One of the biggest highlights of high-profile Bollywood release Bajrangi Bhaijaan is the Bhar Do Jholi song delivered by Adnan Sami.
The track has been declared a super hit since it was officially released a couple of weeks ago and sees Adnan singing a qawwali for the first time.The popular singer also features in the picturisation of the song during a key moment in the big Eid movie release, and not surprisingly, has been thrilled by the response to the song.
Eastern Eye caught up with Adnan recently to talk about the landmark song, his future plans, close bond to legendary singer Asha Bhosle and more.
You’re such a great singer and all your Bollywood songs do really well. So why don’t you do more film songs than you do?
(Smiles) Thank you. Well the thing is, I have always been a little selective about what I do. I have been in the music business as a recording artist for 30 years and if you look at it with respect to that, you will see that I have a pretty large body of work, but not nearly as much as what others have done in the same time. That is simply because of the fact that I have never gone on a rampage.
Why is that?
I have been doing things at my own pace, Asjad. I do things when I want to do them and when it feels right. I will never record, sing or compose a song just for the sake of doing it. I do it when I am truly inspired because I feel it needs to come from the heart. So that is why I have been so selective.
How were you persuaded to do a song for Bajrangi Bhaijaan?
Out of the blue, I got a call from Salman (Khan) and he said there was a fabulous qawwali he would really love for me to sing. I said, ‘you know what, I have never sung a qawwali before ever’. His response was that was exactly why he felt it would sound very different because I will bring a certain freshness with my take of a qawwali and that’s where the challenge came in. I found it so exciting, I felt it would be nice to come out of my comfort zone and explore as an artist. I’m glad I took that challenge because I was able to discover something new about myself.
For example, I had never sung in that pitch before. Qawwalis are very high pitched, normally. I didn’t know I could hit those notes (laughs). The other reason, of course, is my close and special relationship with Salman. He is like family, so there is no way I would turn him down. Then, of course, he also asked me to appear in the song on screen. Again that was something I have never done before.
How did it feel actually appearing in the film and the song being picturised on you?
Though I have done film songs, I have stayed away from making a special appearance in them. (A lot of singers do that and that is fine). But when Salman asked me to do it, I couldn’t say no to him because he is too loving a guy.
Where did you shoot it? The location is great.
It’s a gorgeous location. We shot it in Kashmir at an actual dargah (shrine), so the whole atmosphere was just so elevating, literally. The location was breathtaking. It was really an amazing experience and very emotional. It was one of the most unique experiences I have had shooting for any film or music video.
In my opinion, this is the best Bollywood song by far that has been released this year. Did you know it would be a special song when you recorded it?
To be honest, yes, I did. Like I said, I was walking on completely new turf, so there is that certain apprehension. I remember I kept telling my engineer, ‘listen, this is an emotional track’. I have always emoted for a romantic song and when I do that, there is a softness, but I said, ‘no, this is an emotion that is like a pukar (calling) to God. It’s like a plea to the Almighty. I need you to be clear about the fact that I don’t suddenly go all mushy.’ I needed that power to be there as opposed to becoming soft when you become emotional. I was very conscious about that, but I knew there was something very special in this qawwali. I am very happy with how it turned out.
Bhar Do Jholi is an adaptation of a classic qawwali. Did you reference any previous renditions, like the Sabri Brothers version?
No, I didn’t. I had heard the Sabri Brothers had done a rendition many years ago but I didn’t want to listen to it because the whole purpose in Salman’s argument was he wanted my take on it. He said, ‘if I want a seasoned qawwal, then there are so many. I am coming to you because I want a brand-new take on this genre’. This is a very traditional old qawwali and he wanted me to give it a completely fresh approach.
So I consciously did not want to reference anybody. After I finished singing it and it was put into the mix, I listened to the Sabri Brothers qawwali and that is gorgeous, of course, but it’s completely different. I am glad I gave it my own interpretation.
What else is happening on the musical front for you?
I am working on a new project as an actor and am going to be composing the music for it as well, of course. We are also talking about releasing some solo singles. We are now in the singles zone, if you know what I mean.
You have achieved an incredible amount but do you have any unfulfilled musical ambitions?
You know, the most beautiful thing about music is that there is just always so much more to explore. I open one door and then 10 more doors are opened. For example, I didn’t see doing a qawwali coming my way and now there it is. There are lots of areas I would like to explore. Let’s see where that goes.
Eastern Eye recently announced Asha Bhosle as the greatest Bollywood singer of all time and I know you have a very close bond with her. What was it like working with her and how much does she mean to you?
On a personal note, she is like a mother to me. As a singer, I think she is one of the most phenomenal artists India has ever witnessed, with the ability to make any genre her own. She has excelled in any genre that has been presented before her. You know, the most beautiful thing as a music composer whenever I have recorded her is that she makes you feel like a kid in a candy store.
What do you mean?
You have a composition, you throw her a line and she finds about 10 different ways of interpreting that melody. You start picking and choosing, and suddenly become greedy and want it all. There is so much of music and innovation inside her. One of the greatest things I learned from her was how to convey whatever emotion you are trying to sing in front of a microphone. If it’s a happy song, make sure you are smiling because that will come through, because of the way you widen your lips. Even though there is not a camera capturing your face, it will still come through. So there’s so much I have learned from her. She is an institution, undoubtedly.
Finally would you like to give us a message for your fans?
First of all, I want to thank everyone for all the love they have shown me. They are the spine of my artistic being because they have given me so much of a lifetime worth of love and support. I miss them and I haven’t performed for them in the UK for quite a few years. I know there are lots of people who want me to come back and Britain is also like a home country for me because I grew up there. I love them and I just want to wish them all the best. Thank you for all the love and keep listening.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan will be in cinemas on July 16