What’s common between ‘Chak De India’, ‘Ainvayi Ainvayi’ and ‘Yeh Honsla’? Well, all the three popular tracks have been composed by the supremely talented music composer Salim-Sulaiman. Recently, in an exclusive tête-à-tête with Filmibeat.com, Salim Merchant of the musician-duo got candid about his recently-released song ‘Date Karle’, how he came up with the Arabic verses for the Fashion song ‘Mar Jawaan’, the most defining moment of his life and much more.
Excerpts from the interview.
Q. Your recent song ‘Date Karle’ resonates with the thoughts of the current generation…
A. It’s festive season and we had this song with us since a long time. We utilized this lockdown quite well. It was our dream to start our own music record label. But because of our travelling schedules and shows, both in India and worldwide, we never got the time to structure a record label. However, we were able to do this in June this year. We came up with ten songs, some of which we had composed during the lockdown and some before that. We wanted to release them well, so we made videos out of it.
The recently-released ‘Date Karle’ song is a total party track. It’s a total banger and a fun song. It’s every guy’s desire to find the perfect girl for himself. So, our video is also interesting because we worked on virtual reality. We have tried to capture how dating would look like in the future amid the ongoing pandemic. Who knows in future, dating would be virtual! We kept that thought in our mind and came up with this virtual-reality video featuring YouTuber CarryMinati. He is a really fun artiste. He is very quirky and energetic, and quite popular with the youngsters. He is a big sensation on YouTube. The best part is that CarryMinati is a very good rapper who writes very well. I liked this talent of his and thought that it would be nice to feature him in ‘Date Karle’ song. When I sent him the song, he liked it. He is a humble guy, though his personality on YouTube is quite outgoing (laughs). But actually, he is a very simple, nice guy. I had a great time collaborating with him.
Singer Romi, who is based in Rajasthan, has sung the song, while the lyrics have been penned by Shraddha Pandit. One of my model-actor friend named Dhiren has worked as an actor in this song. Overall, it’s a great team work. We have been receiving a great response to the song. We don’t know when this pandemic will get over and we will get a vaccine. With the festive season around, we thought we should come up with this song and spread some happiness among people through it.
Q. How did the idea for ‘Date Karle’ struck you?
A. Actually, we had composed this song some two years ago for a film. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it to that film. Back then, the lyrics of this song was ‘Setting Karle’. But then, I thought that words like ‘patola’ have been used often. The song has a Punjabi flavour and the word ‘setting’ sounds a little Bambaiyya. During the lockdown, I thought that we should base this song on dating. We thought it would be nice to have ‘date karle’ in the lyrics.
After coming up with the lyrics, we were like how should we shoot this track. Then, we thought of using the virtual reality concept. And that’s how it worked out. Overall it was a great experience. We never thought that we would have rap in the lyrics of the song. It was my wish to do a rap song. But somehow, I didn’t know how to go about with it. So, I called up my old friend, rapper Raftaar. When he heard the song, he told me that it is an amazing track. He told me that I needed a fun guy for this song. He suggested me Ajay Nagar aka CarryMinati’s name. I didn’t know him. So, Raftaar sent me a link to one of his videos, which I quite liked. Then, I connected with Ajay. He too, liked the song. He sent me the rap portion of the song immediately. I was surprised. I liked his voice on the phone itself so much that I told him to do the song. So, that’s how this collaborated happened.
Q. We heard that you ideated the song ‘Mar Jawaan’ from Fashion in Morocco. Is that true?
A. Fashion completed 12 years in 2020. Fifteen years ago, I attended a African-Arabian music festival in Morocco. Many singers and their bands performed at that event. I heard a lot of different kinds of music there. When I first composed ‘Mar Jawaan’ song, it was very simple. This song was for Priyanka Chopra’s character’s Meghna Mathur’s entry as a model on the ramp. The makers required an emotional thumri kind of a song for that situation.
