UAE-based singer-songwriter, music producer, and DJ Mangal Suvarnan is blowing up in the music industry and for good reason. A highly interactive artist who goes beyond our expectations, Mangal has not only collaborated with huge names in the electronic music industry but has also waded the waters into music for films. The musician took over the stage for his Eclipse Show at Opus Dubai. At the housefull club, Mangal showcased a sneak-peek of one of his unreleased tracks with artist Eshani. Luckily, we had the chance to catch up with him before his performance. Having no limits to his energy and perseverance, this artist has won hearts everywhere, including here at Brown.
Our first impressions? A down-to-earth, simple, and very respectful man who is very talented and has a whole library of music knowledge within him. It was very easy to connect with him, as he constantly made jokes, and did not assume the role of a famous artist. Talking to us as his own friends, we got down straight to business.
Getting His Foot in the Door
Mangal has collaborated with some huge names in the electronic music industry, including Laidback Luke, Maor Levi, and Grammy-nominated artist Brian Transeau (BT). He took the time to tell us how he came about working with each one of them. While the chance of working with Maor came by quickly, approaching Luke and BT took years.
In 2013, Laidback Luke was set to perform in one of the clubs that Mangal frequented, and he knew he had to get his demo across by whatever means. He uploaded his tracks — 7 electronic tracks and 1 acoustic track — onto a USB and waited for Luke to turn up at the club. Mangal made sure he was at the front and centre, to catch Luke’s eye. “When Luke started playing, I was jumping and shouting “Demo!” A bouncer came onto the stage, flashed a light at me and told me to stop distracting the artist. I thought I blew my chance. But I saw Luke looking at me while continuing to mix, and trying to figure out what the commotion was all about. I shouted “Demo!” again, and Luke instructed the bouncer to get the demo from me. Luke pocketed it and continued mixing.” Mangal eagerly waited to hear back from Luke for months. It was only 2 years after this incident that he finally heard back. Luke loved the acoustic track and wanted to collaborate with him. He couldn’t believe it! “I checked to see if it was the original email address, and sure enough, it was. I asked him why he picked the acoustic track. He said he didn’t like the electronic tracks in general,” Mangal says with his hand on his heart, imitating pain. They stuck to the acoustic style and made music together, with Mangal’s newfound inspiration.
Mangal came across Maor and BT through an A&R manager. On the lookout for toplines to sell to big artists, like Maor, BT, and Showtek, the manager approached Mangal for a chance to work with Danger and revealed that they also worked with Maor. Mangal insisted on working with Maor and eventually was on the route to sending over the vocals. “I actually made an entire track, but Maor stripped the whole thing, and only took the vocals for his track.” Two years later, the song was finally signed to the label in 2016.
The A&R manager also suggested a collaboration with BT. Mangal sent over the vocals to BT via the manager, but with no luck. However, two years later, he came across BT in LA. Maor and BT were set to perform together for the first time, and Mangal realized that this could be his only chance. After BT’s performance, Mangal went up to him as he was heading backstage. Mangal reminded him of the vocals he had sent a long time back. “As soon as he recognized my name and remembered my track with the bansuri, his tone changed. He told me he loved my vocals and the track, but he couldn’t use it for any of his tracks. However, he wanted to know if I would collaborate on another track with him and I jumped at the chance.” Trying to avoid the mistake of not getting the artist’s contact the last time around, Mangal got BT’s wife’s email. He started to record the vocals as soon as he got home a week later. “He gave an instrumental first, it was weird because it wasn’t a BT sound, but it was a placeholder. I recorded the vocals and the flute and sent it over. He sent back other stems with a violin, so I recorded the flute over it. Two years later, I had a release in 2020. It took 4 years in total.”
“Looking back now, a lot is coming back to me. I feel happy and sad thinking of how far I’ve come.” Says Mangal Suvarnan
The first step — your talent being recognized — is always the hardest one. Mangal persisted for 3 years before his first EP ‘Winds of Destiny‘ was signed to Armada Music, an electronic music label in 2017. “To get my songs released on Armada, I connected with the A&R, and they immediately declined my track. Every month, for 3 years, I sent them samples, but they always thought something was missing.” This EP also included a track in collaboration with singer Eshani. The track with Eshani had blown up organically; there was no money or promotion behind it. It was just the label and Mangal, and the track was played by Armin van Buuren at least 3 times at his shows. Thanks to this track, Mangal was approached by Myon. He wanted to know how Mangal had managed to create the baseline, which Mangal explained. Satisfied, Myon invited Mangal to send him a few of his tracks for his label, and it all went uphill from there. Since then, Mangal has come quite a far way. There have been quite a few releases and collaborations since then in 2017. “I’m very grateful for all the releases.” Mangal described his singing on to Armada Music as his second biggest “Oh god, this is really happening!” moment. Immediately after his Armada release, he worked on the official remix for Rihanna.
