Overnight fame can change your life and who knows it better that Bjorn Surrao? ‘Master the Blaster’ song from the hit film Master had scores grooving to it for months. The song set records on streaming Apps and on Youtube and is rumoured to be the ringtone of actor Vijay. The songwriter and performer, Bjorn is only going from strength to strength. He followed up the hit song with ‘Yenna Sonna’, a Chennai Super Kings anthem collaborating with rapper Arivu. Surrao speaks to Provoke Lifestyle on how the peppy number came alive and his plans for the future.
How are you taking in all the attention from Master the Blaster song?
It is part of the journey. It is also part of the job of being a musician-songwriter. It motivates me to do more. When we made the song, we thought it was really cool, because we were grooving to it ourselves. But we did not expect any kind of great reaction. We were happy that we made some good music. When the movie was released in theatres, the song had not been released yet. Later when it did, it blew up. I realised it had gone viral when I heard a person’s phone ring at a restaurant and it was this song.
Why was the song in English?
The character played by actor Vijay, JD (John Durairaj), was like that. He listened to English music.
How were you drawn to music, how did the journey begin?
Since I was a kid, in my household, there was always music. Though no one pursued music as a career. My sister had an acoustic guitar and at the age of ten, I began meddling with it. At 13, I began writing songs. That is how the journey started.
Do you remember the songs you wrote while in school?
I studied at AMM school in Kotturpuram, Chennai. I used to write songs for school cultural’s. I had two friends, one was percussionist and that other a tabalist. I would write songs that fit into these instruments. One song was ‘Arrey smile ya’, I was 14 or 15 when I wrote it. The other one ‘Pray for the doggies’ was in English. The Hindi songs are ‘Varsha’ and ‘Govinda’.
You are a Chennai boy?
Yes. I am a hardcore Chennai boy. I was blessed with a good childhood in Alandur near St Thomas Mount. Growing up we had a lot of Anglo Indians in the neighbourhood, that meant there was a lot of music I listened to growing up. It was a positive environment.
Growing up, did you think you would be a song writer-performer?
I never planned anything. I took it as it came. I just went with the flow. I studied in Loyola College. Even on campus, there was a lot of music around us. I met music composer Anirudh who was my senior in college. I went to Dubai to study music production. Post that I did an MBA to please my folks, and I knew that it was not my jam and they understood that, I did it for the degree.
Tell us about your name Bjorn?
My folks were ABBA fans, the composer of ABBA music is Bjorn.
Can you tell me your song writing process? How do you ideate lyrics and make them rhyme?
It is entirely based on the song. Every song has a different process based on my mood. If I am writing a song and it is supposed to be a very entertaining happy song, my mood needs to be suitable for it. That’s one of the key factors. Recently I released a song titled ‘Hilltop’, it was something I wrote six years ago. It is a poetic song. My writing is experience and situation based. About Master the Blaster, the song is for the introduction scene of the protagonist, we were making reggae music from scratch. I was looking at the visuals, it was cool for Kollywood and it stood out. That is how it happened.
Which is your current favourite song?
It is an African track. The song is Angel by Ric Hassani. It is a feel-good song. I have been listening to it on loop for a month. I listen to way too much music. I have 200-odd Spotify playlists. I listen to jazz in the morning, pop, rock and roll in the day, blues in the night and some meditative music.
Are you feeling any kind of pressure to create something as viral as Master the Blaster song?
No. Not really. I am the kind of guy who takes it as it comes. I make different kinds of music, not just acoustic, reggae, commercial.
What does music mean to you?
It is my passion. In school I never did my homework. I knew only music. Music is the occupation that happened. I cannot do anything else.
What are the pros and cons of pursuing one’s passion?
Any artiste will go through struggle: financially, mentally and physically. It is part of the journey. All of this is eliminated by one pro. When you go to bed at night, you feel satisfied.
How do you feel about making it without a Godfather? What is your message to other aspiring musicians?
More than fame, I would recommend sticking to the art. Work on the art and it will all work out. There is a lot of work involved. There are no shortcuts, one needs to work hard. It is about being persistent.
What is your vision for the Indie music scene in South India?
Even before Master the Blaster song happened, I have always tried to help in whatever way for indie musicians. I started an urban artistes network, basically to ensure an income for musicians. After returning from Dubai, I found that the scene was stagnant which got me thinking why it was not growing and obviously something was wrong. The same musicians were going to the same kind of place getting whatever they were getting earlier. Where was the fresh talent? And Chennai is filled with talent. Urban artistes network took shape to support each other and it connects artistes with entertainment places, hotels, resorts and corporates to find gigs.
How did the pandemic affect your creativity?
I do multiple things such as studio work, kids music, acoustic music etc. I kept myself occupied though it was a little weird in the beginning.
Who are your idols?
Singer and songwriter Dave Mathews, Bob Marley and Sean Paul.
There is a commercial single album in the pipeline. I am also playing a part in an upcoming film Doctor.
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue being a musician and a performer. I also want to do some philanthropic work helping people and making their lives better and I love nature, I want to do something about our environment.