Adnan Sami probably continues to be best known for his soulful number Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein, and there are many who still recall the rotund singer playing the table on a rainy night in the track’s video. He hit gold with his debut release in India, Kabhi Toh Nazar Milao (2000), only to transcend that with his second – Tera Chehra. Sami was touted as the reigning king of Indi pop in early 2003 on the basis of his album sales. His music effortlessly merged Western classical and instrumentation with Indian ragas with a harmonious blend.
But like many independent artistes, success led him to compose and croon for Bollywood. Equally passionate about his first love – independent music, Sami is currently busy churning out melodious tracks for his ambitious non film album with Yash Raj Music, slated for release soon. And despite a significant amount of bad press, Sami keeps up with his fans through his official YouTube channel or social network sites.
Adnan Sami takes Anita Iyer for a walk down memory lane as he converses about his career, independent music and his Indian classical roots.
Your new album with Yash Raj Music should be out soon. It’s been a while since you last composed…
I am collaborating with Yash Raj for the first time for Mein Tere Pass Hoon. I have gone through a lot over the past few years and this album acts as a vent for all those feelings. Musically, I have a lot in me to release, as I express myself best through music.
What is the essence of the album?
Well, there are some firsts for me in this album like a Sufi track that I have composed. Sufism has been misinterpreted in Bollywood, just using words like Maula or Khuda doesn’t make for a Sufi song. Sufi is a state of mind; it is when you are lost in a trance surrounded by spiritualism. The Sufi track is called Ali Ali, dedicated to Hajrat Ali, the great warrior known for his bravado. The theme of the song is an appeal to God to give us the strength like Ali to fight tough times in life. I have co-penned the lyrics with Irfan Siddiqui. Another first is that I have composed and sung a Punjabi song.
” Music labels in the late 1990s were going through a phase where they thought it was pointless to invest in indie albums. I approached many music labels only to be rejected until Magnasound undertook to launch the album “
Can you walk us through the album?
I have about 120 ready compositions and have shortlisted ten songs for the album. One song which is very close to me is the track Baba, dedicated to my father. I lost him two years ago and the song expresses the vacuum his absence has left in my life. Interestingly, he had nothing to do with music but was musically inclined. He always wanted to pursue music and he lived that dream through me.
You had roped in Bollywood faces for your earlier albums; it worked excellently in terms of promotion and visibility. Would we see you walking the same lane again?
We haven’t sat d own on the videos yet but it’s not like we are discounting that. Even earlier, it was never a conscious effort to use the videos like a marketing tool. My purpose of bringing in actors/ actresses was to portray the character and the expertise of the performers only enhanced the video. Rani’s presence in Tera Chehra enhanced the video; it was the way she emoted in the video that worked. Many thought of it as a complete marketing strategy and today when I look back, I think it did turn out that way – but who cares, after all it worked!
Does it really make sense to cut an independent music album today?
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since I released my last album. If non-film is hit by dipping physical sales, so is film music – it is primarily because of changing music formats. Music labels still support film music because film songs have certain budgets borne by the producer and songs are used to promote a film. So, record labels don’t feel the pressure as songs would anyway be part of films. However with independent music, there is no promo attached. To make a video, every single cent is to be spent by the music labels. So, when the recovery is low, why would the labels invest? Films are paisa vasool for them. Eventually they need to understand that piracy or dipping music consumption is not unique to the Indian market. In the west, indie musicians have always enjoyed precedence over film music; we need to adapt that model to make indie musicians survive in our country. We cannot undermine the power of indie music because if film music has evolved, it is due to the great contribution of independent music. The sound of film music today is what non- film music sounded a decade ago. To prove my point, just look at the top music composers in Bollywood – they had their roots in indie music or jingles before turning composers.