North-East boy singing his way from stage to stardom - The story of John Oinam
Oinam Thoibi Leima
Oinam Bira Meetei
25th Nov 1991
Yesterday is a history, Future is a mystery, Present is a Gift
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
Does being part of a music society make you serious enough about music? Or do you need that one accidental moment to kick start your musical journey. Meet John Oinam, a North-East boy, who met a band when he was travelling in a bus. To his surprise, he connected so well with them that a few days later he auditioned for the band and got selected. Milestone moment, right? Life has the most amazing ways of surprising you. John’s inspiring tale is all about a musician’s everyday achievements and struggles. Read ahead to get motivated from his perception of taking the enchanting musical journey forward.
Team imd1 had a chat with him a few days ago, read on to know him further!
We are really keen to know, how did your journey begin?
I was not too serious about being a singer before my graduation. It was a certainly a major part of my life but not the most important one. I went to school in Delhi, Kolkata and Srinagar. After that, I went back to my hometown, Manipur to complete my graduation. While I was in college, I joined the music society and I realised my passion for singing. It was much more than a hobby I got the chance to represent my university and to my surprise, won the third prize. However, it still wasn’t the driving force in my conscious mind. Later, I shifted to Delhi to prepare for competitive exams. There was this one guy in the bus I was travelling, who had a typical look of a musician i.e. long curly hair with earphones.I couldn’t stop myself from talking to him. He was intrigued by the fact that I sing sufi songs. Eventually, we exchanged numbers and stayed in touch. I also sent him my video clips in which I sang Kailash Kher"s song, Allah ke bande. The very next day, they called me to their music studio and took my auditions. I got selected only to become a part of the band. Life has the most amazing ways of treating me. Never on earth had I thought that the beginning of musical career will be this accidental. It was finally then that I took singing seriously and passionately enough. The band gave me the platform to perform live which boosted my confidence. They were like my brothers - helping me through every thick and thin of life, making me learn and evolve through all that life had to offer. After an year or so, we participated in a reality show. It wasn’t too big a show. The exposure was lesser too but, that’s what struggle is about. We keep progressing and developing by discovering ourselves and taking advantage of every little opportunity that comes our way.
Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal, Adele, Dan Smith, Kailash Kher, Rihanna, Dua Lipa and Shahrukh Khan
Food I Love
Manipuri cuisine: Singju, Yongchak Eromba
Food I Hate
Had I not been Singer then…
I would be a Dancer
Like Vacations at
Favorite Past time
I watch Oscar Documentary movies and reality shows on YouTube
Bade Bade Shehro Mein Aisi Choti Choti Baatein Hoti Rehti Hai
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Black
Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee
What’s your success mantra?
Giving all that you can, more than 100% in whatever you do, is the only way to be successful at it. As a performer and singer, you have to and you need to feel the song and connect with your audience. You need to make them feel your song. We should always give our the best attempt. Winning and losing is the latter part.
What were the hardships / hurdles you encountered and the way you overcame in your journey?
Hardships and struggles never vanish away. They are still there. Yes, different from my initial times when I had major existential crisis about my own presence in the field of music. From this last show where I performed, I"ve proved my parents and my own selves that singing is the right thing for me. My parents are extremely proud of me and know for sure that the problem of recognition has disappeared. They were always skeptical about the idea of having a career in singing and music. It isn"t unusual every parent is. They wish to see a secure future for their child. It was initially really hard for them to accept it but, it was my seriousness and talent that convinced them. There was hope for a brighter future. Amongst all this, I cannot acknowledge my mausi. She has been the constant source of motivation and support and hence, played a very important role in my career. Her name is C.H. Bimolata and she is clearly my pillar who always made sure that I stood up for my choices and worked hard to excel in it. She is the happiest person whenever I mention her name in an interview. Here it is to you, mausi!
Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?
I was extremely anxious to come up on the stage. Fright and nervousness to come before the audience to perform froze my very self. Later, I realized that this fear kept me away from singing. The way I shivered before going on the stage caused a lot of trouble in my performances. A lot of my most practiced and beautiful high notes were ruined because of this fright. However, over the time, I evolved and learnt to control it. It certainly took a lot of time to overcome and wasn"t easy at all. I used to face it at the most unexpected times of my performance but got over it through practice.
Do you think Singing and its learning’s can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Keeping music as a hobby is certainly not a bad idea. It is completely okay to not think of a career in it. It is like this important therapy which heals your soul. You never know but, the peace you get by involving yourself in any kind of musical activity, can help you deal with so many problems. There"s absolutely no harm in learning it. It certainly aids to heal your sufferings by transporting you to a different universe altogether. If I talk about my own experience, singing out loud whenever I am sad or upset makes my stress and anxiety go away. Music is very powerful. It absorbs all your worries in itself.
