The man with dreamboat looks and dreamy voice had wowed us with this how-a-singer-was-born story during his November 2011 visit to Calcutta. And now that voice of romance will ring in the New Year for many Calcuttans at Vedic Village, with a concert organised by GreenTech City, in association with t2, on December 31.
“I am looking forward to the event and to interacting with people at the concert. I have missed Calcutta for a long time,” says the voice behind Tu jaane na (Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani), Piya o re piya (Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya), Pehli nazar mein (Race), Bakhuda tumhi ho (Kismat Konnection)....
It’s been a long time since you performed in Calcutta. What do you like about performing here?
Not just Calcutta, I believe the Indian audience is very enthusiastic every time I show up. It’s their love and support that keep bringing me back here, despite the situation in the two countries. I am so looking forward to the event and the crowd because it’s happening after a long time.
How would you define the crowd here?
Well, they are all very vibrant. For me, fans are all the same… very vibrant. Compared to the audience in Pakistan, the fans are more vibrant here.
And how would you rate your gigs in India against, say, at The O2 in London?
Sometimes the concerts and events are not very well organised here. But that has happened only once or twice. O2 is a bigger venue, better organised. Over there, you can be yourself, connect with the audience, go off the stage… and interact with them. It’s very exhilarating for me to connect with the audience, be it at O2 or in Calcutta.
This year you have given Bollywood only one song — Tera naam doon (with Shalmali Kholgade in the Akshay Kumar-starrer Entertainment). Have you become picky-choosy?
I have always been very picky because I don’t believe in working with the quantity factor in mind. I have given the most hits in the past six-seven years and whatever I have touched –– all by the grace of God –– has gone down well for me. So, I have been very selective this past year because I have been working with this industry for sometime. Then again, I’m open to offers and looking forward to working with a range of directors and producers. That doesn’t stop me from being selective.
You and your wife (Sara) became proud parents of a son (Ahad Atif) in March. Has life changed?
Initially I thought I wouldn’t do anything for two years but naturally, if you are an artiste, a singer, you can’t live without singing… also because I am so connected to my fans. It’s a wonderful experience getting married and being blessed with a baby and my whole life revolves around them now. It’s so good when you wake up in the morning and see him smiling. It’s a completely different experience.
This year marks 10 years of your debut album, Jal Pari, which is still popular. Do you still listen to the album? Has your style changed?
To be very honest, the album still sounds fresh to me. The sound that I came up with, the musicians that I had, the way they played the melody… it’s all very fresh to me. They don’t sound old at all. And that’s the best thing about Jal Pari. As for style, in the beginning I was concentrating on the feel of the song and less in terms of the music. Now it’s a combination of both.
Any new album in the works?
Yes, I’m working on singles right now. The business model has completely changed. So, 10-15 songs are almost ready... and just waiting for the right moment for the release. I wish it wasn’t that way (singles leading up to an album) but that’s how it works now.
It’s also been a while since your last Hollywood project, The Reluctant Fundamentalist…
I have been in touch with Mr Peter Gabriel (who had contributed to the soundtrack) constantly; I wish to record an album in English. I just took a break for two years and now something will be happening on that front.
Mahesh Bhatt gave you your Bolly break with Woh lamhe woh baatein in Zeher (2005). Are you in touch with him?
Of course I am in touch with him. He is very dear to me. I had always appreciated his effort for having this cross-border culture. This exchange has changed a lot of lives, a lot of things and views… how people think of India and Pakistan. So, a lot of credit goes to him for doing this.
What are your things-to-do in the next few years?
Well, definitely something in terms of the live set… have more musicians and make it sound more raw. Otherwise, I really don’t plan anything; I just go with the flow. There’s no such dream project in mind. Whatever will happen and comes my way, I will opt for it.
People often compare your style with that of Arijit Singh. Your take on it…
I really like his music… his compositions. But if you talk about fame, by and large it’s not in anyone’s hands. I have a different perspective on that.... You know, Honey Singh is making music which some people like and some people don’t. God decides who is famous and who’s not.
Finally, being a cricket fanatic, will we see you in Australia for the World Cup?
(Laughs) I would love to, but only if boss (wife) permits!
Your wardrobe must-haves
Good shoes, a nice belt, there must be accessories… I can’t function without them, a nice pair of socks and indeed… a unique cologne… could be a designer cologne.
First album you bought
That’s a tough one. I remember my brother’s (Shahzad Aslam) collection and I don’t remember buying anything. He is a collector and that’s how I was introduced to music. I just didn’t know how everything worked… I used to think Salman Khan used to sing his songs! I didn’t know there was a music director and a singer involved in the process (laughs). The first attachment to music came in the form of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with Michael Brook (Night Song, which was produced by Michael Brook). That’s the first album I think I personally bought and thoroughly enjoyed.
Your current playlist
Foo Fighters, their new album… the one with a raw feel (Sonic Highways).
Pak musicians you enjoy
I like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, then among the younger ones a band called Poor Rich Boy. Sanam Marvi is also very talented, she is on the folk side.
Your fave concert venue
It has to be Royal Albert Hall, O2 Arena… anything that’s intimate and closed.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta
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