"I'm very busy during this lockdown with albums"
Music producer Tru-Skool, otherwise known as Sukhjit Singh Olk, is one of UK’s premier Bhangra music producers. While being at the forefront of his craft, belonging to an industry also affected by COVID-19, there are aspects of his life and work which have changed as well.
As well as being a highly accomplished producer, Tru-Skool is a multi-talented instrumentalist, sound engineer, music teacher and vocal coach.
Born in Derby in the East Midlands, he hails from a traditional Punjabi household, where his upbringing and passion for music was influenced by artists like Kuldeep Manak, Surinder Shinda, Mohammed Sadiq, Gurdas Maan and many other legendary singers.
Whilst music from Punjab was a major attraction for him, he was also introduced to Motown, Break Dance and other forms of western music by his paternal uncles, allowing him to appreciate different forms and styles of music.
After training and learning a variety of instruments including the Tabla, Tumbi, Harmonium (Vaja), Dholki, Naal, and Dhol, he went onto produce many Bhangra hits and anthems.
‘Word Is Born’ was his first album which was followed by others including Repazent, One Time 4 Ya Mind, MORE and Back to Basics.
He has worked closely with singers and developed artists like ‘JK’ whose debut album, Gabru Panjab Dha, won Best Album of the Year.
His focus is on nurturing new talent and aims to produce artists who will not only bring a high standard of music to the UK Bhangra industry but also embrace the grassroots level of Punjab where the music originates from.
In an exclusive gupshup with Tru-Skool, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we find out how the lockdown has impacted this music accomplished producer.
How has COVID-19 affected your work?
With the coronavirus, in terms of work for me, it’s been normal because my equipment is at home. So I’ve got a number of albums that I’m working on.
So it’s strange because I’m getting all my work as normal, but in terms of recording musicians and certain instruments, that has been a problem.
Predominantly, I play all the instruments myself, but the certain ones that I don’t play.
Therefore, I’m either having to now wait or being forced to do it on Facetime where people have got their setups at home as well.
And that is a bit restrictive, but if that’s the way it’s going to have to be, then that’s what it will have to be for now then.
What are the challenges for your music industry and genre
The challenges for the industry and genre – I’m not too sure at the moment because like I said, my everyday environment is actually just being at home.
So with this lockdown, I haven’t seen much difference for me on a personal level, because I always go for a walk a day anyway. So it’s almost keeping to my usual routine.
But for other artists, I’m not too sure what the crack is, what’s going on.
I know. there’s a film project I’m working on and they’ve had to stop shooting.
So, yeah, I can see clear problems like that.
Also, we’ve got a record label, Check One Recordz, and we are now not able to shoot any videos or do anything like that because of the lockdown. So that’s actually putting things on hold in that aspect.
I do know some artists are releasing [songs], you know, and I think that’s a positive thing to be honest during this time.
I’ve seen things online. It seems as though some people, I think for performers, they obviously can’t go out and do shows, so they must be just practising and sort of getting material ready.
You know, otherwise, what can they do? Apart from just look after their family and kids and just at be at home really. I think the best thing they should do is try and work on the creative side of things.
But you know, there are other people complaining saying you shouldn’t be doing this that and the other, but I don’t agree with that.
How are you coping currently financially?
As I already mentioned, I’m working on a number of albums, so I’ve got a lot of work on the table to keep me busy for about a good year and a half yet. To be honest, a couple of years even.
So, luckily I’m okay in terms of the financial aspect.
Do you feel Desi people have reacted well to the lockdown?
As far as Punjabi people are concerned, I think that’s an interesting question.
Because obviously a lot of people like to visit each other’s houses, relatives and things like that, and if they don’t live with their parents they will want to check up on them.
Therefore, I think that must be very difficult for the Punjabi community.
And you know, I think the food aspect will be difficult as well. You know, the type of foods that we eat so we may have to go out and get certain ingredients. So I can imagine that being tough.
Do you think your business will survive the lockdown?
I’m very busy during this lockdown with albums, so surviving it will not be a problem.
It’s a bit strange because I’m seeing other people that are at home, available and they’re free.
I see people being creative and doing different things. You almost feel like, I wish I could do that as well. But unfortunately, I’ve got to carry on with my normal routine.
For me, it is business as usual and to carry on the way I am into the future while abiding by the rules we have as a society and country.
How do you feel the Bhangra music industry will change?
To be honest, I don’t really know if there’s going to be any change after this pandemic, for the Bhangra industry.
I can just imagine everybody just carrying on the way they have been. No, other way to put it really.
What would you say to fellow Desi people and fans during this time?
I mean, obviously I’m no expert on the coronavirus, I’m just a regular person in life, like everybody else.
I think the advice is pretty apparent. You know, stay safe, keep your distance and stay at home.
If you’re going to go out for your one walk a day, keep a distance, keep two metres apart and just be responsible.
That’s all we can do really, isn’t it?
And, hopefully, things will be fine. I think they will be.
Tru-Skool albeit not directly affected in terms of his projects by the outbreak of coronavirus still does face challenges, like anyone else in the entertainment business.
The inability for Tru-Skool to interact with other musicians in one room, the difficulties for the record label to shoot videos and the halting of film projects, all impact his norm.
The music industry as a whole has been hit hard by the pandemic especially for the performers who rely on shows for income.
How it will all resume is yet to be seen post COVID-19, but for now, we can be assured that Tru-Skool is busy producing future hits despite the lockdown, which we all look forward to adding to our playlists.