Adnan Sami discusses his latest album, and why change matters little, in music and food

Waiting in his plush, dark room at Le Meridien, where Adnan Sami is rounding off an interview about his latest album “Press Play”, I am privy to a revealing moment. Asked for his opinion on the phenomenon of the mash-up in music, Sami looks around the room searchingly, before confessing he’s never heard the term.

If Sami gives the impression of having quantum leaped from the mid 2000s, there is some basis to it. He is emerging from a near-complete absence of five years, during which he battled a life threatening weight situation first and then the death of his father. He speaks of his absence as a sabbatical, but a sabbatical in the ephemeral world of music can be a cruel, unforgiving thing. Is he worried about the way things have changed in the interim, musically speaking?

After a thoughtful pause, he says, “Music is always changing. The fact that it’s changing is not a new phenomenon. And it has to change because that’s the nature of evolution. People will keep experimenting and some of them will stick and become trends briefly.”

Distinguishing himself from a fad, however, he says, “You have flavours of the month and then you have certain flavours that are everlasting. You’ll have the exotic flavours popping up every now and then but then you’ll have the classics like strawberry, chocolate, vanilla which will always be there. These phases frankly speaking are unimportant in the long run. They don’t warrant any kind of reaction.”

Although he was speaking only metaphorically earlier, Sami is indeed a fan of chocolate — “as ice cream, in cakes or in its pure form – “like a Godiva or a Neuhaus. Who doesn’t like chocolate?”

Navigating a busy interview schedule, Sami doesn’t have time for a patient sit-down meal. He has therefore ordered room service. As he digs into the healthy looking insalata caprese salad, made of marinated plum tomato, buffalo mozzarella and toasted pine nuts, he quips that we are probably five years too late to this interview. But even though he has shed over 130 kilos, food is a topic he can readily hold forth on.

“I love to eat out. I am not able to do that because of my schedule. So I end up ordering in. But if I have the opportunity and the choice, I like to go out. I enjoy the whole ambience. It’s a complete package. You’re experiencing the food hot off the oven. But when I am travelling for work, I have to deal with room service, which is, in some places, quite good.”

Although a resident of Mumbai for the last 14 years, Sami travels to Delhi frequently. He counts Old Delhi as one of his favourite food destinations, but laments that he is not able to go there as often as he would like to.

Returning to the topic of his new album, he says, “There are quite a few firsts for me. I’ve never done a Sufi song (“Ali Ali”) or a Punjabi song (“Kudi Tight”) before. This is the first time anybody has used the azaan with music… In my note in the inlay I have been very specific in saying to the listener that I don’t want to colour your mind with my interpretation. I want you to experience and feel the album and conclude for yourself what it means to you. If I named the album “Ali Ali” it would have been considered a Sufi album, if I called it “Kudi Tight” it would have been considered a Punjabi album. For once I just turned around and said ‘you know what let them just put the CD in the player and press play.’”