Sonu Nigam speaks to Priyadarshini Paitandy about his musical journey ahead of his show in Chennai on February 26
“If I sing all my hits it’ll take me 12 hours,” says Sonu Nigam ahead of his performance in Chennai. Well, that’s understandable considering he’s spent more than half his life singing. He’s 40 now but has been in the music industry for 22 years.
Sonu moved to Bombay in 1991. “Struggle was the only way to become a singer. There were no reality shows. I used to wait outside peoples’ offices for hours,” Sonu recalls and adds, “You could not become a singer if you didn’t get the sur right. But now, if one has a different voice, he or she can become a singer. Other aspects can be technologically modified.”
There are many singers these days but very few have trained themselves to record a song in one take like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Today with technology, people can record in multiple layers and takes and over a period of time, he says commenting on the current music scenario. “People who are good in their craft get respected more. I always wanted to become a respected singer…also wanted to be financially secure because I hadn’t seen that kind of money,” says the National award winner.
With his period of struggle way past him, Sonu has been one of Bollywood’s most popular singers, something he had never dreamt of during his initial years. He’s sung for Shah Rukh Khan, Sunny Deol, Abhishek Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan and younger actors including Shahid Kapoor, Siddharth, Ranbir Kapoor…the list is exhausting. He is now focussing on independent music. His latest release is a single titled ‘Trini Ladki’. It’s a chutney song. And the singer has been busy with its promotions, which is probably why getting an interview with him took a while. The song with peppy Caribbean beats is also apparently his son Nivan’s current favourite. Yes, the mop-haired kid who became famous with his version of the Kolaveri video.
And who is junior Nigam’s favourite singer? “Nivan listens to a lot of music and is more song-centric than singer-centric. But he loves me a lot,” laughs Sonu, who has collaborated with many international artists like Britney Spears, AVICII and Jermaine Jackson. Up next is a collaboration with Universal Music which he is tight-lipped about.
Having recorded songs in Tamil, Chennai isn’t new to him. Sonu has often visited this city for his recordings with A.R. Rahman and even performed here last year. Being on stage gives him a high as it helps him connect directly with his audience. “Stage shows make you realise how good or bad you are as a singer. I do around 40-50 shows a year.” He’s gearing up for the Klose to My Soul show in the U.S. in April, where he will be accompanied by a 50-member orchestra and apparently, the event will also have a lot of dancing.
What does he have in mind for the concert in Chennai? “I’ll stick to my repertoire. Every show is different. I gauge the pulse of the place when I am backstage and perform accordingly. I’ll entertain a few requests as well,” he says. So, that should include his, as well as our favourites such as ‘Abhi Mujh Main Kahin’, ‘Suraj Hua Madhdham’, ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ and a few old songs of his role-model Mohammad Rafi we hope!
(The event organised by Olive...The Design Place will be held on February 26 at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, 7.15 p.m. onwards.)