Titas Chowdhury talks to model-turned-actor Nora Fatehi, who shares her joy of turning vocalist for the first time with the Arabic version of Dilbar, and being an agent for bringing Indian and Moroccan cultures together
Months ago, Satyameva Jayate’s Dilbar broke records, took the nation by storm and emerged as the biggest chartbuster of the year. Nora Fatehi became an overnight sensation. The performer has now turned vocalist with the Arabic version of the song.
Talking about the rendition, she says, “After the release of Dilbar, I wanted to debut as a singer in that part of the world. We all just thought the best song would be Dilbar with an Arabic touch. People were singing Dilbar in Hindi and were going crazy over the song. We thought these were the same people who would appreciate the Arabic version. And what’s the best way to debut as a singer for me than to actually debut with a song that is already very hot?”
So what sets it apart from the version used in the film? “We made sure that this visual was nothing like the one I did for Satyameva Jayate. We created a story for the music video. My goal as a producer was to give it a very movie vibe. I wanted to make it appear fresh and different,” she reveals.
Shedding some light on the composition of the track, Fatehi remarks, “In terms of the music, the lyrics and the way in which we recomposed the song, it is very Moroccan. We have used Moroccan folk instruments. We have composed traditional Moroccan beats called reggada, which we have incorporated into the song. While we did all that, I wanted to stick to maintaining very Indian and Bollywood visuals. I wanted that mix in the music video, which is exactly like bringing two cultures together.”
The actor-singer enjoys a huge fan base in the Middle East. With Dilbar, she aims to bring her fans from Morocco and India together. “I didn’t realise that I had such a fan following in North Africa and the Middle East. I thought of cashing in on that. We don’t really have singers right now in my space who can dance as well. I want to be able to bring to my fans music videos where I am singing, performing and dancing, which we don’t have right now. I want my fans in Morocco to watch my Hindi films. I want my fans here to also watch my Arabic music videos. I am all about doing different things. I don’t mind being one of the few Hindi cinema artistes that dabble into two markets.”
Soon after its release, Dilbar became a phenomenon and a club anthem. Does Fatehi expect a similar response to the Arabic version? “The only thing I hope for is that this song marks my successful singing debut in North Africa and the Middle East. I am particularly hoping for this song to do well there because this is the beginning of a new career graph for me in a different market and this is the beginning of something I would love to do frequently, which is bringing Indian, Moroccan and Middle Eastern culture together through music and dance,” she says.
Fatehi has collaborated with a popular Moroccan band, Fnaire, for the song. “Fnaire is extremely popular in North Africa, the Middle East and even parts of Europe like France and Belgium. They have never featured with any artiste and they have been around for a good 17 years. I am the first singer they are featuring with, which is huge. Fnaire is also known for composing and writing lyrics. It was an advantage for me because I also had them recompose and write lyrics for Dilbar in a very Moroccan way and sing with me. We have some really nice vocals and kickass rap portions in the song, because two of the singers are rappers. They learnt dance for the music video,” she says.
Elaborating on the collaboration, she says, “It was a beautiful collaboration that will lend prestige to my image. They are very talented. They know music really well. The way they work on their music is very, very unique. I want to bring that here. It is going to be a life-changing collaboration for me.”
She says the song has changed her life. “It has opened many doors and a market for me which I otherwise would not have known how to dabble in. People from countries like Uzbekistan, Uganda and Nigeria have loved Dilbar. It has worked wonders for me. Being a singer in Arabic in the Middle East and North Africa is equal to being a Bollywood actor. There is a craze surrounding them over there.”
She adds, “People here in Bollywood are now paying attention to me. People are appreciating me for the fact that I am working slowly and making a mark without a godfather or a filmy name. I am glad that people are being inspired. Things are happening slow and nice,” says the vocalist.
Fatehi is glad that the music scene in India has changed over the years with singers finally getting their due. “There has been a nice change in the last five to six years. Now we have Badshah, Honey Singh, Hardy Sandhu and Kanika (Kapoor), who have created an image for themselves and their own space in the market. There was a time when no one knew what playback singers even looked like; it was only the person who lip-synced the song that got credit and fame.
“Now things are slowly shifting, with labels like Sony which are pumping money into creating an image for their artistes, and are putting them out there. Today, artistes are becoming stars of their own songs as it has always happened in the West. Now artistes with talent and confidence are bringing something different to the music scene which is outside the movie scene,” she remarks.
Fatehi has her slate full. She is currently busy with the shoot of Batla House and Bharat. She is looking forward to producing more content now that she has turned producer with the Arabic version of Dilbar. “I am in talks for a few projects. I am also listening to new beats and tracks for my upcoming songs in Morocco and the Middle East. I will keep going,” she smiles.