While the 2007 film, Naqaab, didn’t do well, its song, ‘Ek din teri raahon mein’, sure shot singer Javed Ali to fame. He went on to deliver several hits like ‘Jashn-e-bahaara’ (Jodhaa Akbar; 2007) and ‘Guzaarish’ (Ghajini; 2008). As he is set to perform at a Sufi concert in the Mumbai today (October 10), alongside popular artistes like Wadali Brothers, Kavita Seth and Kailash Kher, he talks to us about his love for Sufi music, his B-Town journey, and more.
What does Sufi music mean to you?
Sufi means ‘pure music’. It’s something that connects you to God. Since my father was a qawwali singer, I have grown up imbibing elements that are required to sing Sufi numbers. Though I am trained in classical music, the ability to perform genres like Sufi, ghazal and qawwali are instilled in me naturally.
Who are your inspirations?
Ghulam Ali Khan saab is my greatest inspiration. I also look up to Bade Ghulam Ali Khan saab, Barkat Ali Khan saab, Lata Mangeshkarji, Mohammad Rafi saab and Kishore Kumarji. Also, I have learnt a lot from Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saab. His ability to hold the crowd was out of the world.
What’s your take on the current state of film music?
I think because people need new stuff all the time, composers also try to come up with new things. This has resulted in the change of compositions and their texture. Today, songs are very high-pitched. There are many new sounds and recording techniques. Looking at how Hindi film music is functioning today, I think independent acts will pick up very soon.
Do you consciously keep a low profile?
I am a very shy person. While I think PR is important, I prefer to focus more on my work. I believe that others should talk about you, rather than you talking about yourself. I am lucky that I have true admirers, and that keeps me going. I have no regrets.
You have an inclination towards Indian classical music. Do western music styles also interest you?
I am very fond of western genres, including EDM. My song ‘Tu jo mila’ from Bajrangi Bhaijaan had western influences. I like works by Bryan Adams and Mariah Carey, among others.
Listen to Tu Jo Mila here
You have spent over 15 years in Bollywood. While film music has evolved over time, do you think you have been in consonance with the way the sound has progressed?
I enjoy every genre, so I think I have gone with the flow. I think there has been a lot of experimentation with the industry’s sound. There have been times when a song that was supposed to be sung by some other singer was offered to me, which really helped me expand my repertoire as an artiste. For instance, ‘Arziyan’ (Delhi-6; 2009) was supposed to be sung by a Pakistani singer, but AR Rahman made me sing it, and that too differently.
Do lyrics matter to you?
Not really. Mera kaam ek gaane ko gaana hai (my job is to sing a song). I sing whatever suits my style. I have sung Sufi numbers, romantic tracks, peppy songs and even item numbers. So, words don’t really matter to me.
Among all the songs that you have sung, which ones are your personal favourites?
The song ‘Kajrare kajrare’ (Bunty Aur Babli; 2005) was my first hit. So, that’s very close to me. But ‘Ek din teri raahon mein’ (Naqaab; 2007) was the turning point in my career.
Listen to Kajrare Kajrare here
What have you planned for your concert today?
I have shortlisted a few songs, including ‘Arziyan’, ‘Khwaja mere khwaja’ (Jodhaa Akbar; 2007) and ‘Kun faya kun’ (Rockstar; 2011), among others.
Do you have any favourites among the new singers in the industry?
I am very fond of Arijit Singh. He is a good friend, and a great singer. I think he is a very thoughtful artiste.