Soul of the song

Soul of the song

musical journey

Having sung some popular numbers for Indian films, Javed Ali is an established playback singer in the music industry today. Juanita Kakoty speaks to the singer on how he’s literally sung his way to the top.

Tuned : Javed Ali

It’s as if music has not only shaped his life but also his bearing. Poised and humble, Javed Ali, one of the much sought after singers in Bollywood today, told me that music is what he lives for. And that music is what has been around him from the very beginning. 

“I was born into a musical family. My father has been a classical singer and as a child, I used to accompany him during his performances. Besides, I’ve grown up
listening to legends like Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hasan, Lata Mangeshkar, Farida Khanum, Mohammed Rafi, etc. Hence, an interest in music naturally came to me.”  Ali has been a disciple of maestro Ghulam Ali.

But what many people might not know is that he became a disciple even before he met the legend. “I used to train by listening to his songs. I was from a middle class family in Delhi and there was no way to meet him or approach him. Then once, by good fortune, my father and I had a chance meeting with him.

My father told him that I was his fan and that I considered him my guru. Ghulam Ali sahab made me sing a song or two and agreed to take me as his disciple. After that, every time he came to India, he made me stay with him and learn from him. All this was some 20 years ago, when I was about eight or nine years of age.”

Ali is blessed with a voice that can render with ease, songs of any genre. Kun fayakun (Rockstar), Jashn-e-Bahara (Jodha Akbar), Ranjha ranjha (Raavan), Nagada nagada (Jab We Met), Tum mile (Tum Mile), Kilimanjaro (Robot), Guzarish (Ghajini), Tu hi haqeeqat (Tum Mile) are some of his songs that have been very well received by the audience.

He has also sung songs in Tamil, Telegu and Marathi that have been popular with the masses. Yet, there are a few songs from his repertoire that did not do too well, but which he personally liked. He particularly mentioned Kaise kahe alvida (Yeh Saali Zindagi) and two songs from Haasil – Ab ghar aaja (incidentally, his first solo in Bollywood) and Tu hi tu. But, he has no regrets. “The audience knows best. I believe in just one thing — to give 100 per cent to my work!”

Successful struggles

Ali bears the humility of a sufi soul. Ask him about his achievements and he says, “My achievements are blessings that have come my way. I have been lucky to sing the kind of songs I have sung; to be around people who have given me much love and affection. I am thankful that god has always shown me the way.” Recollecting past experiences, he spoke of the time when, once, hearing him perform as a child, prodigious Pt Bhimsen Joshi personally commended him highly.

Ali also fondly remembers when Lata Mangeshkar heralded him as “the most deserving new talent”. The young singer is obliged to everyone for the acknowledgement and recognition, but believes that he still has a long way to go.
As the conversation progressed, Ali’s fleeting remark about a period of struggle in the talent series Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs, where he featured as one of the judges, propped up. And what followed was the obvious question — Has that somehow affected his take on music and life?

“I was about 13-14 years of age when I came to Mumbai,” narrated Ali. “Kalyanji and Anandji heard me at someone’s house and brought me here from Delhi. I started training here and lived in many places — houses of relatives and non-relatives. I didn’t have money and worked in these houses for food. There were times when I was ill but had to work. Or times when I had to go without food.” At times, he looks back on those days with anger; but in his own words, “I never allow myself to forget those days. This is important for me to stay grounded.”

As the tête-à-tête came to an end, he spoke about a soon-to-be released album by Sony Music — Teri Rehmaatein, where he sings the track, Tera noor, composed by Harpreet Singh. “The composer is a close friend and when I heard the song, I said I’ll sing it.”

“It’s been some four years or so that recognition from all quarters has started coming to me.” Yet, Ali is in no hurry to reach anywhere. “I hate fast paced lives. I like to accept things and opportunities that come my way and give them my best. That doesn’t mean I am averse to challenges. I face challenges with a zeal that I, perhaps, draw from my passion for music.” And listening to him, I get the feeling that Javed Ali is like a wise soul who meditatively treads on his path, letting music and God guide him.