Renowned singer, composer and sound engineer Sukhwinder Singh believes that while good singers are easy to come by, it is a daunting task to find good listeners; that happens only seldom. Ananya Bhattacharya of Zeenews.com caught up with the voice behind the chart-smashing hits ‘Chhaiyya chhaiyya’ (‘Dil Se’), ‘Jai ho’ (‘Slumdog Millionaire’), ‘Chak de’ (‘Chak De! India’) and found out more. Excerpts from the conversation:
After ‘Chhaiyya chhaiyya’, there’s been no looking back for you. From Amritsar to the peak that you inhabit now – in a few words, how would you describe your journey so far?
There’s only one thing – if you feel insecure regarding your career, there’s nothing much you can do. Basically, the first step is recognising one’s calling – whether a person is interested in sports or music or politics and so on. Once a person realises that his/her interest lies in the territory of music, one needs to understand that music has been created to serve either the field of entertainment or that of the divine. Agar aap deewane nahi ho, aap deewana nahi kar sakte. (If you’re not passionate about music, you won’t be able to bring that zeal in people.) If you’re stubborn, people won’t enjoy your music. Since childhood, I’ve had this unexplainable passion towards music. I’ve never had any attraction towards awards. Keep singing, keep enjoying music. Let others appreciate you, do not appreciate yourself.
The unfathomable love that your listeners have for you – that apart – how would you rate yourself as a singer?
I consider myself the best listener. I believe that whoever is able to listen, is able to understand; and one who understands, accomplishes a task. I don’t think of myself as the best singer, but definitely the best listener.
What ‘Chhaiyya chhaiyya’ did for you in India, ‘Jai ho’ did globally. Whenever Sukhwinder Singh and AR Rahman have been together, each number has been a hit. What do you have to say about your association with AR Rahman?
Our music has been loved because – I believe – two composers were working on a single number. Whenever he (AR Rahman) had to work on a special song, he’s always roped me in. After winning the Oscars (for ‘Jai ho’ from ‘Slumdog Millionaire’), we’ve done three songs together – and each of them was special. He is a very unique artist. His judgment about songs almost always hits the bull’s eye. He’s a very good sound editor, a brilliant music arranger and the best sound engineer in the country. He makes a singer sing a song randomly, and then crafts it to perfection. Rahman used to be too staid and perfect; I infused colour and lighter things into the recording atmosphere.
A considerable part of the music fraternity in the country has recently been facing ire from a certain section of politicians at the moment: I’m referring to the music reality show ‘Sur Kshetra’. Do you feel Pakistani artistes should be allowed to perform in India?
They are not allowed to perform music in their own country; they lead lives of penury there too – how many names do I take! There are many artistes in Pakistan who still live in rented houses; obviously they’ll search for a way to sustain themselves. The country nearest to them is India, therefore we find so many Pakistani artistes here. Whenever people are in trouble, their own people come to their rescue – the same holds true for Pakistani artistes too, and India and Indians are nothing less than their own people for them. Pakistan cannot afford to organise shows for someone like me – leave alone the more famous ones! However, when it comes to national integration, unless Pakistan apologises to India on certain issues, ideally their artistes should not be allowed to perform in India. India and we Indians are people who are exponents of the virtue of forgiveness – and they are allowed to perform in the country. As far as ‘Sur Kshetra’ is concerned, I’ve heard that the show is being presented as more of a tamasha (drama) than a competition. I feel that should not be done.