Mumbai; England-born singer-composer Adnan Sami, who was granted Indian citizenship more than a year ago, says he has been greatly influenced by the folk music of the northeast and by maestros like Sachin Dev Burman.
"Northeastern folk music influenced me from a very young age. Sachin Dev Burman is one of the inspirational musicians in Indian film music. The way he fused folk music with his signature style... is amazing. So, I am aware of the beauty of northeast folk music," Sami told IANS in an interview at his suburban Andheri residence soon after after returning from shows in Johannesburg, Durban and London's Wembley Stadium, where he performed for the eighth time.
"Apart from the music, the natural beauty (of the northeast), its diverse cultures, the people and their hospitality... mesmerised me. I have gone to many beautiful places across the globe, but I must say that the northeast of our country is the best-kept secret in the world," said the ‘Lift kara de’ hitmaker, who is of Pakistani origin.
Trained in Indian and Western classical music and known for rapid playing on the piano, Adnan is popular for hit non-film songs like ‘Kabhi to nazar milao’, ‘Bheegi bheegi raaton mein’ and ‘Tera chehra’.
He also sang for Bollywood films like ‘Ajnabee’, ‘Saathiya’, ‘Joggers' Park’, ‘Lucky: No Time for Love’ and ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’.
He received his certificate of Indian citizenship from Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju in 2016 -- a step that resulted in a barrage of criticism from Pakistan.
Asked if that bothered him, he said: "I know people criticised my decision, but honestly, I don't care. And why should I? I am a singer. You love me or hate me based on my music. If you are judging me based on my nationality and religion, you are a racist. This is very offensive. I cannot encourage that."
Last year, he even hailed the Indian Army for conducting surgical strikes on terror camps across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. As a result, he got trolled on Twitter by some Pakistanis.
How difficult is it to be in people's good books if you are a celebrity who likes to share his opinions without fear?
"Being a public figure, you cannot make everyone happy. Some people will criticise your actions and I cannot stop expressing my opinion based on that. As far as my opinion on surgical strikes is concerned, I explained it to the media clearly.
"I always stood by my opinion and will do that in future as well. I have never made any frivolous comment and never will," said Adnan, who once weighed some 230 kg, but inspiringly shed well over half of that through a combination of diet and exercise.
He is now set to begin work on an upcoming Bollywood project. "We will be announcing the project very soon. I am composing songs for that."