What compelled you to collaborate with composer Deepak Pandit and bring out a ghazal album, Humnasheen? Any specific reason for choosing ghazal as a genre?
It started off as an experiment, since I used to have a lot of casual jamming sessions with Deepakji (Pandit). He believes in a world which is completely different from mine and the kind of work that I do in Bollywood, which includes slightly off beat melodies, like a melange of thumris and contemporary music. We recorded a couple of ghazals and when we heard the final mix, we realised that the songs had the potential of being released as an album. Humnasheen gave me the chance to connect with my roots, where I could merge my background in classical music with soulful poetries. It was like the best of both worlds. We started working on this album almost five years back, since we had our respective projects and concerts going on. I honestly believe that ghazal as a genre has somewhat got lost amidst the popular hardcore dance numbers. During the entire process, I became a student all over again, since it gave me a chance to learn a lot about this genre.
Have you planned to collaborate with another artist or venture into more non-film projects?
Honestly, collaborations can’t be made overnight. They happen due to incidental meetings or constant jamming sessions. Right now, I want to wholeheartedly focus on the projects that I have in hand, because Bollywood music has made me what I am today. But, I would love to do something about the non – film genres that I love, whenever I get some free time. I have many ideas penned in my sketch book. I don’t know when I will be able to make them a reality, but I am sure it will happen someday.
You have been around for almost a decade. How has the industry changed since the time you started?
It is ever changing. The music industry has had several phases and if you notice, there is a new style that crops up almost every two years. Music lovers want to hear new things and at the same time, there are artists who want to create something new or experiment with the existing genres. Do saal pehle ke gaane suno, toh aaj alag lagenge. One hit song creates a formula for the kind of tracks that will be produced in the coming years. But, some melodies connect to people irrespective of what is in vogue. The Aashiqui 2 album is the biggest example. Somewhere, emotion and simplicity really connects and that is what helped the Aashiqui 2 songs become so popular. You can wake up at any time and listen to Sunn raha hain na tu and never get bored. Melody always stays stagnant, everything around it keeps changing.
You are one of most popular music artists across all social media platforms. How do you handle all the adulation that comes your way?
The fact that I get to see the respect, adulation and love that comes my way through posts on Twitter, Facebook among others is what keeps me grounded. I feel humbled and that’s why I pray that I am always able to entertain my fans through my work. As an artiste you cannot let your fans down and have to keep doing a good job. When people say things like, “Aapke romantic gaane ne mujhe sikhaya ki pyaar kitna sundar hota hain,” or like “Aapke emotional gaane ne rula diya,” I realise that I am touching several lives and striking an emotional chord with my work. I consider it to be a blessing in disguise.
How do you react when YouTube cover artists refer to you as an inspiration? Like Nesdi Jones, an international artist from Canada, called you her inspiration in a recent interview.
Wow, really? I didn’t know that (laughs). I am still at a level of my career where I am still learning different genres and continue to look up to veterans like Lataji and Ashaji for inspiration. But when people take inspiration from my work, it’s a big honour. People with Indian origins will connect to you because they understand the language and rhythm. But, when an international artist or fan tells you that they look up to your work, you realise that they are able to connect with your work purely by heart and soul. It’s a moment of pride when Bollywood music is able to connect with people across all borders, irrespective of where they come from. During my concerts abroad, 90 per cent of the audience comprises of Indians. The remaining 10 per cent includes locals who take interest in Indian music. Concerts in historial venues like Royal Albert Hall gives me goosebumps, even today. Maine kuch bade punya kiye honge us janam mein, ki mujhe aise perform karne ka mauka milta hain.
During your decade long career, did you ever face a creative block?
Blocks are always there. There are pros and cons of being a singer in Bollywood. Pros include working round the clock, experimenting with new and different styles of music, plus there is a lot of variety in the kind of work we do. It’s as good as having various kinds of spices mixed in your food (laughs). But sometimes, complacency sets in. You ask yourself, are you working for yourself or for people? As an artist, you are constantly under pressure to create blockbuster tracks as a film’s music can sometimes make or break the project. Hence, there are times when you end up doing things that people want and not what you want to do. Thankfully, the growth of social media is helping artists to create non – film work on their own and put it up on platforms like YouTube and thereby reaching out to millions of people. Bollywood aur commercial music toh hote rahega, but artists must stick to their passion and do what they love as well.
