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Photo courtesy zundeep.com

Meet up-and-coming Canadian Punjabi rock musician Zundeep

By Rachneet Randhawa, January 5 2022—

Surrey-based rock artist Zundeep recently released his new single “Busy” after being inspired by systematic problems highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic — issues such as mental health and trauma, healthcare worker burnout, laws that discriminate based on race, gender, religion, corruption everywhere, ongoing injustices and inequalities and so much more. He is also known as Dr. Sundeep Thinda, Clinical Psychologist and a university instructor at Simon Fraser University with nearly two decades of experience in treating mental health in English, Punjabi and Hindi. 

His passion for music equals his passion for psychology with music and songwriting being a constant in his life since his 20s. He is forever appreciative of the humans who have trusted to bare their lives over the years if it’s their path and pathology channeled into song. He is also a University of Calgary alumnus and as the ultimate throwback, he was also an art and entertainment writer for the Gauntlet in the late ‘90s. The Gauntlet sat down for an interview with Zundeep to learn more. 

Born and raised in Calgary, and coming from a working-class immigrant upbringing he was sent to boarding school in Punjab, India for two years and experienced the tragedies of the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots. He has also lived in the United States during and after 9/11. With the discovery of a predominantly large South Asian community in Surrey, BC he made it his humble abode. Currently, he’s a practicing psychologist who’s been writing and recording music as a semi-professional hobby. His musical style can be described as punk British rock and inspired by the rock and roll eras of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Some notable artists for his collective muse include Metallica, The Tea Party, Queen, Rage Against the Machine, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and of course Nirvana. 

Back then, MuchMusic was at its height and heavily influenced how youth got their music at the time and had edgier stuff. His brother, Ricky, who is his biggest fan and also his mentor, is part of a Punjabi Bhangra band titled En Karma. Helping out at our very own campus paper bolstered his passion for music as it led to opportunities such as interviewing his favourite bands like the Tragically Hip and Green Day and making awesome connections he never would have received as a youth — he’s very confident in his interview skills due to profiling bands. It also allowed him to bridge the gap between his collective identities of being Canadian-Punjabi as it provided him with an outlet for writing about his interests and hobbies. 

He even started a small band called the Oculus Angele with his brother alongside a couple of friends — one who played the drums and another a guitarist and they played the Night Gallery Republic now known as The New Gallery, a local artist-run centre for contemporary art in Calgary. 

Growing up he didn’t receive any formal training in music education and was mostly self-taught. Coming from an immigrant family it was considered the sensible thing to pursue a traditional university education and have a secure and stable position as a doctor rather than taking the potential scholarship to Alberta College of the Arts. In retrospect, he doesn’t regret his choice as being a psychologist has been a tremendously wonderful experience with a lot of the themes of his songs inspired by patients’ stories. 

As for how he approaches the songwriting process, there is no method to the madness although he writes, records and composes the song by himself with collaboration through his brother who helped with the guitar riffs and editing the final track. 

“Anything can trigger a song for me. I mean it could be as simple as a really cool guitar riff for a sound on a piano. I would say most of my songs started off on guitar or keyboard and it’s usually me just putting lyrics I’ve written and expanding on them. It’s taking bits and pieces and starting to put a formation around it,” said Thinda. 

For example, the demo version of “Busy” sounds more hip-hop than rock as it utilizes a certain beat with certain guitar riffs. He went head first into envisioning the song, going back and cleaning it up and improving on it. The hardest part of recording the song was being clear and concise and being as brief as possible, while the most enjoyable aspect was the promotional aspect. Thinda said that he especially liked sharing  the artwork on social channels, letting people and his followers know that he is raring to go after not releasing new music in nearly a decade. 

“Busy” captures not only a lot of what his perspective is on the world in its current state but also balancing a profession, family life and music career and being always on the go. For example, some lyrics include I stood by/And they trampled on/ I was let down again/ No more confrontation with anyone, no more.

“It’s a reflection of just life being so busy that you don’t have time to focus on yourself or concentrate on yourself or just that feeling of guilt and just not doing the best you can. When there’s just so much going on. Kind of that chaos,” said Thinda. “If you listen to it two or three times in a row, I promise you, you will find yourself unconsciously humming some part of it like it’s very catchy. And again being a psychologist I think I have an unfair advantage in terms of having some idea of what might be in your world versus others.

One thing Thinda hopes people take away from this sound is that it’s genuine as his attempts to get to the core emotion of the song  translates over well. 

“Like I said I’m not a singer per se but I know what I want to say and how I want it to sound. The emotion of it, the feeling I want people to walk away with some feeling of something, whether it’s anxiety or guilt or positive or negative emotions I need it to be emotional,” said Thinda. 

His onstage persona “Zundeep” was intentionally designed as an alter-ego expressing himself as wearing a turban, or pagri in Punjabi, in public which was a whole different experience. 

“These are faces you have never seen in rock music so I’m going to bring that face to rock music because it is part of my background, that’s what my forefathers look like, it’s what my grandfather’s look like so I’m going to bring that out,” said Thinda.

“I felt like it had to be culturally me and symbolically. I’m hoping that this opens up with mental health conversations, I’m hoping this opens up conversations about culture,” said Thinda. “And I feel like music will give me that platform whether it’s for the South Asian community or the community at large, here in Surrey it’s very obvious to me so I will.” 

Of course, this ties back to his advocacy of mental health awareness especially in the context of the South Asian community. 

“South Asian mental health is suffering. There’s not enough resources. I’ve got a lot of opinions and views that I think will be more easily shared as an artist than they would be actually as a psychologist,” said Thinda. 

As for what contributes to success as a musician the most Thinda said that practice is key. 

“I’ve always been writing, recording, doing something related to music as an outlet — that’s been my hobby in life. It goes down to practice, practice, practice.”

Thinda’s parting advice is to hustle and gain a sense of mastery by honing in on a skill that you are passionate about. And also, to help yourself first before you ask others for help and not to be afraid to leap before the net appears by jumping in and trying something new. 

As for future projects, Thinda hopes to release another song around Christmas and plans to continue dropping singles as an album is on hiatus at the moment. 

“Once I’ve got enough for an album, we will think about it, but right now I’m having a lot of fun treating each individual song as a project in itself,” said Thinda. 

If anything, singing and songwriting have been a great healthy outlet for him so he aims to release tracks every couple of months. He also hopes to raise awareness around mental health by launching on a social media platform such as TikTok and having a real talk mental health series airing for each episode.

If you want to learn more about rock musician Sundeep Thinda, you can check out his latest single on the Zundeep Music website or follow him on Instagram. They have also recently released another track “Automatic.” Be sure to show your support for this U of C alumnus. 

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