'I am still not a big name'August 7, 2006
Another feather in composer (Dhoom) Preetam's cap, it has changed singer Zubeen Garg's life. His song Ya Ali stayed on the music charts for a long time.
In the first of a new Rediff.com series on talented movie singers, we spoke to Zubeen about how Bollywood discovered him:
Text: Srabanti Chakrabarti
Though lots of people have heard the Ya Ali number, few people know Zubeen Garg. Tell us something about yourself.
My father was a magistrate and as a result of his postings, I have travelled all over Assam. My mother was a professional singer. My grandmother was a very good singer as well.
So there was an ambience of music in our house for the last two, three generations.
It was natural for me to start my training in music right from my childhood. I learned the tabla for 11 years. I can play many folk instruments, thanks to my gurus, Rabin Banerjee and Ramani Roy.
During my school and college days, I won many awards for my musical abilities.
My first album Anamika was released in 1992 when I was in my second year at the B Barua College in Assam. It was a huge hit.
I have sung in almost every language in Assam, also in Bangla, Tamil, Telugu, Nepali and Marathi. I have also scored the music for an award-winning Bengali film.
Shifting to Mumbai was a natural move for me. But I am still keeping my options open in Assam. I want to make it big in Mumbai not just as a singer, but also as a music director. Only if I can make it big as a music director will I settle permanently here.
When did you land in Mumbai?
I came here finally around 1995-1996 and met Preetam. He too was a struggler then.
Using our common musical interests, we got along well. I sang a number of jingles for him.
But I did not have to struggle much in Mumbai. I mean, I did face hardships -- I still do -- but not like the other strugglers because I had an established career in Assam.
I own recording studios in Assam and scored music for 26 films before I came to Mumbai. So I did not face any financial difficulties.
If I did not have any backup in Assam, shifting to Mumbai would have been difficult. I came to Mumbai to have a pan-India presence.
I am still not a big name in Mumbai, and that's my mistake. Till a few years back, I was not fully settled in Mumbai and went off to Assam for a few months every year to work there as well. As a result, even if a music director wanted to get in touch with me, he could not do so. So I lost a number of good offers.
Which was your first Bollywood number? What else have you sung?
I knew (composer) Anand Raj Anand for a long time and it was through him that I got my first break in the film Kaante. I sang the song Rama Re, which went on to become a hit.
But the first song I recorded was the title song for the Jackie Shroff film Sandhya. It was a very nice number and I really put my heart into it. Unfortunately, the film got shelved.
After Kaante became a hit, I started getting offers and sang for Fiza (Mere Watan), Mudda (Sapne Saare) and Ek Hasina Thi (the title track).
How has life changed after Ya Ali?
Life has definitely changed. I am getting more attention and offers. I am happy that along with the song, the film has also been successful.
I always wanted to do good work and Ya Ali has given me the chance to do so. I am getting many offers now but I am choosing songs carefully, depending on the melody and lyrics.
Frankly, I have always wanted to do quality work and was never hungry for fame and quantity.
Any particular music director you share a good rapport with?
Preetam, he gave me my first hit! Plus, I have a very good understanding with him.
I also feel very comfortable working with Ranjit Barot. He is like my elder brother.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am singing a song in Arjun Rampal's film, which has music by Vishal-Shekhar. I am singing a duet with Shreya Goshal in Qurbani II under the baton of composer Anand Raj Anand. I am singing the English version of the song and director Feroze Khan was extremely happy after listening to my rendition.
I am singing the title song for Tanuja Chandra's Zindagi Rocks (music by Anu Malik) and Pritish Nandy Communications' Pyaar Ka Side Effects (composed by Preetam again).
I am also singing for Mohit Suri's Woh Lamhe and Sanjay Jha's Strings.
Besides this, I have been working on my album for the last two years. It will be a blend of North Eastern traditional and Western music. It should release in a couple of months.
Is it true that you are producing films as well?
Last year, I produced an Assamese film called Dinabandhu. I scored the music for the film as well. Dinabandhu won the National Award for Best Regional Film.
What is your dream?
I hope to compose a song for Sting and Pink Floyd someday, with Kenny G playing the sax!
ZUBEEN GARG COMPOSER
In the northeast, he is a household name. In the rest of the country, he is not exactly unknown. Remember the haunting title song of Fiza and Jaane kya hoga rama re in Kaante? Most of the 30 albums that Zubeen Garg has made have been successes. His recent shift—from Guwahati to Mumbai—has only broadened the 32-year-old's canvas. Assamese film, Dinobandhu, in which he plays second lead and has composed music, will make it to the Indian Panorama of the international film festival in India next year. A project he is excited about is Strings, a Bollywood-made English film, in which he is music director.
"Music is in my blood. My mother and grandmother are singers and my father Kapil Thakur is a renowned poet," says Zubeen.
In 1992, he began singing. His first album, Anamika, in which he was lyricist, composer and singer, was with Kavita Krishnamurthy. It was a hit. He has since helped compose music for Asoka and Dil Se. Along with best buddy Debo Kumar, he set up N.K. Productions and made Assamese film Tumi Mor, Matr Mor; the romantic thriller had Zubeen as the star; the story, lyrics, music and direction were also by him. Today, he has one leg in Assam and the other in Mumbai. "I always wanted to do Hindi films because of the national reach," he says.
He is an unabashed admirer of R.D. Burman, Ilayaraja and Sting and is close to Bhupen Hazarika. Zubeen and his band have worked with almost 250 Assamese tribes, learning over 5,000 folk songs. "I intend to bring all that to Mumbai," he says. "They are my weapons and tools."
Songs from Strings- Bound By Faith
Music Director: Zubeen Garg
Singer : Zubeen Garg
Singer : Zubeen Garg
Singer : Zubeen Garg