In 1999, an Indie-pop album came from nowhere and soared on every Indian music chart. A new singer named Sonu Nigam, who brought along years of work experience in weddings and jagrans before landing the job of a compere for Gajendra Singh’s reality show Saregama, was finally getting much attention. The album was Deewana (T Series) and the composers were brothers Sajid-Wajid, sons of tabla player Sharafat Ali, grandchildren of Hindustani classical vocalist Ut Fayyaz Ahmed Khan of Kirana gharana and sarangi legend Ut Abdul Latif Khan. The duo delivered simple inventiveness by playing with extreme octaves and interesting rhythm patterns, finding their creative zeal through eight record-breaking songs, turning Nigam into one of the most influential vocalists of the time.
One half of the duo, Wajid Khan, the younger of the two brothers, died late Sunday. He was 42.
The musician was admitted to Surana Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai after he developed an infection post a renal transplant, which was done eight months ago. As the musician also had fever, a Covid-19 test was conducted, and it was positive. Khan was first admitted in Jaslok Hospital. Later the family decided to shift him to Surana Hospital.
“Since the transplant, he was admitted every few months due to renal complications and other health issues,” said Dr Prince Surana, adding that any transplant compromises the immune system. A treating doctor said that Khan suffered complications of Covid-19 coupled with existing health conditions. He was buried at Versova Kabristaan in Mumbai.
Wajid Khan’s journey had its share of ups and downs. After Nigam’s Deewana, it took a few years before the duo found success. They realised it was necessary to adapt to Bollywood’s ways or the producer was going to hire someone else. The two musicians worked quietly until they hit the jackpot with Salman Khan starrer Tere Naam (2003), after which they frequently and successfully collaborated with the actor for his films, including Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004), Partner (2008) and the Dabangg franchise.
For friend and colleague Salim Merchant of the music duo Salim-Sulaiman, it was the song “Lagan Lagi” sung by Sukhwinder Singh in Tere Naam that hit the melodic sweet spot for him. “And the songs of Veer. The film was a flop, but the songs kept playing,” said Salim.
“Their sound was fresh… Their fabulous musical background also helped. As a duo, there was a lot of music left to come from Sajid-Wajid,” Salim told The Indian Express from Mumbai.
While Veer was musically successful, Dabangg, director Abhinav Kashyap’s debut — apart from the music — also got the box office going. The subsequent two were directed by Arbaaz Khan, but the Sajid-Wajid brand of music remained.
It was always an intriguing combination of hits and misses. The Purabiya lilt, fuller harmonium pieces, the intricate sitar riffs, power-packed voices and robust dholak beats were all on point in “Dagabaaz” sung by Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Shreya Ghoshal. There was also the soft Chori Kiya by Nigam and Ghoshal. These songs have stayed, though the films haven’t.
“It’s an extremely sad day. It’s a loss that cannot be covered,” said Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in a video message on Twitter. Ghoshal took to Instagram to say, “I was a newcomer in the industry when I first met you, but you made me feel like family… above and beyond being a supremely gifted composer singer… This goodbye is too difficult.”
The duo’s last project was a song sung by their friend and mentor Salman Khan. Titled Bhai Bhai, the song that was shot in Khan’s Panvel farmhouse attempts to talk about universal brotherhood. It was released as a treat for this Eid.
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