India Abroad March 11, 2011
hop duo named Compulsive Disorder.
His parents called him Shan and he coined his stage
name Nicky J, with the ‘J’ being derived from his family
name. Eventually he settled on Jay Sean as his professional name.
Though his parents were puzzled over his decision to be
a musician, he says, they accepted it. They did not make
him feel guilty that he was not going to be the first doctor
in the family.
Sean performed in Asian clubs and festivals, and was a
big part of the desi scene in London, joining musicians
headed by Harrow-based producer Rishi Rich, who was
encouraging singers and musicians to look beyond the
South Asian community. He even worked on producing
his own music.
When Dance with You — as part of the Rishi Rich
Project — became a major hit in the UK, Sean was offered
a multi-disc contract with Virgin Records. His debut
album Me Against Myself became a Top 30 hit in the UK
in 2004 and quite a success in India, spawning a pair of
Top Ten hit singles. He also appeared in a song sequence
in the Bollywood film Kya Kool Hain Hum. Virgin
dropped him after his second album, My Own Way, wasn’t a huge hit.
But Sean went on to sign with Cash Money Records,
becoming the first British Asian singer to sign with an
His big success All or Nothing won him fans from across
the globe, while Down sold 3.5 million downloads in the
US alone less than two years ago. Trade publications say
Down has sold more than six million copies worldwide,
and three million digital copies in the US, making it the
best-selling single by a British/European male artist in
North America since Elton John’s Candle in the Wind
released 14 years ago.
When Do You Remember followed Down into the Top
Ten in America, Sean became the first male artist in seven
years to have his first two singles go Top Ten, trade publications noted.
The media, especially the British press, is surprised by
Sean’s success in America. ‘How has he achieved what so
few British pop stars accomplish?’ asked the Times in
London ‘A litany of Brits much more prolific than Jay Sean
have failed to impact on the world’s biggest, toughest and
most lucrative pop market: Will Young, Girls Aloud, poor
old Craig David. Robbie Williams’s best effort only limped
as far as No 41. The last British act to hit No 1 in the US
was Coldplay in 2008. But everyone’s heard of Coldplay.
Who’s this unlikely, untold British success story?’
Sean says he too is surprised with the wide acceptance.
He adds he knew he had succeeded in America when Jay-
Sean says he always knew
what to do with his life and his music. “There are musi-
cians whose lifestyle involves high living and a lot of things
that go with it,” he adds. “But I tell myself that it is not the
life that I want for myself.”
Sean says the values his grandparents and parents
imbued in him help him have a peaceful life in the volatile
music business. His heritage may not have had the biggest
influence on his music, but the ethical and moral values
have shaped his personality.
“Despite all the upheavals, good and bad things, calamities and success stories, there is one thing that keeps people going, and it is love,” he says.
All of what makes Sean is reflected in his many charitable efforts, including fundraisers by the Aga Khan
Foundation. In 2009, he performed in Justin Timberlake’s
charity concert with artists like Taylor Swift and Alicia
Keys to raise $9 million, reportedly the highest grossing
charity event of the year.
He is also a mentor for Disney XD’s Aim High initiative,
which aims to inspire a generation of kids to get the most
out of life. ‘When I found out about the project, it was
something that I jumped at because you know, when
you’re a celebrity and you have some status, you have
choices as to what you do with that,’ he has said. ‘If you can
actually make a difference to somebody’s life and have a
As he gets ready for more success, he says he tells him-
self that he should never be afraid of the touchstone with-
“Fame and success will come and go,” he says. “I can
never be a better person in someone else’s eyes. I look
around myself and ask myself what really is success? I
meet young people who tell me they have over 1,000
Facebook friends. I ask, is it really necessary, is it really
important to have so many friends? I would say one
should be lucky to have half a dozen good friends. And
even that is not easy.” ;
Jay Sean at NASDAQ. He
has attained many firsts in