From Kun Faya Kun to Kilimanjaro, playback singer Javed Ali’s soulful numbers are much loved across the length and breadth of the country, making him a preferred voice of many music directors. While some feel that his forte is romance, others believe it to be Sufi music. Ask the singer himself, and he says that he is still discovering his music and it is unlikely for it to be in any single genre. The singer opens up about his life, his journey in music and what lies ahead.
A middle class background and the lack of a ‘godfather’ in Bollywood might be quite the challenge for anyone trying to make a mark in the film industry. But Javed, who started from humble beginnings in 2000 believes that his greatest gift was his sound understanding of music. “I was fortunate enough to be exposed to good music right from my childhood. I was a huge fan of Ghulam Ali saab and being from a musical family, my father saw my interest in music very early on. He thought this interest should be developed and he not only trained me, but also enrolled me in a lot of competitions, which gave me the necessary confidence.”
The journey however wasn’t always easy, he adds. “Coming from a middle class background, I faced a lot of hardships during my initial years in Mumbai. I did not have much money and had to sing jingles and bhajans to survive. But those years taught me that a singer should be versatile.” And although he had a leaning towards Sufi music, today Javed dabbles in every genre that comes his way. “Some of my fans tell me that my voice is more suited for romantic numbers, some others say I do Sufi songs better. But that just goes to say that people are more aware of the different genres now. More people are getting exposed to sufi music because of Bollywood, which is good.”
While he makes his songs seem so easy, ask Javed how he goes about his music and he says, “I don’t have to put too much effort into mainstream music. A song is not just defined by the situation and setting. Say for example, you have a sufi song, there is a particular tune — ethos and emotions attached to it. If you understand that it becomes easy.”
Telling us about how Bollywood has changed over the years, Javed says, “Today, Bollywood is a collage of several sensibilities. It has leaned more towards world music in that way. There is so much music that is being created and there is a lot of work for musicians. There is a very high range and quality in Bollywood music today. Bollywood music is universal and thanks to it, there is more awareness among the fans. Say for example, there is a Sufi number that becomes a huge hit, it will naturally add more audience to classical and hardcore Sufi music. The same goes for other sensibilities such as folk and Hindustani.”
While he has his hands full with Bollywood, Javed says that he has already put his own music plans into motion as well. “I do see myself doing more than just playback singing. In fact, I already have a couple of plans. I want to do a mehfil album and also do something in Ghazals—these are very close to my heart. In independent music, you are the badshah and there are no restrictions, which allow you to embrace your true music. Whereas in playback, your first obligation is to your music director and then to your sensibilities.”
Apart from all these plans, Javed also performs in a number of events around the country. His recent performance at the NCPA titled Samaa regaled his fans in Mumbai. Telling us about his performance, Javed says, “It was a mix of all my songs — Sufi and Bollywood and everything in between. Last year too, I had performed a bandish at the NCPA and the audience that comes there is one of my most favourite. It is a wonderful crowd to perform for.”
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