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Soulful singer

Adnan Sami speaks on music and what makes him tick


Adnan Sami is regal, whichever way you look at it. He opens his mouth, and he has fans hanging on to every melodious word. His fingers fly across a keyboard, and everybody swoons.

He shakes a leg and the world shakes with him. That's the power of music. The man who has become a pop-rock sensation in India over the past few years as a composer and singer, teaming up at times with the best of Bollywood, where he has roped in everyone from Amitabh Bachchan to Rani Mukherjee, Raveena Tandon to Govinda and others, began his music career under classical stalwarts.

"I learnt Western classical music from Professor Gatwood, and Hindustani music from Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma (eminent santoor exponent)," he relates.

From the santoor maestro he trained in the piano. Popular music may be associated with the digital keyboard, but it is the original, natural piano Adnan swears by.

"Even today I do my practice on the natural piano. Keyboards are the easier answer for touring," he says.

"I have people coming up to me all the time saying they want to learn the piano, or they want their children to learn. I tell them, first of all, don't get a keyboard. Because piano keys are much harder, and the fingers and muscles get developed."

That's just what one would expect to hear from a serious classical musician.

But that's not the Adnan `style' that has made him the darling of the masses.

"It has just evolved," he explains. "You see a musician or a composer is a product of his environment. When you listen to my music, you will find shades of jazz, western classical and Indian classical, even in the popular music."

Jugalbandis too

But his is not a one-way trip leaving the past behind. "As for hardcore classical music, I am still pursuing it with all my soul. My roots are there. I've done quite a few jugalbandis with Sultan Khan (the sarangi artiste) and with Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia (flute maestro)." With today's star hunts sending youngsters on a spree to get rich and famous real quick, many aspire to be like Adnan without the hard work. And maybe the media blitz helps them steal the march over the traditional sloggers.

"The thing is, there are absolutely no short-cuts in life. If you want to acquire depth and maturity, you have to study (the medium). Yes, technology makes making music very easy. You can compile music without being a musician. But then you will always be subservient to your computer." "It's like someone saying `I'm a pilot,' and if you ask how to fly, the answer is `I push the auto pilot button.' It's easy to be a flash in the pan. But it all comes down to your priorities."

For the "most correct example" worldwide of depth of training conferring staying power and endless variety, he refers to Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle. "After that the whole argument comes to an end."

Cinema music

Variety is Adnan's middle name too, born in Pakistan, brought up in Canada, trained in Britain and India. So composing for Bollywood films is one of his many pursuits.

Having composed for the soundtrack for the film Lucky, he is in the midst of a number of other projects, but names no names. "I think it is for the producer to announce that," he says.

While Adnan feels cinema music in India has come "a long way," he agrees plagiarism is an old phenomenon, and wryly remarks, "the meaning of inspiration has been distorted".

While actual inspiration is a fine impetus, "for heaven's sake, give credit to the original composer," he points out and recalls, "There was an old Italian song `O Sole Mia', and Elvis (Presley) loved it. He wanted to sign it, and he made it into the song `It's Now or Never'. It became really famous, but he gave credit to the original."

Adnan is currently on a break, in the middle of a world tour. Having completed the U.S., U.K. leg, he plans now to proceed to Australia, the Fiji Islands, West Asia and Africa.

There is an album coming up too. It has no name yet. While he admits he has already started working on it and says it will be a solo, he adds in the same breath, "But who knows what I'm going to do." For his fans then, ignorance can't be more blissful than this!


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