Q. What are your views on fusion music? Contemporary musicians in India and abroad have been attempting to combine the sufi tradition with more modern musical styles like pop and rock. Do you think such merging of musical genres always works well?
A. It is said when everyone tries to do the same thing, the thing gets ruined. There are people who know how to merge both these styles well, and they have been doing it for years. But what I think is that this genre is not being promoted well these days. Most of the artists are not getting the chance to showcase their talent, and are also not getting the opportunity to produce good music.
Q. Of late, several actors have tried their hand at singing. For instance, Aliya Bhatt, Salman Khan and Sonakshi Sinha among others have all turned singers, for better or worse. Do you think it affects the popularity of professional singers?
A. Singing is about letting your heart out. Everybody has a different taste. One can sing in his or her house, or even in the bathroom. When these actors think it is better for their films if they decide to sing in their movies, there’s nothing wrong in that. One also has to look towards making the films one does profitable. So, anybody can sing. Lekin gana, gana bahut mushkil kaam hain, ye zehen me rakhna chahiye [But singing is a very difficult thing to do, this should be borne in mind.]
Q. What do you have to say about the way contemporary songs are being sung in Bollywood, and about the kind of music which is being made nowadays?
A. Remember that good music is always being made at all times. Sometimes, it can be very good. But there are times when you can also see bad music being made. There is music being produced that you can’t make heads or tails of, the kind of music that need not be composed at all. But then, amid all this, you always have something good coming out.
Q. So if we talk about good music being made now, who would be your favourite contemporary singer?
A. Arijit Singh has sung good songs.
Q. Your uncle, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, was a living legend in the world of music. What has his impact been on your life and career?
A. My whole musical education comprises all that I learnt only from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sahab. Whatever I know about music, I know because of him. And, this would continue helping me in my career. Whatever he taught me, you can still see reflected in my singing.
Q. How was he as a teacher? Was he strict with you or did he pamper you as you belonged to his family?
A. He was a very good teacher. Gussa bahut kam hote the, par agar hote the toh jabardast gussa hote the [Seldom did he get angry, but when he did, he got really angry]. He used to get angry when someone did not sing well. I also got scolded by several times. He used to pamper us, and scold us as well. I enjoyed the time I spent with him immensely.
“My whole musical education comprises all that I learnt only from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sahab. Whatever I know about music, I know because of him. And, this would continue helping me in my career. Whatever he taught me, you can still see reflected in my singing.”
Q. Do you think there is a lack of popular melodies in Bollywood music based on Indian classical ragas these days?
A. This depends mainly on the work of producers, directors and scriptwriters. If the story is written according to these ragas, one can see classical ragas in films. Consider for example the film, Bajirao Mastani, which has such a story that can accommodate classical music.
Q. But is Bollywood doing enough to promote Indian classical music?
A. Classical music is being promoted in a limited way. But the kind of promoting that’s required is not being done. Yet songs based on classical music are being made. If you see Bajirao Mastani, the music in it is based almost entirely on Indian classical music. And everybody has appreciated the film and its music.
Q. You are one of the performing artists in MTV Unplugged’s fifth season. How did you like working on the show?
A. It has been a great experience. Musicians can really showcase their originality on this show. One can see the variety in terms of the music one hears in the previous seasons of the show, as well as in the new season.
Q. What about your future plans for your musical career? Any upcoming individual projects, or Bollywood films in the pipeline?
A. I will be performing live and in private shows. I will also be performing some concerts based on Hindustani classical music in India. I have, meanwhile, finished doing some songs for Bollywood films, which are slated to be released later this year.