Sonu, although you composed one song for Singh Saab The Great, it is Jal that will be your first album as a composer along with Bickram Ghosh. How was the experience?
Sonu Nigam: Bickram bhai (Ghosh) and I had already worked on an album together. I was startled by the fact that we could easily come up with different melodies within minutes. We sat down for programming and in between, we kept composing one taal after another. In no time, we realised that we had the antara ready. Interestingly, we would make compositions on some of the most difficult taals, in about 10 – 15 minutes. It is our love and passion for music that helped us bond. We have programmed all the songs on our own, without help from anyone else. I also got a chance to work with my guru, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan sahab, who has sung, You fill my life along with singer Suzanne. It’s a raaga meets western beats track.
Bickram Ghosh: If the thought process of two artists match, it always helps. We decided to collaborate on this film because Jal required a different mix of sounds. We had already decided that we will make our Bollywood debut together as composers with a project that requires out-of-the-box rhythm.
So, does the soundtrack of Jal have the trademark style of your respective musical style?
SN: It does! Both of us have an inclination towards unique sounds. Jal did not require a set soundtrack, ki bhai ek romantic gaana daal diya, phir ek item number bhi chahiye. Director Girish Malik gave us the libery to experiment, which helped. Also, the music is part of the narrative in the film, where the actors won’t be lip-syncing.
BG: We wanted to create melodies that can change Bollywood trends. We are so enrapt by the typical use of programmed sound loops, that we have forgotten about the wonders that live music can do. The topic of the film is such that it required different sounds, for which we simply cannot rely on electronic sounds. The melange of Indian instruments meeting world instruments is totally our thing, which we have named as multi-electronica. It’s the mix of electronic beats with live, instrumental music.
Bickram, how long did it take for you to complete working on the songs and background music?
BG: We were roped in for Jal almost three years back and that’s when we started working. After that, both of us got busy with our respective concerts and projects for sometime in between, but we regularly met to discuss ideas. We worked on recording the sounds of live instruments and vocals for about six-seven months, after which we began work on the background music which took almost a year.
Creating the right background score for a hard- hitting subject like this can be tricky. Bickram, how did you work on getting things right?
BG: The brief given to me by Malik was very straightforward. He wanted me to use sounds that add to the emotional side of a character or a situation, without sounding over-dramatic. Around 36 musicians were called in from various parts of the world, including artists from Belgium, Russia among others. Each musician playing an instrument has a different interpretation and the style of playing them is also different in every culture. It is this mix of cultures that ultimately stood in the score.
Sonu, during the major composition and lyric writing sessions, you were going through a rather tough phase in your personal life. Did it affect your work in anyway?
SN: It was in January 2010, that we discovered that my mother was suffering from cancer, which was around the same time when we were working on the music of Jal. No doubt, it was a difficult phase, but very few people know that I penned the lyrics of the title track, Jal de, when I was sitting beside my mother in Bangalore during her treatment. I saw a jug of water lying on the table next to her bed and that’s when I started murmuring, ‘Jal de, Jal de, Jalti, Jal de. Jal nahi na de, Jal hi jal de.’ The words had a hidden connatation (since the words water and fire are used in the same line). I asked my mom for approval and she immediately said yes. Similarly, I penned Zalima, referring to the almighty as zalim, since the subject revolves around people going without water, despite the fact mother nature loves her children (living beings) so much.
What are the challenges faced by a composer while working on live music?
BG: To be honest, we didn’t face any major challenge. Although it might sound all big that we got live musicians from across the globe, but it was easier for us, since we have worked with some of them in the past. We used a lot of non-Indian instruments including Oboe (soprano based double reed instrument), Duduk (an Armenian instrument), Arabic violin, Japanese Taikos (percussion instrument) and others.
SN: More than the challenge, it was like pushing your own barriers.
Sonu, you recently worked on a Chutney song, quite unique, just like the name. How did that happen?
SN: The Chutney song was because of my promoter in America, who is a typical Punjabi. He gave me the idea of experimenting with world music genres. He mailed me the lyrics through a promoter based in West Indies called Tony Maharaj and I was informed that it is a Trini track. I thought, yaar, this is different. Yeh try karna chahiye. I asked Tony to teach me the Trini – English accent, which is very different. I am glad the song has caught on, despite zero promotion or album launch.
But are you planning to promote it anytime in the future?
SN: I am planning an activity where I’ll ask my fans on Twitter and Facebook to download the song from YouTube, shoot a video of themselves and send it to me. I’ll personally go through all the videos, cut, choose and edit them. Let’s see if this garners any interest. I want to see if little things like these can create any buzz in the market.
What about your future projects?
BG: Our next work together is the album, Khamakhaan, on which we collaborated first. It took some time in the making, but the album has turned out to be a maverick, commercial musical piece. It has seven songs all of which are sung by Sonu Nigam. It should be out by June-July. We are also working on the music of director Prahlad Kakkar’s film, Happy Anniversary.
SN: On the personal front, I have been wanting to make a video on myself. I don’t understand the technicalities, but I have a very nice concept for it. Besides, I have large scale concerts in countries like Dubai, America, West Indies coming up. All of this is keeping me occupied.
Sandesh Shandilya to compose music for Kya Dilli Kya Lahore
Music director Sandesh Shandilya, who had earlier composed songs for films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Jab We Met and Yamla Pagla Deewana, has been roped in compose the music for actor turned debut director Vijay Raaz’s film, Kya Dilli Kya Lahore. The film, which is based on the unique bond shared by soldiers, one from India and the other from Pakistan, is presented by Gulzar, who has also penned the lyrics of this film. Shandilya, who makes a rare appearance on the music scene, is delighted to work on a hard hitting yet unique subject like this. The album will include four songs, all of which have a contemporary feel. “The words penned by Gulzar saab are soulful and are a melange of Urdu and Hindi words. But the lines are written keeping the modern audience and music lovers in mind,” stated Shandilya. The four songs, which were worked over two months, are sung by artists from both the countries, which includes Ustad Hamid Ali Khan, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan from Pakistan and Sukhwinder Singh, Papon from India. The music launch of the film is expected to be held next month.
Kaanchi re kaanchi
Soft and peppy with a touch of rustic tunes; sums up the use of sounds in Kaanchi re, composer Ismail Darbar’s latest offering, for the title track of the film Kaanchi. What sounds like an ode to the protagonist of the film (Kaanchi), the song gets a fresh and promising start, only to end up sounding a lot like the theme music of Hum hain is pal yahan from Kisna. Sukhwinder Singh has sung the track with great enthusiasm and the lyrics penned by Irshad Kamil are very good. We only wish the melody was more catchy, since it has its share of ups and downs. A hummable song, nevertheless. —PA