Ajay Mathur

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter

Eclectic, grounded and always surprising - that's how the extraordinary trademark sound of Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Ajay Mathur can be described. A musical cosmopolitan and smooth shifter between the stylistic worlds, the Swiss by choice with Indian roots now presents with his fifth longplayer "Talking Loud" probably one of the most multifaceted albums of the year!


Ajay Mathur does not allow himself to be pressed into any stylistic pigeonholes. Instead of limiting himself to just one genre, the charismatic singer and musician fearlessly lives out his almost childlike joy of experimenting and exploring. A quality that earns him well-intended comparisons with legends like Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Leonard Cohen or the Beatles.


In December 2022, the German Pop Foundation honoured Ajay Mathur with no less than 4 awards at the jury award ceremony of the 40th German Rock & Pop Award 2022. Ajay's album 'Talking Loud' and his band won in the categories: Best English-language Album of the Year 2022, Best Alternative Album, Best Crossover Band and German Alternative Award.


"`Talking Loud` is my metaphor for self-confidence and self-esteem," Ajay. says, exuding an artistic confidence and self-awareness that Ajay has already demonstrated on previous albums "A Matter Of Time" (2011), "Come See Conquer" (2013), the Grammy-nominated "9 to 3" (2015), and "Germany's Best English-Language Album of the Year 2018" award winning "Little Boat," released in spring of 2018.


Ajay Mathur, singer-songwriter, producer and a serial entrepreneur, has always considered his music as part of his overarching body of artwork, which includes his numerous artistic music videos and most recently an illustrated children’s book “Koko and the Little Boat” that was inspired by the songs from ‘Talking Loud’. Cannes Film Festival had a conversation with Ajay Mathur to elaborate on his perspectives on films and videos.

Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?

The project is the music video of ‘Talking Loud’, the title song of my latest album, written by Mary Lou von Wyl and me. The song and the video cuts through the smoke screen of a culture of self-overestimation. We are living in an age of unbridled expression of opinions and there is a tendency to overestimate our own importance and capabilities. Sometimes the only thing 'wrong' with us is that we think there is nothing wrong with us. The song and the video expose the irony of how our self-importance is really the thing that keeps us from being important at all.


What are your ambitions with your project?
To me, my music videos have always been independent works of art, which have a life of their own. The video goes beyond the song itself and contributes to my art as a Gesamtkunstwerk. This video highlights the misleading and manipulative aspect of advertising and marketing posters, that are compatible with the lyrics and slinky sarcasm of the song. By manipulating the live footage and the found images, I tried to create a funny and engaging music video that will appeal, surprise and entertain, while pushing across the message of the song.


Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
Talking Loud’ music video was a collaboration between me and the video maker Mertcan Mertbilek who lives and works in Istanbul. I was amazed how well our distant collaboration worked – I live in Switzerland and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to work with Mertcan.  

For this music video, we chose a collage video of old advertising posters and images, over which we added footage shot on green screen. We thought that the manipulative aspect of advertising and marketing posters would best amplify the lyrics and sarcasm of the song. We manipulated the footage and the images and created an abstract visual space. It turned out to be funny and engaging.


For what group of spectators is your film targeted?  
‘Talking Loud’ was targeted towards people who enjoy music and visuals, as well as towards festivals and competitions that value artworks with an edge and an attitude. ‘Talking Loud’ was finalist at Madrid International Short Film Festival and was given an ‘honourable mention’ at Japan International Film Festival. The song ‘Talking Loud’ was finalist at THE ARTISTS FORUM MUSIC COMPETITION 2022 in New York.

Why should distributors buy your film?
Because it’s enjoyable, quirky and has an attitude that will jell with young viewers.


How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
I think we created a video that is both artistic, funny and quirky, by using footage of me singing, vintage ads and posters and some lyrics popping in between the headlines.


Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
I started producing music videos to give my songs the unique visual dimension. Starting in 2011, I worked with videographers from different parts of the world, including the USA, Croatia, Argentina, Turkey, Lebanon, UK and Switzerland.


Who is your role model?
As a video artist – David Bowie. He was transformative and the best of the genre. During the MTV heydays, I loved the videos made by Kevin Godley and Lol Crème. Currently, my favourite video directors include Dave Meyers and Ciro Ayala,  


Which movies are your favorites? Why?
I love Tennessee Williams’ classics like ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and ‘The Night of the Iguana’. I also love watching si-fi and animated movies, especially the Japanese animation genres. I’m an avid watcher of documentary films of any kind.


Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
I look for the most transformative way to transport and amplify the aspects of my songs that can tell a visual story. I love animated videos. I’ve worked with Chris Bucher, a Swiss film maker in my early music videos, which were created with movie stories and images in mind.


Which topics interest you the most?
I’m interested in all topics, except violence and hate.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
I’ve had the good fortune of receiving several awards and accolades in the international scene, including recently winning the best music video awards at Roma Short Film Festival and Venice Fullshot Film Festival, a Grammy nomination, two “Germany’s Best English-Language Album of the Year” awards and winning New York’s The Artists Forum Music Competition for two consecutive years.


What do you consider most important about filming?
The ability to the control of the psychological perception of the viewer and sometimes to even manage to change it, is for me most important about filming.


Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?  
For my works, I consider the hybrid approach – reality embedded in animation - that I’ve taken in my recent videos, the best.


How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
We live in very exciting times for film making and the film industry is on top of their game like never before.


What can disappoint you in a movie?
The obvious plot or the lack of contextual depth.


Who supports you in your film career?
I work with a number of partners. We support each other.