A more focussed approach
Three years ago, when in a candid mood, Sonu Niigaam had told this writer that he was determined to cut down work and sing seven hit songs in 10 rather than singing 100 songs from which only 10 were worth it, as he was doing back then...
Niigaam’s kept his word and fortunately, luck is on his side. Despite this, his musical activities have been so hectic that he’s landed in hospital twice in the last fortnight, suffering from low blood pressure, a minor slipped disc, fatigue and tennis elbow. But he dismisses his problems lightly, as “overwork, nothing much.”
Excerpts from an interview:
You have barely sung in 2009. Is that part of your strategy or is it because you spend more than half your time either globetrotting for shows or living in America?
I divide my time now equally between Mumbai and Los Angeles. I am least interested in doing too much work. But the truth is that in 2009 I have had truly great songs in 3 Idiots, ‘Don’t say alvida’ in Main Aurr Mrs Khanna and ‘Shukran Allah’ in Kurbaan. Then there were ‘Soniyo’ in Raaz — The Mystery Continues, ‘I wanna chiggy-wiggy with you’ and ‘Rehnuma’ in Blue, and ‘Aalam guzarne ko’ in Kal Kissne Dekha. And now there are ‘Tu to jaan le’ in Dulha Mil Gaya, ‘Meherbaniya’ in Veer and ‘My Name is Khan’ too.
You have been doing a lot of unusual work outside of films too.
Yes, I did a Michael Jackson tribute for which I had composed a song and I auditioned for voices on Facebook. I was called to compose an anthem for the Mumbai Police and 26/11 by Subbu, National Creative Director of Linterland. It was part of a police campaign called ‘Abhedya Mumbai’ to praise the spirit of the force and Mumbai’s citizens. Subbu wrote the song and wanted me to compose it, and we launched it on Big FM. Legends like Amit-ji (Amitabh Bachchan) who opened the song, Jagjit Singh-ji and many of my colleagues responded too. I composed different portions for each singer and blended them into a kind of rock anthem. I have posted the song on Facebook, and for the first time ever, BBC filmed us while we were recording the video and has come out with the ‘Making of the video’. A concert is also being planned now by BIG events.
There’s some secret project that you are doing in the USA.
Yes, that’s a very unique project called ‘Time Travel’ — a crazy concept that turns the remix on its head! We have taken original Hindi songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s, and I have aligned my voice with our legendary singers like Lata (Mangeshkar)-ji, Mohammed Rafi-saab, Manna (Dey)-da and Kishore (Kumar)-da. For me, it’s almost like singing a duet with them, the way I would sing on tracks today. But it is much more than that. The idea is that my voice should sound as if it was recorded alongside theirs, decades ago, in terms of the technical sound. So the analogue rather than digital feel is being brought in, which is more difficult to do than its sounds. It is a five-CD series and since I am going back in time and singing with the legends, it gets the title ‘Time Travel’. I do not think anyone has attempted this before, anywhere in the world.
Someone has posted a Sonu-Shreya Ghoshal duet on Facebook that you have recorded for Pyarelal. Is that a film song?
I wouldn’t know what is happening to the song. It was recorded about 18 months ago in the classic old style at Yash Raj Studios with 80 to 90 musicians. But it was a live recording and I promised Pyare-baba that I would record the song after rehearsal in one take, just like the legends did. He was very thrilled that I managed that. Pyare-baba is among my icons. The other aspect was that the song recording took me back to my struggling days when songs were still being recorded live. I had sung a few songs for Laxmikant-Pyarelal then, like ‘Hungama ho gaya’ in Deewana Mastana. Most of the musicians in there had known me as a struggler and so it was touching to meet them again after such a long gap.
What else is coming from you?
Without false modesty, I am doing a lot of good work in Kannada films and CDs sell in my name there. In the last three years, I have sung for almost all the great and contemporary names.†