In 2017, Mangal was one of the six artists to produce an official remix on Rihanna’s ‘Consideration‘ on Def Jam. “The Rihanna remix was super quick. I was blown away by how quickly they worked.” While in Amsterdam, Mangal’s manager Eric sent him a link of a few stems. He informed that it was for Rihanna’s remix and asked if Mangal would do it. “I told him I’d try to do my absolute best and asked him when he wanted it by. Eric said, “By yesterday.” I went home and immediately started to work on it.” Within a day or two, he had finished the pre-master and sent it across to Def Jam via Eric. They loved it and when Mangal was done with the final master, it was approved by Def Jam and Rihanna’s team. “It was mad. They released it in December. Once it was released, there was so much press around it. People were talking about the Indian kid from Dubai who was working with Rihanna.” Later in 2019, he also worked on an official remix track for Alessia Cara’s ‘Out of Love‘. After he moved to LA, Eric sent him the stems, and he worked on the remix, and it was approved, all very quickly. “Alessia’s song was in the time signature of 3/4. I had to make a house track of it! I literally spent 2 days and used Melodyne to fit her vocals over 4 bars, and it worked!“
“After Rihanna’s remix, I thought I was set for life. I was ready to go onto Tomorrowland, get to the main stage, but that did not happen.”Says Mangal Suvarnan
He admits that his sounds have matured since then, and he has also started to look at his career in the long-range. He came to terms with how far he had come and believed that consistency is the key, although he admits he hasn’t always been consistent with his music career.
The music industry is infamous for rejections and criticism. Mangal too has had his fair share of negative feedback and rejection. He accepted that rejection was all part of the game. “If you’ve noticed, most music producers and DJs are a lot humbler than the rest of the crew because they know what it is like to get their egos and self-respect beaten up.” He confessed that he found it disheartening to admit to his family and friends that the tracks he worked on for months were not accepted. He also went on to explain that a good way to combat rejection is to have a good circle of supportive people around you, who aren’t afraid to give their constructive criticism. Furthermore, he revealed from his own experience how many of his songs completely changed after he took advice from loved ones. “Have friends who support you, a family that loves you, play video games, or exercise. Focus on keeping your mind straight.”
Venturing in to Newer Avenues
The music industry is not the only field where Mangal is leaving his mark. The Malayalam fan base too has had a taste of his magical tunes. He has worked on the music tracks for the feature film Kinavally as well as the title song Who are You for the critically acclaimed film Who. For Kinavally, one of Mangal’s earlier better-performing songs was picked by the director. Even without a label, the song had done pretty well. “Those who know me and listen to my music attach me with this song more than any other.” The story was somewhat different when it came to Who. “I was performing in Kochi and Pearle Maaney hit me up.” They had loved his sound and wanted him to work on an original. Mangal sent over a few ideas, of which one was picked. He later finished the track and had his wife Dhanusha Gokulan sing the vocals, and they loved the song. The song currently has over 1.2 million views on YouTube.
He also disclosed that he is currently working on the background music for a Tamil film. “Songs are easy to do, but I’m struggling with the background music. It’s like making a song that’s 2 and a half hours long. It has to be of a certain quality, otherwise, it won’t work well. We’ve had to start from scratch many times; it only works well when you sit with the director.” However, Mangal takes this opportunity as a learning experience – in terms of timing, and the placement of music. “Sometimes the dialogues speak for themselves. When a scene is silent, you need to add good music.”
Mangal confirmed that we would be seeing more of him in the Malayalam field. “I’ve always loved background scores. This is an industry I want to be part of. Not just Malayalam, but even Tamil, and English. Hollywood is the endgame. I see myself working here in my 50s, it’s more mature and challenging. In the long run, I want to do that full-time when I get too old to tour!“, he jokes.
We also asked him about the new trend of viral songs that are blowing up on most social media platforms, predominantly on TikTok. Mangal confessed that he never envisioned the music industry would grow in this direction. Although he hated the idea initially, he confessed that he has now come to terms with it, unlike many artists. “I’m willing to try it. Getting a song out there to go viral is a great way to promote your music for free. You make money through streams from people who want to know which song it is.” He admitted that it was a lot cooler and easier than the traditional method of heading over to radio stations and paying them to play your music to get the word out there. He brought up Dhee and Arivu’s Enjoy Enjaami in light of this. “It was destined to be a hit. It’s very simple; there’s not a lot of elements. That’s the secret sauce I’m trying to crack!” According to him, simplicity, appeal, and the right time and place can do a lot for a song to be a major hit.
