BizAsia interviews music maestro Salim Merchant

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‘Aaja Nachle’ (2007), ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ (2008) and ‘Kurbaan’ (2009) are just three of this duos most popular and loved soundtracks. However, as 2012 marks 15 years for them in the business, the duo are all set to wow the audiences in concert in the UK for the first time. Salim-Sulaiman are brothers who need very minimal introduction. With fusion sounds, soulful melodies and an all-round universal appeal, one of their many USPs lies in their eternal style of music which one finds hard to forget. BizAsia had the unique opportunity to catch up with Salim Merchant, one half of the talented twosome, who spoke exclusively about the concerts, the signature style of their music and also a little about a very special upcoming project, ‘Heroine’,��which everyone is – and should be – eagerly waiting for.

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You’re celebrating 15 years in the business this year, how does this feel?

It’s phenomenal. In all these years, we’ve had such great success in our movies and our soundtracks. Our success lies in the fans who have been liking our songs and making them successful. It’s nice to be able to be let into people’s lives and be able to give them inspiration. For example, our song Chak De India went on��to��become��a sports anthem of our country.��It’s really overwhelming and in the coming years we hope to continue with their love and support.

Are your concerts in the coming week in the UK a way of marking 15 years and will you be doing something special within them to mark this milestone?

We will basically be representing our songs and our big hits from ‘Aaja Nachle’, ‘Chak De India’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’��and so on. We will be doing this in a very different way. We’re also going to be collaborating with an orchestra from London and various backing artistes. It’s really going to be a musical extravaganza. All of our songs have a little bit of orchestra but to be performing with an orchestra live with be very heartwrenching and I am really proud to be doing that. Apart from that, we will be doing a small dedication and tribute to the late Shammi Kapoor who inspired us. That will something different from our usual. Also, as well as our songs, we will be featuring a couple of our background scores with the orchestra. It will be a beautiful representation of some of our scores. All I can say is that our dream is to stay and touch people’s hearts. It’s not just about a show, we are trying to link with people through our music. The people have always given us love and it’s time to��give back.

What are you, personally, most looking forward to about performing live?

Honestly, I have��never performed in the UK. We have so many fans and so much appreciation in the UK. Especially after Indian Idol,��a lot of people liked me and my voice and loved our songs. It’s really nice and��I’m realy happy about that.��I’m looking forward to all the love and the response. I know they’ve loved ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ songs and others and I want to see how we can entertain them live.

How does it feel when a song or a soundtrack of yours is appreciated by the masses when it holds a special place in your heart as well?

Oh it’s absolutely the icing on the cake. When we first conceive a song, from its initial stages, we do it for ourselves. Obviously, when I make a song, it’s got to touch me and I have to feel the music and the beats that the music creates. Then when a song goes out and it’s liked by the people, it’s amazing. That happened with Ainvayi Ainvayi from ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ and when we composed it. It’s a hardcore��Punjabi track and there had been so many Punjabi songs��in the market��but this song��turned out to be��really special because of the way it was shot and the tune and everything. I also sung it which made it even more special for me. All of that really added to the song and the way people are feeling it,��the song’s demand and��it’s showered with compliments; it is rather amazing and I can’t really determine how well a song will do but it’s just incredible.

Do you ever have a feeling, when you’re making a song, that it will be popular with the audiences?

Yes, sometimes we do. Sometimes a song turns out that way and we can say that it is going to be a hit.

Your music has always been very soulful. How, in your words, would you describe your style?

Hmmm… that’s a difficult one. To answer that simply and easily, I would say it’s a relfection of our personalities. It’s what I am, how I express myself, how I speak, what I do in my life… it’s a reflection of all of that. It’s a great mix of Indian and western. I’ve studied western classical music and I’ve also studied Indian classical music. It’s also got a bit of indie, pop, rock, and various other influences. As a musician, I always have to learn at the same time and have different inspirations.

Salim-Sulaiman will be in concert this weekend
Salim-Sulaiman will be in concert this weekend

You’re currently in the process of recording the soundtrack to Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Heroine’. What has the experience been like and would you be able to give us a hint as to what to expect from the album?

‘Heroine’ is about an actress who goes through all the successes and then there’s a downfall. It has a hero-to-zero kind of a vibe to the story. The music is actually a mixed palet of music; there is an emotional song with a spiritual essence, then there is a love song which has a full-on on-the-floor club vibe. Then, there is a song called Halkat Jawani which is an item number featuring Kareena, obviously, looking her best in a daring avatar. There is also a passionate yet endearing love song which is again in a rock kind of style. There are different tracks which show a mix, even though I’m really not supposed to say. Each song captivates and represents a particular part of the film and what the character is going through. There is another beautiful love song and also one which is Kareena’s dance track which is very upbeat and has an English vibe to it. There is main theme of ‘Heroine’ which is an inspirational and slow song and the lyrics say what the character is and what the heroine goes through in her career, in her life and what is her actual personality outside. Basically, it’s a mix of everything and doesn’t really have just one style. We have singers like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Benny Dayal, Shradha Pandit and Aditi Singh Sharma.

You’ve lent your vocals to a number of songs in recent years. Was this something you always aimed to do or did it happen out of nowhere?

Actually it happened by chance. Obviously I sing… when I compose a song, I sing it to the producer, director and the singer. However, what happened was with one song, it kept getting better and better. There was one director and that was Karan Johar who told me that I had the right expression that the song required. I needed that kind of support and encouragement – apart from my brother – from the director, to be totally convinced. ��It was Karan who gave me that push and that confidence that I can do it and the song was Ali Maula from ‘Kurbaan’.��Since then I’ve done singing in Sufi-style kinds of songs. Then, a couple of years ago, there was a film called ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ in which I sang ‘Ainvayi Ainvayi’. Until that point, I had thought my voice only suited a Sufi-style but with this song I thought I can also be suited to these Punjabi numbers and I’m really happy that people like that. So now, yeh, I feel that I can sing anything. I’ve recently sung a song for Vishal-Shekhar and I’m singing other songs for other composers now which is a phenomenal thing. I’m also touring all over the world and singing my songs and I’ve been getting so much love and affection… it’s really heartwrenching.

Do you have any messages for your fans?

I’d like to say I and we are really grateful to get so much love and support from them. I really feel that people also love me on Indian Idol and I just can’t thank them enough. There is one thing and that is that this is just the beginning. We want to keep on writing songs for you and keep on giving you live performances. It’s time to pay back right now so here we come.

Salim and Sulaiman will be in concert with Benny Dayal, Shradha Pandit and Shadab Faridi and will be performing in Leicester and London this coming weekend. BizAsia would like to take this opportunity to thank Salim for taking out the time and speaking to us. Here’s wishing the duo much success in their forthcoming ventures and for music that we are bound to fall in hopeless��love with��every time.

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