The lyrics of the song were already ready and we heard it. I liked the song, but somehow I felt that we should add another element to it. Since I had just returned back from Morocco then, I came up with the Arabic verses in the song. I called up one of my friends in Dubai and asked him to suggest me some Arabic words. I recorded them portion in my voice and thought that I would get it sung by some Arabic singer later. When Madhur Bandharkar heard the song, he told me to retain my voice. That’s how I sang this song with Shruti Pathak.
Q. What has been the most defining moment in Salim-Sulaiman’s life?
A. In 2010 when I was doing Indian Idol, I received a call from Africa saying that they wanted to collaborate with us for an anthem for FIFA. Then, that person flew down to Mumbai and met me. He told me that he wanted a song which highlighted on how Africa was hosting the FIFA World Cup after going through a lot of hardships. He told us to kept things in secrecy. We made a nice song with African artists. While I was busy shooting for Indian Idol, I came to know that our song called ‘Africa, You Are The Star’ was selected as one of the official anthems for FIFA that year. I received a message that I had to perform at Johannesburg. I was on cloud nine. I got the dates of my shooting schedules adjusted and I and Sulaiman reached Johannesburg for our performance. There was a crowd of 90000 people in the stadium. We had never performed live on such a large-scale before. Seeing that kind of crowd gave us a different kind of kick. There was a lot of excitement. When we returned back to Mumbai, we decided to perform in concerts.
Later, in December, Band Bajaa Baraat released and one of its songs ‘Ainvayi Ainvayi’ became a huge hit. Of course, we had many hit songs like ‘Chak De India’, ‘Ore Piya’, ‘Shukran Allah’, ‘Tujhme Rab Dikhta Hai’. That songs were such a craze that we were forced to go live on the stage. There was a strong pressure from the event industry to perform in live concerts. We did 20 concerts in 2010, 30-40 in 2011 and 50 in 2012. Last year, we did 80 shows. So, it’s been a great journey. Music is a great therapy especially live concerts. Of course, people enjoy virtual concerts too. But I believe once things get back to normal, there will be a great craze for live concerts.
Q. Which is your favourite music composer duo in Bollywood?
A. I like Shashi-Shivam. They composed the songs for Priyanka Chopra’s Mary Kom. I find them very under-rated. I also love Laxmikant-Pyaarelal. They are classic composers. I like Mithoon’s compositions. I even like Vishal-Shekhar. They are my friends and have done some amazing work.
Q. It is said that you need to have a good knowledge about classical music if you want to be a singer. What is the reason behind that?
A. Today, we don’t have songs with great depth in them. But sometimes, when you have a heavy musical composition, it is important for the singer to have knowledge about classical music. It helps you in voice-training and understanding. Mostly importantly, classical music makes you a good person because there’s a lot of soul in it. A lot of our bhajans, devotional songs and sanskrit shlokas have a touch of classical music. Somehow, it helps you to attain inner peace.
Q. Did you or Sulaiman ever feel like giving up when things were not in your favour?
A. ‘Zindagi ki yehi reet hai haar ke baad hi jeet hai’. How will you rise if you don’t fall? You can’t succeed without trying. We are not in heaven. In this world, we have to struggle hard. Amitabh Bachchan is working hard even today despite achieving so much. You are finished the day you feel you have achieved everything. Treat your profession like your passion. I have never looked at music like work. For me, music is devotion. It’s my hobby, profession and passion. So, I have never worked since my childhood.
Q. What is the most wackiest habit of Sulaiman?
A. It’s not a habit. But, he’s very forgetful.
Q. Out of you and Sulaiman Sir, who was more of a charmer during the college days?
A. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet. (laughs)
Q. When do you feel inspired the most- during the day or night?
A. I am a night person.
Q. Which is the fastest song composed by you till now?
A. That would be ‘Haule Haule se hawa lagati hai’ (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi)
Q. What is the best and the worst thing that has happened to you during the lockdown due to pandemic?
A. The best thing would be that we started our own music label which was my lifetime dream. Speaking about worst thing that has happened, would be that we lost a lot of lives to COVID-19. Most people lost their job. Many folk musicians had to face several hardships. But then, that’s about life is all about.