Discovering Artistic Individuality and Inspiration
One of the most remarkable techniques that makes Mangal stand out from the crowd is probably his incorporation of the bansuri flutes in his music. He revealed how he came out adding it in his tracks. When his family and he were visiting Ireland in 2012 or 2013, they came upon an Irish tin whistle in a souvenir store. He ended up buying it and experimenting with it as soon as he got back to the hotel. “I realized that this sounded amazing with reverb! I thought it would be cool to put it in one of my songs.” He went on to buy a few actual bansuris. “Learning the instrument is very different“, he says, “it’s weird, unlike playing the guitar or the keyboard. To get the right sounds from a bansuri, you have to blow into it at the right angle.” He found that after understanding more about the instrument, it fit nicely in the tracks, even in the mixes. It was neither too bassy nor too high. The response to this new addition was off the roof. It was completely different and unheard of. In 2013, Mangal made an acoustic song, and another one with Sanyukta called Better Day. By 2014, people wanted more of the bansuris in his music. Since then, there was no looking back.
“If Luke thought my stuff was good, then I must be decent at what I do, right? Until then, I wasn’t sure of myself. After he gave me confidence, I started believing in myself and there onwards my music began to evolve.”Says Mangal Suvarnan
When asked about one of the biggest life-changing moments that shaped Mangal, he revealed that it was getting the nod of approval from Laidback Luke. His biggest inspirations being Laidback Luke and BT, Mangal also revealed that he would love collaborating with deadmau5 and Arty. “What deadmau5 is doing now, I want that to be my endgame — make my own visuals and music, play games. He’s like one of the gods! The Coffee Runs are so cool. I do another version of this — I play a video game with someone I’m collaborating with and when things get really intense, I ask them important questions. In fact, I was playing Left 4 Dead with Eshani and I got really genuine answers.”
Mangal reminisced about two important lessons from his mentors. The first was from Laidback Luke — “It’s all about the small wins. Make changes in your direction and when the time is right, you have to grow.” The second was from a dear friend from college — “If you do everything in your power to achieve something and yet it does not happen, forget about it because it was not meant to be; move on and work on the next big thing.”
Mangal also revealed what a surprisingly important role his wife played in his career. Be it writing articles featuring him or working on his tracks, she has always been a constant support. The couple had met through their shared love for music. A reporter at Khaleej Times, Dhanusha approached Mangal for an interview after seeing his acoustic cover of Above & Beyond’s Sun & Moon. Talking about music and artists they both admired, the two found that they had a lot in common. “We both loved deadmau5 and Above & Beyond. We kept hanging out. Once she came over to my place for an article. She was humming, and I noticed how incredible her voice was. I asked her if she wanted to make a song. In the process of writing Believe, we fell in love. We started dating and got married this year. At times, I want to quit and do something productive, but she convinces me otherwise. She’s an incredible wordsmith; her words hit you like a train. She’s half the reason why I still make music. If not for her, I would have quit a long time ago.” Mangal’s entire family has also been incredibly supportive throughout the entirety of his career. Being realistic parents, they keep a check on him and praise him for his successes. “I haven’t brought them to a gig yet because I’m not sure if they’re ready to see what happens on the dance floor!“
Besides music, Mangal is also a hardcore gamer. “I play a couple of sports — football, tennis. But I survived the lockdown because of gaming. Every night at 7 or 8, everyone come together to play Warzone, Apex, or Tekken, and we just start yelling at each other.”
Next Stop – Tomorrowland?
Mangal recently came out with his new track Eclipse with the label Black Hole Recordings. Previously, he had released Between the Lines featuring Sanyukta Krishna under the same label, earlier this year. “Sanyukta and I go way back. Even before Between the Lines, we released another song called Better Day. That was the beginning of my vocal-songwriting journey.” He wrote the lyrics and recorded the song with Sanyukta. While Black Hole has its own style, the label defines it very broadly, says Mangal. Talking about Eclipse he says, “I’m not sure which genre it falls under; it’s kind of tech house-ish, but more melodic and progressive house than Between the Lines. Having a vocal on top entirely changes a song. It gets everyone’s attention. You can’t overproduce the track either. The vocals are the centre-piece and everything else fall around it, like relishes.”
He also revealed that he has a few new tracks lined up. A new track called Far Away is soon to release on Maor’s label. “I made it while I was in LA because I was missing home. It’s an emotional track.” There’s also another one in the works — Rise — that is completely different from the progressive scene; leaning towards pop, this new track has its own flair with the usual flutes. So, fans of Mangal, keep a lookout for these new tracks!
“Stay unique, keep fresh, and keep evolving your sound.”Says Mangal Suvarnan
Mangal also had advice for aspiring musicians. He pointed out that the secret to getting a good song placed on a label was to think 3 months ahead in terms of that genre. He recommended finding the fine line between ‘ahead of its time’ and ‘too futuristic’. While sticking to the sound of the label is important, he emphasized bringing something new and unique to the table. For musicians trying to break it, he advised bringing something that no one else in the world can — be it a unique voice, an instrument, or even a specific beat that you’ve spent years trying to figure out. As an artist, constantly evolving and keeping up with the times is just as necessary as being creative and unique.
An accomplished artist, he is now looking forward to hitting new milestones in his performances. Having missed out on the performing world for too long, he wishes to get on bigger stages, learn from the reactions of a live audience and get inspired to write more music based on it. We know that we’re definitely looking forward to being wowed!