You came from a reality show background (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee TV) and went on to judge Indian Idol Junior. What do you have to say about the current crop of singers?
Singers and music composers of this generation are extremely edgy, funky and each artist has a unique style, which adds a lot of variety to the bunch of artists that we already have. I have heard some of their work and it feels amazing that the legacy of Bollywood music will be carried forward by these young guns, who are not only talented, but add their own touch to songs as well. Singer Papon is just one of them, Arijit’s (Singh) voice is simply divine. I have jammed with these guys on several occasions and it’s fantastic how they belt out each track so differently. There is a lot of promise and these artists give you positive vibe. I love it!
What is the importance of music in your life?
I am connected to music emotionally. It is one of the most highest form of arts and has no strings attached. In this fast paced life, music is one of the few things that allows an individual to unwind. It allows your emotion to flow. I am still a learner and will continue to be a student of music, always.
So, what kind of music tops your iPod playlist?
I am a music junkie, and I love listening to everything that is created. I get bored very easily and need something new constantly in my life, so I love discovering new genres. Recently, Talat Azizji gave me an entire collection of rare Mehdi Hassan tracks, so that tops my playlist right now. There are several songs by Ustad Rashid Khan sahab which are my all favourites. My brother introduced me to electronic dance music and I am hooked on to it now. So, my iPod is like a treasure box of different music.
Acting offers must have come your way too. Any plans of exploring that path?
Yes (laughs), but I don’t believe in doing anything half heartedly. I don’t mind being a part of my music videos, but acting is not my cup of tea. I would rather focus on my music and explore it extensively, instead of venturing into new things and not excelling in any one.
What’s in store for your fans this year?
I have sung a few tracks for films like Samrat and Co, Bobby Jasoos among others. There is also Farah Khan’s Happy New Year, followed by Shuddhi. On the regional front, I have got songs coming up in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films. I have sung a few songs for Rajinikanth sir’s Kochadaiiyaan which was released recently. As far as non – film music is concerned, Humnasheen was just a small step towards a whole lot of plans that I have.
Parikrama creates Bhagvad Gita shlokas in rock version for Manjunath
While the Hanuman Chalisa, Bhagvad Gita and verses from other holy texts and chalisas have often been presented in a musical avatar, it is perhaps for the first time that shlokas from the Bhagvad Gita have been composed on a rock tune. The upcoming film, Manjunath (based on a true incident) starring Divya Dutta, Seema Biswas, Gireesh Sahdev among others, will include the rock version of a few shlokas from the holy text, which is a dialogue between Arjuna and Lord Krishna, composed by rock band, Parikrama.
The band has not only composed the music of this film, but have also worked on the background score. Since the victim and protagonist of the film Manjunath Shanmugam, was the lead singer in his college rock band at IIM Lucknow, director Sandeep Varma wanted the music of the film to appeal to the youth and maintain the essence of rock music. “I think this would be the first ever rock rendition of the Gita shlokas in the world. Since Manjunath was a singer in his college rock band – I wanted the music to be authentic rock, not what we normally hear as rock music in Bollywood. Music was in Manjunath’s soul, so it had to reflect what he was – edgy, restless and leaving an impact,” stated Varma. The track will be a part of the theatrical trailer of the film as well and the overall music of the film is said to complement the theme and mood of the film, with a very contemporary and edgy feel. The film is scheduled to release on 9th May 2014.
Kahin Hai Mera Pyar music launched
Actor Sanjay Kapoor along with other members of the cast and crew of their upcoming film, Kahin Hai Mera Pyar, were present at the music launch of the film. The music of the film has been composed by Ravindra Jain and Nikhil Kamath, who have created a mix of romantic, dance and contemporary melodies for the album. The film is slated to release on May 1.