Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan on his new album Charkha.. in a freewheeling conversation with V Ananth
Charkha is a Sufi lounge album. The original compositions are by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and my grandfather Fateh Ali Khan. The tunes are traditional while the lyrics are a blend of Urdu and Punjabi.
You were with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for over a decade. High points?
(Sighs) I wish he had lived longer. I learnt from him for five years. I did jugalbandis with him on concert tours. I was with him for nearly 12 years.
I was seven when I started training under Khan saab. My first ever stage performance was when I was 11. Even today I try to imitate his sargam.
How close have you come?
I'd say 25 per cent to his 100 per cent. (Laughs) Kahan Raja Bhoj, kahan Gangu Teli.
What was the turning point in your career?
My contribution to the soundtrack for the Hollywood film Dead Man Walking. I collaborated with Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, and my uncle. Another high was working on the soundtrack of Four Feathers with James Honor.
How would you describe the film music scene today?
I miss Madan Mohan, Salil Chowdhary, R D Burman and LaxmikantPyarelal.
Any favourites from the present lot?
Aadesh Srivastav, Vishal Bharadwaj, Shankar-Ehsan- Loy and Vishal-Shekhar.. the rest just about pass muster.
Would you want to compose for Hindi movies?
I've already composed some hit songs like Lagi tumse mann ki lagan (Paap), Jiya dhadak dhadak (Kalyug), Naina thag lenge (Omkara), Dhage tod lao (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom), O re piya (Aaja Nachle) and Jag soona soona laage (Om Shanti Om). I'm keen to do more work.
What about remixes?
Remixes are okay provided the artiste redoes the song.
Is it true that you were asked to sing Khan saab's songs?
Yes. The money offered was huge. But I've always refused because I know I can't measure up. I have sung his unrecorded songs like Sainyaan, Aj hun na aaye and Doonga paani as tributes to him.
We're told you've been steadfastly refusing to sing or compose music for Pakistani films. Why?
For the last 20 years, the film industry has been on the downslide primarily because the government doesn't encourage the growth of music academies.
It's only after Musharafsaab (General Pervez Musharaf) came to power that music in Pakistan has got a boost. Still, I'm not keen to sing or compose in the present scenario.
Would you say that the cultural divide between India and Pakistan has been bridged?
I have been welcomed with open arms whenever I have come down to India. We are one country.. man divided it into two parts. Politics is still at play but we artistes have nothing to do with rajnee ti.