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Pasha of Punjabi pop

The badshah of bhangra on his forthcoming album, cars and green drive

Hindi pop singer Daler Mehendi

VOTED AS the Best Male Playback singer by Channel V for three consecutive years and recording commendable airplay on FM stations and music television, he gave a new brand to the tasha and dhol ensemble a.k.a Punjabi sound, pop, with all the associated jazz. If Elvis Presley is remembered for his white suit, dazzling stage presence and soulful vocals, the badshah of bhangra in his fluorescent green, yellow and peacock blue bejewelled self-designed lines, sets the stage on fire with his high-energy footwork and recital, not forgetting the good looking faces on his music videos. This time he flew down to the twin cities with his men in red playing on keyboards, dhol, drums, dholak, violin and guitar. And with songs from his new album Sha ra ra, slated for release in September.

The album appears to be a refreshing compilation of original scores with a lot of melancholy and classical vocal recital, "thanks to my ustads Bade Ghulam Ali and Rahat Ali Khan. One has to learn music and then make an album. Today unfortunately the remix trend and music videos are making the pop scene very vulgar. It has been limited to body show. Sha ra ra is an effort to provide a clean classic alternative," says Daler Mehndi.

Novel album

The compilation has all the trademark ingredients of his earlier Dardi rab rab, Bolo tara rara and Tunak tunak. But the scale is bigger, he says. "There is a bit of jazz and blue alike. We have Sivamani coming in for a song. To add novelty we have used a wedding band from Nasik. For the video, we have used 300 dancers, in comparison with 40 artistes generally used in Bollywood songs. My new album will be a trendsetter for the Hindi film industry," he says.

Talking about his work with Bollywood, not forgetting Mrityudata, where he had the Big B do a Na na na na naare naare with him, "it was a great experience working with Amitabh Bachchan. I have also worked with A.R. Rahman for Ahmed Khan's Lakeer and plan to do more films," he says.

Eco issues

If he helped raise funds in Pakistan with Imran Khan for the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, he has been working towards the betterment of environment back home, his Green Drive project. "We have planted over 8 lakh trees. The project cost us about Rs. 1 crore, financed wholly by me. The greenery makes me feel proud of our feat," he says. Yet another project close to his heart is the CNG fuel alternative for vehicles in the capital. The next thing to music that cheers him up is his passion for automobiles.

Ask him about his favourite Prado and his face lights up. "I used to drive my brothers vehicles, from a Chevrolet, Mustang to a Cadillac, as a taxi driver in New York. Wahin se mujhe cars ka shaukh hua (that's where I got interested in cars)," he says.

It has been a long arduous journey to the hall of fame for Daler Mehndi, rife with controversies of late. "There was not a moment during the ordeal that I stopped smiling. I took it as a test that Wahe Guru wanted me to go through," he recollects. And each time he bounces back with a renewed vigour, in the true spirit of Punjab. Borrowing from the title of a song from his forthcoming album, the new mantra he personally demonstrates Chilli na - translated don't give up - is sure to rock the GenX, come September.


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