Lucky Ali: Then and now
He’s not an easy man to get in touch with, mostly because he lives on a kind of off-grid farm in Bengaluru. Yet, when we try to contact Lucky Ali via his Facebook page, he’s quick to respond. There’s some back and forth before we set a date; we are warned about network issues. But he’s reassuring. He will scout his farm for good cellphone reception.
Beyond beginners’ luck
As a fan, I begin by asking him about O Sanam (released in 1996). The 1990s V-Day anthem came about, he says, as “a result of the process of life - it took a while to become what it is. It may have come to be known as a song about heartbreak but it’s actually a happy song. I wanted every listener to take away their own interpretation when they listened to the song for the first time,” he says, humming the chorus.
Lucky’s composition process has remained unchanged through the years: the magical wordsmith is an out-and-out rhythm guy. “Because even a conversation on the phone could sound rhythmic. Rhythm decides how my songs pan out, even lyrically,” he says.
This explains Sacrifice, his recent collaboration with Bengaluru-based hip-hop-reggae-dancehall crew Low Rhyderz. “It was an out of the blue collaboration that sparked when the crew came over to my house in 2010 and we talked music,” he explains. Lucky doesn’t abide by genres; the crew’s energetic presence (“they were dancing around the set!”) and their serious approach towards their music pulled him in.
Lucky is more enthusiastic about his collaboration with Israeli musician Eliezer Cohen Botzer, with whom he released a single called On My Way, and will be releasing more singles soon. “We have a wide range of sounds as there was no particular way or ‘how it should be’ when we were composing,” he says about his divergent collaborator.
Some soul searching
After all this time though, he feels his soul “needs to find solace.” Ask what gives him solace and it’s like he’s rephrasing the lyrics of his 2009 hit, Jaane Kya Dhoondta Hai. “The journey that we take to try and find the life we hope to lead,” he ponders. A pensive introspection sparked by the realisation that “we are adults now and the world is not what we thought it was as kids. The ’90s were different. You could express your music fearlessly and also assess it, which is crucial. You need to be clear in your own perception,” he explains.
He finds some comfort in Hindi cinema music from the 1960s and early 1970s. “There’s a lot to learn because they had the culture of trained artistes, a practice still prevalent in South India,” he points out.
What about the young artistes in the country today? “I only watch YouTube videos about vocal techniques these days,” he interrupts. Any advice for them, though? “Don’t have expectations. No one does anything for you. If it’s meant for you, it’s going to happen. Don’t break your head over it. There’s lots of other things to do,” is his matter-of-fact response.
How tech-savvy is he? “Digital presence is more of a headache for me,” he laughs, before coming up with a rather alluring solution people can do during the pandemic instead: drive-in movies and concerts to tackle the issue of live shows!
How’s the lockdown been treating him? “I’ve been in lockdown since forever,” he smiles, confessing that he would rather travel to the hills or beach than socialise. His Bengaluru estate has been his haven for the entirety of the lockdown.
He has been happy growing his grub on his farm for a while, with his kids following suit. “Be self-dependent in your own ability, whatever that may be for an individual. Everyone should take care of themselves. And be atmanirbhar,” he laughs at his political slip.
The farm life
The farm, which his father Mehmood had bought in 1968-69, was once used to rear horses. “It was quite burdensome and my father was no businessman. Today, I have sheep though,” he tells us. Lucky is also quarantined with his kids at the farm, who, he says, have different tastes in music and their understanding of things. The generation gap is clear. While some of the kids have been binge-watching streaming channels at home, Lucky says he can’t watch Bollywood movies anymore. “I was born much before ‘this’ Bollywood. I was there during the time of music directors such as R D Burman and Madan Mohanji. Even Bombay was a different place,” he walks down memory lane.
So, what now? “I’ve had a great journey and met amazing people. But I don’t think I have achieved anything. I think there’s still scope for more. You reach a stage in your life when you realise you have affected a lot of people and vice-versa. You realise it’s in the giving that you receive. I think that’s where I am,” he says.
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From HT Brunch, November 15, 2020
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