One of the demigods of contemporary Indian music, musician Paresh Kamath still feels like he’s playing a song for the first time when he sees his audience grooving in unison to his music. A prolific guitarist, a devoted musician, a man whose brainchild is the famous Indian band ‘Kailasa’ – Paresh Kamath is a lot more than what meets the eye.
Ananya Bhattacharya of Zeenews.com, in a hearty chat with the musician, seeks to permeate beneath the mantle of acoustic guitars and the mysterious half-smiles!
You’re just back from the US. A huge chunk of the United States has been a witness to your spell-binding performances and stupendous gigs. How does it feel when you see so many people swaying to your music – they just go mad with ecstasy when they hear you play – how is the entire feeling?
Even now it still feels very special. We never imagined that so many people would have so much of fun, it feels special every time. It’s nothing like ‘Oh we’re used to it’ and all. Even though we sing the same songs over and over again, the reaction of the audience makes it new every time. It feels like we’re playing a song for the first time ever. When people are happy and enjoying the show, they emanate a lot of positive energy, which make us perform better.
How was it in the US?
It was very good. We did twelve shows; one had got cancelled due to the rain there. The audience comprised about 5% non-Indians, and it felt heavenly to see them enjoying our show thoroughly. Kailash (Kher) is really famous in the US, mainly because of ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs’ that he hosted. Many of the people there hadn’t even heard of our most popular numbers; they were clueless regarding ‘Saiyyan’ and ‘Teri Deewani’ and the like. They were listening to us for the first time, and the level of enthusiasm in the audience was truly overwhelming.
‘Saiyyan’ and ‘Teri Deewani’ are perhaps by far the most popular songs that you have created. The universal themes of pathos and pining for a loved one are at the core of the songs, and your music takes that emotion to a different crescendo altogether. What is the mystery behind being able to connect to so many people?
Well... I don’t know... In America, for example, they don’t know our music. They were there to see Kailash after they saw him on ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’. But now they’ve heard our new album, ‘Rangeele’, and it was a completely different, new audience. They hadn’t heard these songs, and they’d come for the first time, so that felt extremely good.
Coming to ‘Rangeele’, you have incorporated an entire array of musical instruments – ranging from a harmonium to a violin. The coordination between the western and Indian instruments is truly commendable. What was behind such an amalgamation?
Basically, I can’t put a finger on it and point out the exact reason. We just felt that it’d be really good to get a mandolin or a harmonium there. A song like ‘Daro na rang’ – a harmonium kind of a song – sounds like a heavy rock song now. It just felt like it would be the most radical thing to have a harmonium there. We aim at creating something unique, something that people have never heard before. The person, who played the harmonium for that song, is actually a keyboard player. It is fun. We try to make it very non-serious in the studio.
Your song ‘Dharti pe jannat’ from ‘Rangeele’ features Amitabh Bachchan. How was it working with the quintessential superstar of the Hindi film industry?
To be honest, I wasn’t present at the studio the day he had come. But Kailash told me later that he nailed the song in the very first try. They just gave him his part, and he spoke those in his own style, and it was done!
As far as the Copyright Bill is concerned, after the Rajya Sabha passed it, how is the ambience in the music fraternity? Have they welcomed it wholeheartedly?
Deeply. This is a huge, huge thing. All these years that we made all these albums, only the company stood to make money from it. Of course, we did play live at our gigs, but since they own the rights, for every performance we need to pay them a certain amount of money. You’re not supposed to play a song – even live – since you don’t own it. Can you imagine! We wrote the song, we composed the music, and now we are paying money to perform our own song live. It was really weird and strange – all your effort – and they make money out of it, that too in perpetuity! With this bill, the whole community is really happy. In the West, it is different. They earn royalties every time it is played on the radio, or someone creates a cover. In India, after a few years, you’ve lost all your money. With this bill, people will work harder and more youngsters will take music up as a profession. Everything’s about to change.
The fusion of Sufi, Pop, at times we hear snippets of folk music, and at others we hear classical beats in your compositions. What made you take up such an eclectic form of music?
Mostly the song ideas come from Kailash, he hums the tunes that he loves, but I might not like them. Sometimes the things he likes seem depressing to me. For example, I didn’t much like the song ‘Daaro na rang’ in the beginning, then I incorporated heavy guitars and drums into it. There was a gap of a few days, and when I came back to the studio and heard it, it didn’t sound good at all! So I changed it to the way it is now – and it worked! It is very abstract – how it happened, why it happened. We wanted to change it all, and used electric guitar and distortion and hence we re-invented ourselves. We also wanted the Western audience to be able to connect to it. We wanted to change our ‘serious’ image to a more fun-oriented one.
Which is your favourite number from ‘Rangeele’?
I think ‘Kathagaan’ and ‘Daaro na rang’. These two are done differently. ‘Yadaan teriyan’ also – was totally fun.
In the end, what is your message for youngsters who want to take up and pursue music as a career?
It’s the most fun profession, in a lot of ways but it comes with its own difficulties. There are a lot of people, you see, who take up music to impress girls and look ‘cool’ and the like! That’s all fine, but one should be a good musician first. You gain a lot of respect from people. Practice a lot, work on your music. It is a very funny business. The better you become as a musician, the less people understand you. Just go with your passion, do what you believe in. If you choose music, just follow it, don’t let anyone stop you!