Kailash Kher and his journey of mentoring

musical notes

He grew up by being both a student and a teacher. “Aap hi guru, aap hi chela,” says Kailash Kher, for whom the year has unveiled two reasons to cheer.

The first, of course, was the Padma Shri that he received from the government, and the second was the launch of a new music group that he put together. This new group is called ‘SurFira’, and comprises Sreekant (lead vocals), Aakash Patwari (guitar & music arrangement), Vatan Dhuriya (keyboard), Tejas Vinchurkar (flute), Arbin Routh (violin), Manuj Dubey (tabla & percussion) and Mayur Wagh (drums).

“I have brought together six talented youngsters on a single platform, and now want to see them bloom with their own efforts,” says the 42-year-old singer, who will be mentoring them at every step of the way. The idea of forming such a group had been brewing for quite a while, says Kher.

“Over so many years in the past in the music industry, I have met many talented youngsters who come with over 10-20 years of classical music training, and want to try their luck in the music industry. But there’s no one to guide them,” adds the lead singer of the band Kailasa, who has been scaling musical heights ever since he touched down in Mumbai 11 years ago.

And according to him, it’s probably the first time in the recent music history that an established singer is making way for newcomers who are not his or her family members. “There’s always room for more and more talent on the music horizon. So, why should anyone feel apprehensive or threatened by them?” asks Kher.

Remembering the first few meetings of the group with their mentor, Sreekant says, “As we sat pondering over what to call ourselves, Kailashji came up with this name, which he said suited us perfectly.” Adds Kher, “Yeh sab bhi sarfire hain, aur sureele bhi (they are all crazy like me and talented in music too). So, the combination of the two, ‘SurFira’, was the ideal choice.”

It was in one of these initial meetings that the group started discussing ghazals. “Kailashji felt that there is still so much in this genre (that touched such dizzying heights some decades ago) that is still unexplored,” says Sreekant. He rues that for many, ghazal is no longer on the musical radar the way it once was.

“We continue to have beautiful ghazals in films, but they are not being termed as such.” The singer cites the beautiful Faiz Ahmed Faiz composition, ‘Gulon Mein Rang Bhare’, (from the film Haider) as an example. “But of course, we have some of the most splendid ghazals by Mehdi Hasan saab, Ghulam Ali saab, Jagjitji, Pankajji, Anupji — all of whom are stalwarts of this genre. But after that, as Kailashji said, what? What does the new generation have to offer to the field of ghazals,” wonders Sreekant.

Since the group came together in July last year, it decided to reinvent ghazals by adapting them to the new technology of today, using modern instrumentation to reach out to its listeners, but keeping the quintessential flavour of the genre in mind. “We wanted to create a sound that people would relate to. We didn’t want to present anything too complex, but something that was pleasant and challenging,” states Sreekant.

And the fruit of their efforts resulted in the group’s first eponymous album that was released earlier this year. It has a mix of three new compositions that have been written and composed by Kailash Kher and three covers: Mehdi Hasan’s ‘Rafta Rafta’, Ghulam Ali’s ‘Hangama Hai Kyon Barpa’ and ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’.

Kher is happy that such young birds are taking flight today. He says his efforts will continue to help budding singers find their feet on the music industry’s terra firma. “Aap kuaan baniye, pyaase khud aayenge (You become a water-well, those thirsty will come to you),” he adds with a smile.

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