Who has been your influencer in this journey & how?
Undoubtedly, Kailash Kher has been a major influencer. His singing has a different kind of power. The way he has kept his cultural intact to the Sufi singing makes me stick to my roots. And trust me, he is a really down to earth and humble human being. I have met him twice or thrice and he always made me feel better. Motivation from someone like him makes me even more committed in my style of singing.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I am the 1”?
If I think through it, some days back, there is this North-Eastern festival in Delhi. My father and I received a special invite. To my surprise I was given the honor to perform there. When I reached there, the stadium was heavily crowded with more than 600 people. I connected so well with the audience as soon as I started singing. In turn, they started singing with me. At that moment I really felt like I am the 1. It was such a great feeling to perform and connect with my own home people. When I returned to my home town, the acknowledgement I received from the youngsters there felt great too. I was suddenly being portrayed as this youth icon, "Look Oinam is here!" Having the support from the young people of my very own region encourages me to a whole new level. And the best part is my parents feel much more than just proud to witness it all.
Did you get any formal training and how was that journey?
I recently started to train myself in Hindustani classical music. It is like I am going back to the roots to learn it all from scratch and have my basics right on point. My guruji, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri (holds ear while saying his name) is from Rampur Gharana which is known to specialize in thumdi. As of now, I am learning about the pechikas.
Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Singing?
On one hand, being able to sing well and connect with the audience can be an entire case of God-gifted talent. Many people in Bollywood and Hollywood who are successful singers don"t necessarily have gone through a systematic training. Take KK for instance. He just sang in college festivals and events and later found his way to playback singing.On the other hand, learning is very important to know your basics. You ought to know what you are singing and how you are singing it. Getting to learn about new things in details can shake you and you will be amazed at the diversity. Learning music is no less than witnessing a magical activity. Systematic learning can help you to be in this field for a longer time as your style will have a lot of variation only if you know about the variations that exist. The roots need to be strong for the tree to live longer.
What are the pre-coaching essentials e.g. Right age, mindset or any other?
The ability to be good in music and to be able to sing well is God-gifted. If you think, you can sing well, all you need to do is convince your parents and assure them of a brighter future. You need to constantly prove your efforts through the hard work you put in. It is only after all this that you are serious enough to be able to get a systematic training in music and singing. Yes, singers are God-gifted but, they can be good singers only if they maintain their shine and take care of their talents. It can however grow and improve only through training.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal training for Singing?
I don"t know how to express it in words but, it is extremely important to have a Guru. Apart from someone who trains you, he is also someone whom you look up to. He needs to be someone with whom you connect very well. You need to be extremely honest with him. In your first interaction itself, you will be able to feel that attraction and connection towards him. While I was searching for my ideal Guru, it was just a different feeling altogether. I just can"t express it in words but, it is surely an incredible feeling.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of Singing in remote parts of India?
What we actually need is the presence of a few national level competitions in which students can participate. The presence of scholarship programmes or some other perks for the underprivileged children can really aid to get the talent out from the remote areas. There"s a lot of talents buried inside the most dense areas of the country. It has the potential to reach great heights once it is recognized and encouraged.
In your opinion, what are the basic key traits apart from formal training that make “imd1”?
All you need is just one quality in you which sets you a class apart from others. Enhancing and polishing your skill is what will keep helping you achieve newer milestones. You need to keep working upon yourself. Even if you don"t obtain formal training, you never have to stop training yourself on your own.
Your piece of advice to parents and new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
Parents play the most important role in supporting their child"s interest. My advice to them would be to observe their child carefully. If their child has talent, they need to acknowledge it and support it. They should not restrict the child from pursuing it.
One thing which you feel you want to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
My father is in the army. I"ve spent most of my days away from my hometown, away from my grandma. She used to be very ill and we were busy living our lives with my father in different parts of the country. I really wish, I could be there with my grandma in her last few days. I wish I could take care of her, cook for her and do all that I could to make her feel better.
How can one identify and encourage talent in the family?
If a child starts singing or dancing in front of the elders, it is quite understandable to judge whether the child is good at it or not. More importantly, the very first steps towards dancing or the very first musical sound from a child"s mouth is evident of the fact that they are interested in it. Allowing them to get trained by finding a good teacher is the role elders can play to support the talent in the family. The earlier it happens, the better it is.
Any other thoughts you want to share?
I am more than just grateful to all my fans and followers. All the interviewers also play a major role in keeping me connected with them. It is my duty to keep all of you happy with my skills and talents. I take it as my responsibility to prove that music isn"t that low a career. Thanks a lot to imd1 for reaching out to me and conducting this interview.