In the sargam of life, it’s often hard to strike the right note when making choices. But for a fearless few who take the plunge, those choices often become their true calling. Adnan Sami Khan, whose stint in Sargam on the reel landed him a string of successes in real life, may have evolved over the time, but music remains at the heart of his identity.
Having explored the music industries on both sides of the border, he continues to pack a punch with projects in Bollywood. With his son Azaan Sami Khan’s foray into production with last year’s local film Operation 021, he seems to have a lot to be proud of.
“I’m as proud as a father should be of his son’s success and, that too, when he [Azaan] has done everything himself and built a career on his own grounds,” said Adnan. “Azaan never asked me for any sort of help and where he stands today is all due to his own hard work and effort. I’m very happy and this is indeed the proudest moment for me,” he added. But as fulfilling as his son’s achievements are for him, he laments the lack of importance Pakistani artists are given at large.
“Artists represent the cultural heritage of their country. When they’re doing well, everyone appreciates them and introduces them as their cultural representatives worldwide, but once they retire, no one even bothers to ask about them,” Adnan stated. He feels funds should be allotted to artists who’re in need of financial aid and those who have devoted their lives to the country and for building its image in the world.
Many of these Pakistani musicians Adnan alluded to have made noted contribution to Indian cinema, with some having become household names in the neighbouring country. Although he acknowledged their strong presence in Bollywood, he feels artists shouldn’t be known by their country of origin. “An artist is an artist and it’s stereotypical to look back at their origin,” he said. “Music has always been an important part of Hindi cinema and as long as the audiences are getting good music, one doesn’t need to look up where it was recorded or who performed it.”
For the new musicians emerging from Pakistan, he laid emphasis on how they should follow their cultural heritage. “Keep learning and growing. Don’t stop yourself from what you’re doing and be original in whatever you intend to do or do,” he advised. Known for having trying his hand at a number of genres, from jazz to blues, Adnan credits his vast understanding of music to his worldwide travels. “I’ve been to so many different parts of the world that I know different genres of music,” he shared. “There’s going to be some genre or the other that reflects in my compositions, and I hope to keep it that way, but whatever I do comes naturally to me,” he added.
It’s his natural flair for diverse genres that perhaps landed him the opportunity to sing the famed qawwali Bhar Do Jholi for Salman Khan’s upcoming film Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Sharing camaraderie with Salman, he said he didn’t see him as a producer when approached for the qawwali. “He has always been a very good friend and so has uncle Salim [Salman’s father]. I came on board for Bajrangi Bhaijaan as a friend and not as a colleague,” he explained. “When Salman called me, I couldn’t refuse the part. And you know how they say, ‘Pathan se pyar se maango, tou jaan bhi haazir, aur agar dosti ki hai, tou zindagi bhar nibhayen ge,’ so this was me being true to that concept.”
Bhar Do Jholi, which is Adnan’s first time singing a qawwali, is something he took up as a challenge. “As an artist, one always wants to explore if one can enhance one’s ability,” he further said about the song, which also sees Adnan featuring in its video. “I couldn’t refuse when Salman asked me to also be part of the the song’s video. He was never a producer to me during the shoot and helped me out wherever I needed help.”
Qawwali has long been part of Bollywood, with composers giving their own unique spin when recreating them. Speaking about the kalaam and its rendition, Adnan said, “It’s a famous qawwali written by Kausar Munir and has been sung many times by other people, but this one [version] reflects my style.” He added, “I made a conscious effort to not draw inspiration from those who’ve done it before. I’ve tried to bring freshness to it because it’s my piece and it’s original.”
*This interview was conducted before Amjad Sabri and EMI Pakistan decided to take legal action against the producers of ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ for revamping ‘Bhar Do Jholi’ without their consent.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.
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