “I’ve coined this phrase ‘charming persistence,’ to describe what we did for the next five years, making an annual trip to see those same record companies and letting them hear how we were developing our sound. After five years, we got a deal.”

That’s something, isn’t it? When you believe in yourself so completely that the “no” loses its power.

India, meet Nelly Furtado

The band’s pivotal moment happened in 2000 at the Bollywood Music Awards in New York. An Indian A&R rep watched their interview with CNN and reached out to them.

JoSH’s next 2004 album Kabhi, was a smash hit and they became the first Canadian band to be named MTV India’s Artist of the Year. A year later, they became MTV Pakistan’s Artist of the Year.

Josh with Nelly

L to R: Q (Qurram Hussain), Shah Rukh Khan, Nelly Furtado and Rupinder Magon (Rup). Photo courtesy of JoSH The BaND’s Facebook page

Their third album, 2006’s Mausam (weather) was a remix of Nelly Furtado’s hit Powerless, Promiscuous and Maneater. The sounds became club sensations.

“Around the time that Kabhi came out, we saw Nelly on the Grammys and the song she sang had a line in Hindi,” Rup said “That got us thinking: she’s Canadian, we’re Canadian, and apparently she likes Indian music, so let’s pitch doing something together. I literally found her management’s address on Google, and our charming persistence kicked in again. About a year after that she decided to do an Indian remix of Powerless and overnight we were couriered all the tracks and told to do whatever we wanted.”

Their version of Nelly’s hits became instant hits. So much so, Indians loved Nelly.

Two years later when Nelly performed Kabhi to 75,000 people in Mumbai. That’s when it felt real.

“For us, it was instant validation,” Rup said. “It told people that we were for real and we were here to stay.”

JoSH The BaND will be performing couple of free concerts, Friday, Sept. 1 at the Garden Square in Brampton and Saturday (Sept. 2) at the Celebration Square in Mississauga. The ONtour concert also include performances by Amanda Marshall, Kardinal Offishall and Anjulie. It starts happening at 6 p.m.

Photos and press release courtesy of ONtour 2017.

 

 

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