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Of Sufi Sounds

Singer Shahid Mallya talks to Titas Chowdhury about his latest song Bulleya from RAW – Romeo Akbar Walter, and about carving a niche for himself

Singer Shahid Mallya’s musical career started with playing the tabla at a gurudwara. He shot to fame with a ballad from its Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja starrer Mausam. He followed it up with chartbusters in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Student Of The Year, 2 States and Udta Punjab, among others.

His latest song, Bulleya, from John Abraham-starrer spy thriller RAW – Romeo Akbar Walter, is a new feather in his cap. Talking about his first collaboration with Punjabi music sensation Rabbi Shergill in the song, he excitedly says, “Rabbi Shergill is a very good human being and artiste. He is an amazing pop singer. He has given us chartbusters like Bullah ki jaana and Tere bin sanu sohneya in the past. His songs are very unique. Initially, I had no idea that I would share the song with him. When I realised I would, I was overjoyed.”

Mallya continues, “Even though the song brought us together, I did not meet him while recording it. In future, we will hopefully meet and have lots of conversations. Inshallah, we will meet each other during the premiere of RAW.”

Sharing some details about the romantic track, he says, “Long ago, when I had recorded this, it had only my voice. They added Rabbi Shergill’s later. The song has a lot of romance in it. I would call it a Sufi-style romance. Bulleya is another name of Bulleh Shah, a poet from Punjab. We have not used his poetry in the song, only his name. Bulleya refers to someone who does not worry about the world and is selfless. Bulleh Shah’s kalam says that he did not care about the world, about people or about religion. He believed that humanity is the biggest religion. So the word ‘Bulleya’ came from him. Nowadays, there are romantic connotations that are attached to it. That is why a person in love is often called a bulla. Our song is a blend of Sufi spirit and romance.”

Taking us back to the first time he experienced success, Mallya says, “The biggest turning point in my life came in the form of Rabba main toh mar gaya oye from Mausam. I replaced Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in the track. Pankaj Kapurji and Pritamji gave me the opportunity to sing the song. This song released in 2011 and became the biggest hit that year. It got me many awards and nominations and people began to recognize me.”

For Mallya, learning is the key to success. “You cannot become an artiste or make an artiste. You are born with a creative bent but you have to keep learning to brush up your skills. If you ask the biggies like Zakir Hussain and Anoushka Shankar, even they will tell you that they are still learning. There is no end to learning.”

Asked about the influx of new music talent into the industry, he states, “This industry is like an ocean of musicians and creative people. It seems like there is a whole crowd of singers today. There are so many reality shows. They undoubtedly are great platforms. But it is like harvesting crops. The surplus rots because they cannot be consumed. Mere khayaal se har kisi cheez ka extra paidaavaar karna is like wastage of talent. Every house in India has a singer or a dancer. I would not call it a competition. It is about learning from other people, honing your craft and keeping yourself updated so that you stand out.”

What is that one change he would like to see in the industry? “I strongly believe that we have some amazing voices in our country. I am not against artistes from other countries but I feel that Indian voices should be promoted more than anyone else. There are many talented musicians in our country who are struggling, and I do not advocate prioritising others over them.”

The songster says he feels fortunate to have created a name for himself in the music scene. “I am lucky that I am getting work. At a time when the industry is full of talented singers, I feel like I am lucky to be able to stand my ground. I am getting work, lots of love and recognition from people around me. I want to maintain this momentum.”

Mallya has his platter full with film songs and a bunch of singles. “I am working with Amit Trivedi sir and Pritam sir. I am also collaborating with new composers. I can’t divulge too many details because these days you never know if they will retain your voice for songs,” he says.

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