I hate the word ‘Bollywood’: Rabbi Shergill
Says musician Rabbi Shergill as he talks about the music scene in India; also questions whether the film industry is churning out “music that is of universal calibre”.Updated: May 07, 2016 14:49 IST
Rabbi Shergill rose to fame about a decade ago with his song, ‘Bulla ki jaana’. His knack for presenting complex and profound lyrics with simple, yet memorable tunes, earned him the title of an ‘urban balladeer’. Prior to his performance at a digital awards function, the artiste spoke to us about the indie music scene in India, why he isn’t as vocal about political issues these days, and more.
Do you make a conscious effort to present traditional lyrics in a new format?
I try to live a truly Indian life, and I think that is what reflects in my music. The experiences I gather as a person, off stage [like when I go to buy groceries], are what come out in my songs.
What are some of the other things that influence you while you’re making music?
I believe the non-musical side of any artiste should be rich. I read a lot of poetry, essays, fiction, etc., and the list is never-ending and insatiable. I am also fond of graphic art and paintings. I spend a lot of time exploring them.
Watch Bulla Ki Jaana by Rabbi Shergill
Is Bollywood more conducive to an artiste’s growth?
I hate this word — Bollywood. Anyway, commercially, Bollywood is an engine of growth. Yes, you can make money in it. But, is the art [Bollywood music] of universal calibre? I don’t think so. It used to be during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Today, we need gems like [late] Sahir Ludhianvi (lyricist) to recreate that kind of quality.
How involved do you get while shooting for music videos?
Today, the audio and video portions of your musical career cannot be two separate entities. I never paid attention to the visual dimension earlier. But now, I do take into consideration the fact that videos affect people’s perception of my music.
What is your take on the current state of independent music?
I’m still looking for an icon to emerge out of India’s indie music arena. So far, I have not found anyone. Also, I feel that in the case of indie music, English as our second language, acts as a barrier. The UK and USA will always be 500 years ahead of us. We can’t help it. Similarly, we will always be ahead in Urdu shayari and Hindustani music because of our rich cultural heritage.
Which country is putting out music that is artistically and commercially fulfilling?
The indie artistes from England often come up with music that is commercially viable, but, at the same time, is artistically deep.
Has the Internet made it easier to cut albums these days?
It is a good time for new artistes and bands, as putting your music out there is easier. But, I don’t see the platform enabling established artistes to do their own thing. Film music still rules. The only place I see the popularity of Bollywood being challenged is Punjab, and I am very happy about it.
You are not as vocal about political issues as you used to be. What brought about the change?
To be honest, I don’t feel very political at the moment. I backed a horse, the horse won, but it didn’t make a difference to the circumstances. The Anna Hazare movement was a positive event that took place in our country. But we have sort of snuffed out that movement, and I doubt our country will go through another revolution anytime soon.
When can we expect your next album?
I don’t think I’ll be releasing an album. The era of packing nine songs in a CD is gone. Today, people make singles and try to promote those to the fullest. Maybe I will release a single next.
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