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Doing What Comes Naturally
7 May 2010-Friday
-The Cheeguz

Quality over quantity, the rule Hanif Shaikh lives by. A singer, a lyricist, and a musician he hails from the heart of Indian movie industry, Bollywood. Best known for his original works, he’s the man behind the music and lyrics department of the latest flick Paathshaala starring Shahid Kapoor and also the reason behind our own gal Akansha Lama crossing the border and the language barrier. It was our pleasure catching up with Shaikh, out of blue, for an exclusive talk… and even greater honour to share this tête-à-tête with you.

The most obvious, what’s music to you?
Music to me is life. It’s everything to me.

So how long has it been since you joined the music field?
Hanif: It’s been 7-8 years of dangerous struggling. I find it hard to mention but I’ve lost a lot of things on the way. It’s like life is all about yes or no. It’s either this or that. So in order to get this, I had to lose that. Success is like sacrifice.

Did you always wanted to be in this field? Did you get involved in it intentionally?
From the time I remember, I was always a singer. I mean that’s how I used to express myself, even as a person, be it expressing happiness, sadness…any kind of feeling. That was the only thing that came naturally to me which I think is a blessing to me. I stand somewhere and I keep getting things.
I’m not a trained singer or a musician and I’m not even trained yet. So whatever comes to me is more like a blessing and I cherish that a lot. I feel like God has been kind to me.

What do you think are some of the most important things in making music? What are the most essential elements that make good music?
Hanif: I’ll have to say freedom of time. Get as much time as you need to get the work done because it’s not the kind of a clerical job in which you have to sit in one place and finish what you’re asked to do. Sometimes you don’t get anything that way. Music is something that comes to you anytime, anywhere. It may come to you maybe while walking on the beach or simply while walking down the building. I feel melodies and songs are already there in the universe. You know, they are everywhere; you just need to focus and connect with them. In the end, it all comes down to how you manage to pull it off and that’s not something

So, music is a natural thing. It’s inborn. Still do you think having musical education background is important to come out professionally?
Sometimes or a lot of times, you are aware of many things but nothing in the world has rules. I think the best musicians in the world are the ones who’ve never been trained. So I don’t think academic background in music is that very necessary.

You used Akansha’s song “Timro Tyo” in Paathshaala. So tell us something about it. How did you get to know about the song?
I knew a person named Sanjay Prasad who’s like a close brother and he is first cousin to Jems Pradhan and Jems is like a family. He’s someone I look up to as a musician, as a person. He’s a very humble guy, I really admire his work and that’s how I happen to know about Vijay Lama. Well, Vijay had his daughter’s song “Timro Tyo”. So all I did was translated the lyrics and added an extra intro to it. The best thing about the song is that it talks about the moment each and every girl or a guy passes by which suited the context of the movie perfectly.

Later on, I took care of the formalities, you know, credits and all. But on youtube and on many other sites, there’s been mentioned it’s a lifted song. So, I hope there won’t be any more confusion now.

Another thing is I felt so glad, so blessed that I was able to change the lyrics without losing the song’s original charm.

What would you say is the best part of your job?
It gives me satisfaction and I can sleep any time I want to (laughs). But I don’t sleep actually. And the best thing is that I don’t have any bosses. I have no restrictions for my creativity. So I don’t have to worry about why the idea is not coming and that’s how I come up with the best stuff.

Since you extracted a Nepali tune for your project, what do you like about Nepali music?
The best thing about Nepali music, its beauty is that the music makers haven’t gone wild with the Western influence. They’ve taken the instruments, the arrangements which are modern but they haven’t lost their culture and I think culture is something which was there thousand years back and will remain for thousand more years. It’s a tried and tested formula. No matter what, one should not lose his culture. That’s the strongest point any country should have.

What does success mean to you?
It means my friends and family being really happy and proud about me and somewhere it gives me little stability to keep them happy financially. Whenever there’s a problem, a crisis in my family, I’m able to help them with monetary support. That’s success to me. And speaking of awards, the best award to me is getting another work from one work.

How do you take Akansha as an artist?
The first thing, I think she’s a better musician than me. She’s trained well, a superb singer and don’t know if many people but she is a very good pianist. And with her age, it’s a beginning. I can see within five years, she’s going to be the biggest thing in Nepal, maybe also in Bollywood because she works really hard to achieve something. Even for her latest project, she’s put in four to five months of effort to learn to sing in Hindi, to get everything done flawlessly. With so much of dedication she has, I feel she’s going to do great in whatever she gets her hands into.

Who are the artists you look up to?
I like A.R. Rahman, Salim Suleman, Bishal Shekhar and Lucky Ali is someone I really look up. Like I said, I’m not a trained musician. I grew up listening to them. So their music is my learning institution. I’ve worked with Salim and Lucky.

What is it that you like most about yourself?
It’s blessing from the almighty. I think he’s been very kind to me. I haven’t learnt music officially but I can still come up with the best stuff. Everything comes to me naturally. So it’s an honour to have the talent.

Something you like to change about yourself?
I would like to work harder. I think I’m still lazy.

How much is change important in music?
Hanif: I think change is a must. People get bored listening to the same old thing. We have witnessed the alteration ourselves. For some years, we have Kumar Sanu singing, for ten years, we have Atif Aslam and for next ten, we’ll have someone else. So it keeps happening, the cycle of change.

People say, older songs are always remembered and cherished well than todays but frankly speaking, I don’t really go with the saying because in those days, that was the only entertainment. Even if you didn’t want to, you had to listen to them. It was sort of hammered into your head. But these days we have so much of indulgence. Video games, internet, places to hang out and music is not the only thing left.

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