“The vibe that music creates is insane,” says Salim Merchant. The popular singer and music composer is joined by his brother Sulaiman Merchant, as the two talk about how music brings people together.
With hit tracks such as ‘Maula mere’ (Chak De India; 2007) and ‘Ainvayi ainvayi’ (Band Baaja Baaraat; 2010), they are one of Bollywood’s most successful composer duos. Here, the brothers talk about how they try to make good music and not hits, their creative differences, and more.
You have composed music for big and small-budget projects. Do you feel hesitant while composing music for the latter?
Sulaiman: The aim is to make good music, irrespective of the film’s budget. We always try to make good songs, and not hits. A good song always has the chance of becoming a hit. Nevertheless, we always try to compose for good films. We need to believe in the script and the message it carries.
Watch: Ainvayi Ainvayi from Band Baaja Baaraat
How accurate is the portrayal of musicians in films such as Rock On!! (2008), Rockstar (2011) and Banjo?
It is not accurate at all. With due respect to the film-maker and the actor, there were a lot of things in Rockstar that I, as a musician, felt could have been captured better. I don’t want to diss anybody, but attention should be given to the aspects that go into becoming an artiste. Every musician crosses hurdles. But, the process of music-making is not focused upon [in films].
Recently, Ranbir Kapoor said artistes need to be slightly weird. What’s your take on this?
Salim: I understand what Ranbir was trying to say. When it comes to Sulaiman and me, we are crazily dedicated towards making music. We are passionate about our songs. There are a lot of levels of craziness that go into creating art. Some artistes don’t sleep at night, some work for 48 hours non-stop, and some are constantly travelling.
Sulaiman: When you are on a mission that is the kind of life you lead. You don’t feel the need to sleep. If that is craziness, so be it.
Salim: Actors gather eccentricity as they go along, but musicians are born with that eccentricity.There are often reports on how musicians take performance-enhancing drugs for live concerts...
Watch: Chak De India from Chak De! India
Salim: One doesn’t really need to depend on any substance when it comes to music. Music is a drug in itself. Drugs can help a musician gain some energy, but music itself is energy. It heals peoples’ illnesses; it makes people come together, irrespective of caste, creed or language.
Sulaiman: Yes, our [Indian] concerts are so spiritual and divine, in terms of energy, that musicians don’t need ‘substances’ to depend on.
Do you both face creative differences while working?
Sulaiman: This is such a perennial question (laughs). We always have creative differences, but it is obviously for the betterment of our compositions. We have very similar ideas, and yet there is a variation in our styles, which is why we complement each other.
Do you follow a set procedure or start working on your music when a tune comes to you randomly?
Salim: It is a bit of both. Sometimes, it is procedural because it is required. If we are making a song for a particular character, creating an anthem for a corporate company, or working on a fun song like ‘Ainvayi ainvayi’, there are certain ideas in our minds, whereas some come to us randomly.