Adnan Sami Interview by The On / Off Journalist June 2, 2008Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, india, Interview, Media, music, Writing.
Tags: Adnan Sami interview, dot com interviews, indi pop, Music in India 2000, srikant malladi interviews
I met Adnan at the Magnasound offices. Like others I too had heard about the big man piano prodigy. After his debut album Adnan has never looked back – an unqualified Pop and Film success. He shares his birthday with India.
Q. How does it feel working with the Diva of Indian music, Asha Bhosle?
A. It is a dream come true for me personally. I was eight when I had first met Ashaji and she had heard me that day. She said I have a great future if I don’t shy from hard work and here I am, releasing my first album with Ashaji giving the vocals. R. D. Burmanda was also there.
Q. Were you another fan of Panchamda, like the others of your generation?
A. Very much so. He was and still is the King in my opinion. Even now, people have only managed to ape him, but not better him. His compositions were modern then and modern now.
Q. Even Kabhi To Nazar Milao is touted as an album of ‘Love’ songs. Don’t you think it has been done to death?
A. I agree that most albums are the same boy meet girl routine, but that should not be the criterion for not doing the same. And everybody has different reasons for creating what they do.
Q. And what is yours
A. Kabhi To Nazar Milao consists of love songs, but it is not a frivolous emotion, which it has become now, that we are musically presenting. The lyrics are not run of the mill and the music is nothing like what people have heard in what you categorize as Indi – Pop.
Q. To what extent is your history of Classical music find expression in Kabhi To Nazar Milao?
A. It is there throughout, without having an overbearing influence. I wanted to reach wider section of the audience and have tried for a balance between the traditional and the contemporary.
Q. Which you think is not a compromise?
A. Yes, because it is not deliberate in any way. I would have expressed myself only in this manner and not according to what the trends or fashion demands or anticipates.
Q. Who among the Indian classical pantheon have inspired you?
A. A lot of them. Actually, different people at different points in time. There are times when something seizes you inexplicably and one gains insights into things and events which had been considered as understood. Pandit Ravi Shankar, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shiv Kumar Sharma; I am a big fan of all of them. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi from a very long time and of course Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.
Q. Do you think that Indian culture is under threat from foreign influences?
A. No, nothing like that. It is impossible not to be influenced by the world around you. One does not have to leave one’s home to stay in touch with the world. It is all available at the touch of a button. People are too bothered about what is happening on the surface. Indian culture is far too resilient.
Q. Most musicians and artists are convinced that it is about to be overwhelmed?
A. These doomsday conspirators are not realizing that what they now hold to be pure and sacred and untouchable was not so some time back. Santoor, tabla and even sarangi, all were meted step-motherly treatment by the then purists. It was because of the artists perseverance that they have attained the contemporary respect and stature which they rightfully deserve.
Q. You are an evolutionist?
A. Absolutely. One more thing, what people call as “World Music”, which is such a big fad presently is has existed for a long time, probably centuries. No one country can stake a claim to have originated what we now call music. Music has always been world music, otherwise it would not have become the universal ‘language sans barriers’.
Q. You have experienced the Classical music of two cultures, Indian and Western from close quarters. What are the insights you have gained in the process?
A. Many, as should be expected. Being an Indian musician on a strictly ‘Western’ instrument has given added inputs. The West believes in the execution part. Proficiency in representing the original piece composed by a Beethoven or a Mozart is of paramount importance to the audience and the critics in the West.
It is the technique that gains ascendancy in the process. One cannot deviate from the pinned notation sheet in front of one’s eyes. Indian classical music is altogether different. It is more like…
A. Yes, the exploratory aspects of both the forms bestow on the performer the added distinction of being the creator. This freedom again is, or at least should not be, taken for granted by anyone. The improvisational nature is what makes our music special and more invigorating for all concerned: the artist and the audience.
Q. Were you sure from the beginning that you would give the vocals yourself or did you consider someone else?
A. No, it was me from the very beginning. I have had vocal training and wanted to sing it myself.
Q. What is the kind of music you listen to, other than what you play?
A. A lot of stuff. If you come to my place, you’ll see only cassettes and C. D’s. Beatles has been an abiding favourite. The sixties and seventies have a stranglehold on me. I go for melody in all music. Dire Straits is another favourite, Pink Floyd. Madonna is another person one cannot fail to notice. I don’t like her entire work, but some are really good. There are hundreds of bands to discuss, but we won’t have the time.
Q. You have a three-album contract with Magnasound. Can we expect to hear more of your original strength: piano?
A. I don’t know about that, but piano will play an important role like in this one and melody too.
Q. Are you technophobic?
A. No, I think technology is more often misused and abused and thereby given a bad name. Look at Rahman. It is helping people with limited resources to record, publish and transmit music. It is a great service and power to the individual to explore art in various forms. It is just initial suspicion on everybody’s part. And the possibilities have exploded with the growth of the net.
Q. How do you assess the current Indi — Pop scene?
A. Please do not call it Pop. Everything is being categorized under just one section. There is absolutely no discrimination between one kind of music and the other.
Q. Do you think it is because of the clutter?
A. No, the clutter has less to do with it than the companies who market everything under one heading. If anything is not classical or Hindi filmi it is termed as Indi – Pop. There are no genres like blues, country, reggae and folk. We just lump everything together which is both insulting to the artist and the genre. Nothing is specialised and the quality suffers in the bargain. If I am good at ghazals and am told to review a pop album, then it is obvious that I will fail.
Interview by Srikant Malladi circa 2000-2001