interview Lucky Ali, who has always made music on his own terms, is now on to a mega project with the producer who was associated with the Rolling Stones
H is music are so much like the man. Lucky Ali (born Maqsood Mehmood Ali) is informal, down-to-earth, and sensitive. Unshaven, very casual, Lucky Ali has a disarming smile, gentle hazel eyes. He strikes you as a person who is absolutely sans airs. And this impression is confirmed after a long chat with him. He speaks with pauses, looks you straight in the eye when he does, does not shirk away from an answer.
The songster-composer-actor who kept a whole generation foot-tapping to his fresh brand of music, the actor who stole numerous hearts, suddenly disappeared from the scene only to be seen lending a voice for farmers or as ambassador in an awareness drive against diabetes. Lucky Ali released his latest album ‘Xsuie' (meaning ‘at your own pace' in Urdu) on the Internet. And now he is working with Perry Margouleff who produced many international bands like the Rolling Stones. In Kochi for a concert at JTpac, his first-ever in the State, Lucky Ali talks about his loneliness, his new projects, music, Bollywood, his father and more. Excerpts from the interview:
Your first ever composition was a lament called ‘Nobody Loves Me.' Does that lament linger?
That happened when I was a kid. Being sent away to boarding schools in the Himalayas was terrible. It was such a lonely phase. I felt a stranger even with my family. ‘Nobody Loves Me' was my way of making people around listen to me, turn them towards me. Of course, that lament does not linger. I get so much of love.
You have always stated that you never wanted to be seen in your father's (noted comedian Mehmood) shadow. But surely your father must have played an important role in framing your life and career.
I shared a love-hate relationship with my Dad. He always wanted me to be independent. I think there were times when he felt I would not be able to find my spurs. And I, like any young boy, was a sort of rebel. He tried to launch me into films even making a film (Dushman Duniya Ka) with the central character named Lucky. I was reluctant to act but went to sing in this film. Dad showed me the door and asked me to see what life was all about. And I went. When I did all that I could from cleaning carpets, working in an oil rig I thought he was happy. He told me that I should not ask for favour from anyone even if I had to drive an autorickshaw for a living. Today when Dad is not with me I feel his absence.
You were always a reluctant actor, weren't you? What does Bollywood mean to you?
Films were certainly a space where I could make an early entry because of my Dad's and aunt's (Meena Kumari) standing. But frankly films were never my priority. In spite of having acted in films every now and then, I always thought I was on the periphery of the industry. Being cast into a mould was a bit too stifling. Music was my passion and I hope it shall remain so till my last breath.
I'm not a trained singer. I was never taught by a ‘guru' and I'm still learning. Music for me is something to connect with people. Music reminds you of the beauty and love in the world. It transcends language, nationalities and reminds you that imagination is still alive. Even when I was slogging on the oil rig I used to go up on the platform with my guitar and sing. Music has been the force that has kept me going.
Why then did you remain silent for nearly five long years?
I simply wanted to keep away from the system. The music industry was so demanding. For me I love to work on my own pace, sing the songs I love. I now work with like-minded musicians, creating music that is so satisfying. It is an attempt to find an alternative to the present system. I was waiting for the right time to express myself. That's how the new album ‘Xsuie' came about. I also did a lot of other things other than music during these years, like farming, tending horses, camels, emus and so much more.
‘Xsuie' was released on the Internet without a label. You said that this was done because the world is on a different platform altogether and so we need to change even in music. Why then this release of a ‘real' album now?
Yes. The new album was released on the Net. This May we'll be releasing it commercially. This happened because I found that so many had no access to it as you had to pay for it through credit cards. This album will not be marketed the conventional way. We'll announce that we have made this many copies and if someone is interested in buying, he/she can contact us directly. The album is being brought out by Surplus Entertainment, a new cooperative of musicians, and an arm of Surplus Group of which I'm a partner.
What are the other projects on the anvil?
There's this album I'm doing with Perry Margouleff. He is an American music producer who has produced many internationally acclaimed artistes like Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones. I can't tell you what the album will be called but it will be a mix of East and West, Perry is writing a song with Roger Waters. And there will be English versions of some of my old hits too. Hopefully the album will be ready by August-September this year.
Apart from travel, farming took a lot of your time. You were also known to be a voice of the farmers, leading delegations on their behalf. What's happening now?
I'm now moving out of my farm, which is an hour's drive from Bangalore city. The city has encroached on the land, the farm is cut through by new roads. City rats have invaded the farmland. This sort of development is inevitable. I realised it was time to move on. We'll now do it again in a different way, this time with Surplus Group in tow. We have bought land further away from the growing city where we are into the first phase of what we have called ‘agritecture.'
We'll be having what is now referred to as sky farms. There will be buildings, green walls or vertical gardens.
It's a form of urban gardening that involves growing vegetation on the walls of your home or building.
As we develop we'll have an auditorium, a studio and also a music academy. It's going to be another phase in my life.