Q. Which is your best childhood memory?
A. I have a lot of memories associated with my father. When I composed a song for the first time at the age of 18, he was moved to tears.
Q. What does creativity mean to you?
A. Creation can happen anytime. If you keep your mind open then creativity will always flow. It is somehow connected to knowledge. If you keep your eyes, ears and heart open then creativity will flow fast.
Q. Is there anything which you feel you won’t be able to do?
A. I can’t swim and there is a heartbreaking reason behind it. During my childhood, one of my friends drowned in the swimming pool. So, I have aquaphobia and hence, can’t swim. But I wish to overcome this phobia some day.
Q. Currently, which song have you been listening on loop?
A. It’s my own composition called ‘Beech Raaste’ which has been sung by Armaan Malik and Nikita Gandhi.
Q. Is there anything which someone did in the past that you believe, you could have done better?
A. I don’t think like that. My feet is rooted to the ground and my thoughts are humble. I am a simple man. In the music and film industry, there are many successful people who are not talented and vice-versa. So, there is no combination of success and talent. It’s all about luck which plays a big role.
Q. Who is your celebrity crush?
A. Priyanka Chopra is my celebrity crush.
Q. You have to rate the following actors based on their acting skills on the scale of 10- Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal and Kamaal R Khan (KRK)
A. Nawazuddin Siddiqui- 9, Pankaj Tripathi- 10, Ayushmann Khurrana- 7, Vicky Kaushal- 7. No comments on KRK as I haven’t watched any of his films.
Q. Now, you have to rate the following actresses based on their looks on the scale of 10- Disha Patani, Alia Bhatt, Jacqueline Fernandez, Kiara Advani and Rakhi Sawant?
A. Disha Patani- 9, Alia Bhatt- 8, Jacqueline Fernandez- 7, Kiara Advani- 6, Rakhi Sawant- I don’t know, I can’t say. I didn’t rate the actresses only on the basis of their looks; I also considered their talent.
Q. Which is your best and worst fan moments?
A. It’s very difficult to pinpoint one. Many of my fans have sent me sketches; some have even sent me journals with my pictures in it. It’s overwhelming. There’s a fan group called Salim-Sulaiman who makes it a point to attend every concert of ours; be it in London or USA. I never had a bad experience with my fans. I have always received lot from them.
Q. Tell us the weirdest rumour you have heard about yourself.
A. We had made a song called ‘Haareya’ which was supposed to used in Emraan Hashmi’s 2011 film Ungli. However, Karan Johar didn’t like that song. So, we made another song called ‘Auliya’ for the film. I had ‘Haareya’ with me which I released last year. Now, it turned out that the lyrics of this song sounded similar to another Pakistani song called ‘Roiyaan’. The funny part is that when we first made ‘Haareya’, its lyrics were penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya. When I called him up in 2011, he was busy with his work-commitments. So, I approached another lyricist called Kumaar who came up with the lyrics for ‘Haareya.’ I already had the tunes ready for the song so I made it. Now, this Pakistani artist started trolling me on social media. How could I explain to him that I had made this song in 2011? Now in music, this happens many times when notes have a natural progression from each other. We have never plagarized a single song in our career. However, that Pakistani singer started trolling me and calling me names on social media. I tweeted him back with a polite reply. But khair ‘kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna’.
Q. Which is the most over-rated film of 2019, according to you?
A. Kabir Singh was over-rated like hell. The songs in the film were okay.
Q. What is your biggest turn on and turn off in life?
A. A great song and a great singer is a big turn on. Similarly, bad music is a big turn off. Also, I stay away from anger and moh-maaya (illusion). I didn’t like to badmouth or gossip about anyone. I don’t have time for all these things as I still have got a lot to achieve in my life.
Q. We heard that you have a lot of jamming sessions at home and your wife is quite a good cook…
A. The combination of food and music is amazing. The rule in my life is ‘bhojan bina bhajan na ho’. (You can’t sing without food).