Decoding Rabbi 'Sufi' Shergill

Decoding Rabbi 'Sufi' Shergill

WANDERER

A few hours before Rabbi Shergill was to launch his third album conveniently titled ‘III’ at Hard Rock Café, he came down with temperature but still decided to talk about his life and music with Metrolife.

Mystic music : Rabbi Shergill

He shot to fame with Bulla ki Jana in 2005 and later launched Avengi Ja Nahin in 2008 and now the latest ‘III’ comprises nine tracks. Each has a “special theme” and he can’t choose any one as his favourite.

Rabbi is a thorough Delhiite. A product of Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, DU, he says, “Like any other student, I spent some wonderful years there.” The seeds of music too, were sowed when he formed a band called Kaffir, “but that was just learning the ropes. It was much later that I found my voice.”

After his Master’s in Philosophy Rabbi took up MBA only to leave the course midway - a decision which left his family very disturbed. “I belong to an academic family and no one at home was pleased with my decision initially.” Ofcourse, making a mark in music was no cakewalk either. He had to struggle to get his first album released. He struck gold only on his fourth attempt. However, the artiste doesn’t “really think” of himself as “a guy who has struggled a lot because everyone struggles in India. My passion kept me going. I kept the motivation and worked on it everyday.”

The first album’s success was due largely, to his Sufiana andaaz - something he likes to keep alive even today and it has become a signature style. But along the route, he has ruffled people from his own community for his leanings towards the Sufi traditions.

So does he attempt to assuage the unhappy lot by preaching about Sikhism through his music as well? “I have done enough in my life to antagonize many Sikhs. My religion is a passive identity for me,” and the preference for Sufi saints is really incidental. “Bulleh Shah is a huge reference and I admire him but it was an unconscious decision. “I was just keen on simplifying the many things available in Sufism to pass them onto the next generation. At one level, spirituality does attract me.”

But even as the more orthodox types railed against his musical choice, his family remained uncritical of the decision. “My family begs to differ. Mom, who has always been there but never there because even when she was home, was always working on something or other due to her intellectual whims. The same is the case with me. When I am home, I am into my music.”

Rabbi is “absolutely attracted by wilderness” and part of that love could be because he lived near Delhi University and has “fabulous memories of the ridge area around it.” Much like the sufi saints, he also likes to travel and visit national parks.

Coming back to his music, Rabbi says, “Innovations are constantly happening in the music industry today.” Would he like to create background scores and lyrics in Hindi films as he has done for Delhii Heights or would he prefer playback singing? “I am very open to directing music for a film if it makes me sit up and rush to the studio.”

But isn’t his specific genre a limitation ? “You can do only what you want to do and it is the only way you can touch people. There is no reason why I should do anything else. If that was the case, I could have finished my studies and joined a corporate house like others.”

However, he is upset about the state of independent genre of singing, “Independent music is at such a low ebb. If you are serious about presenting India as an equitable social culture, then people’s voices need to be heard,” he signs off.

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