Kolkata, His song ‘Jai Ho’ won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song. His song ‘Bismil’ in the movie ‘Haider’ has brought him a National Award. His song ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ in the movie ‘Dil Se’ has earned him acclaim all over India.
In an exclusive tete-a-tete with UNI on the eve of World Music Day, legendary singer Sukhwinder Singh shares his thought on Music.
Here are the excerpts:
Q. How the world of music has changed during the pandemic?
Sukhwinder: No there is not any change. No one can change the feel of the music. There is no kind of circumstances that can change the emotion of music. Music is just like God. If we think a pandemic can change God, it’s unbelievable. I don’t see any kind of change. A pandemic is an accident that happened and it’s going to be over.But music is above any circumstances. Music during my last release before Pandemic, ‘Tanhaji’ is the same as it was during the release of ‘Mughal-E-Azam. It will remain the same 1000 years from today because God never changes.
Q. What are you think will make Indian Classical music more accessible to mass?
Sukhwinder: That is not the fault of Indian Classical music, I think that is our fault. The presentation of Indian Classical music has to be magnificent. I’m not talking about everyone, because some people have already made their presence very well. If we see the stages of ‘Shah Rukh Khan Show’, ‘Amitabh Bachchan Show’ or ‘Sukhwinder Singh Show’, they design the stage hugely and magnificently. They do the publicity grandly. They put many kinds of entertaining elements into the concert. Indian Classical music presentation has to be like that. It has to be very glamorous, very stylish and very elegant along with the performance. If we talk about performance then we have a lot of good singers like Kaushiki Chakraborty and Ustad Rashid Khan. We have a lot of such singers. And if we look at Bengal, Bengal has more talent in music than the number of leaves on a tree. I can’t remember the name, I heard a girl singing on a reality show in Kolkata. I haven’t heard of any such singer in the last 25 years. I would say that Bengali classical and film music are very prominent now. Especially, Bengali female singers are very talented and prominent.
Q. How much important is it for a singer to be a performer also?
Sukhwinder: If the singer has the capability and the capacity, automatically the singer will turn into a performer. Everybody doesn’t have to be the performer. I will like to mention Kaushiki Chakraborty again. When you see her sing on a stage, she never gets nervous. She does attempt every kind of difficult notes with a smile. Because she has got brilliant talent and she maintained that well. I will like to add an important point, only a humble person can be a good performer. A person with arrogance can never be a good performer. If the artist has tremendous talent, lots of energy and proper humbleness, then the artist could be a good performer. If you see at the film industry today, you see a lot of new kids are working. Fifty per cent of them are doing nothing but joking, but I’m telling you with responsibility, there are still a lot of people who are humble and they are good artists.
Q. If we remind the 1990’s and 2000’s, then we got one good song after another. Now we don’t get good songs in such a regular way. What do you think is the reason for this? Even today we listen to ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’, but why the not song is not cutting the stain?
Sukhwinder: Don’t you still listen to ‘Kar Har Maidan Fateh’? This is the song of this period. I will say one thing when most of the things start to go bad, it is your responsibility to choose the good ones from those. Look, now people are accepting and listening to Arijit Singh. Then ‘Kar Har Maidan Fateh’ came, people loved that, people also accepted Sultan’s song. But one thing I must say, I know very well which song I will sing and which song I will not. If three out of a hundred songs are good, then I will choose those three songs. Then if I think that ninety-seven songs have gone out of my hands, I will sing ninety-seven R. D. Burman remix to satisfy myself. So, the quality work may have decreased but it doesn’t get over. If you take a look at the first half of the 2000s also, the number of hits was 60 to 100 in a year then. Today, the number is not going above 2 to 3. The world is known for special people and the special people are very few. Sukhwinder Singh only touches and sing rare songs.
Q. As many music directors say that it’s just impossible to match up your range, how do you feel when singers of this generation remake and cover your songs?
Sukhwinder: Quality of singing doesn’t depend on the range. Nusrat Fateh Ali Saab had a higher range than me. Narendra Chanchal Ji had a higher range than Nusrat Saab. And if you heard the vegetable sellers on road, without a microphone they have better range than anyone of us. It’s not important that how much higher range you have rather it is important how good or how bad you sing.
Have you ever heard Manna Dey singing a song like ‘Chak De India’? No, Nah? Still, we can’t have another legend like Manna Dey. Manna Dey is at least 100 times bigger and popular name than mine. I’m not saying these to prove myself great, it’s a very practical thing. It doesn’t matter how much you can shout and sing. If that matters, then legends like Jagjit Singh Ji or Mukesh Ji would not be able to sing. Jagjit Singh Ji and Mukesh Ji are much bigger and popular names than mine.
Q. So which quality of a singer matter most?
Sukhwinder: I don’t take my range as my quality. Many people sing in a higher range. But in my opinion, it’s not range but the capability of a singer matters. Singing in a higher range is not a quality, quality is how soulful you sing. How much your song touches the soul of the listener is the main point. How much your voice can touch people’s soul through music is the ultimate thing.
We are the servants of the world of music. I am stating on World Music Day: “An artist, whose voice touches the soul and body feels the frisson, is a Singer. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s it.”
Legend Sukhwinder Singh signed off but I’ll wind up this interview quoting a visionary. Plato once said, “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”