In an industry where fickle item numbers and Hindi remixes rule the Indian charts for a few weeks before vanishing, the music of Kailash Kher has stood the test of time. As a singer, lyricist and composer, Kher is considered one of India’s top musical talents and rightly so. If you've heard 'Allah Ke Bande', 'Teri Diwani' or 'Saiyyan', you'll agree with us.
His powerful voice, poignant writing and inspiring personality have made him a household name in India and across the globe. Thanks to his populist approach and knack for writing catchy hits with his band Kailasa, Kher has helped bridge the divide between traditional and contemporary styles.
Gearing up for his very first world tour in April with his band, Kher tells The NRI why performing live across the world and creating his fourth album, Rangeele, is more meaningful than simply selling units.
You’ve just released your new album titled Rangeele with your band Kailasa. How did that come about?
Rangeele is my fourth album in conjunction with my band Kailasa who I have been with since 2004. Our fans globally have been quite angry on Facebook demanding to know why we hadn’t released something for a long while. The kept asking for us to come up with new stuff so it was long overdue.
What can your fans expect from Rangeele?
The album features eleven original tracks that are about discovering love from different perspectives. Rangeele is my accolade to love in all its forms, be it longing, passion, patriotism, devotion or even hatred. It is also my gratitude to all my listeners since this is a reflection of my observation of my fans through my eight year career journey.
Love is a recurrent theme in Indian music. Is it possible to make an album without a tribute to love?
Yes of course! Love fascinates me, which is why I write about it. But people write about anything and everything and that is okay. You are free to create whatever you want for entertainment. I always joke that wherever there is alcohol available there are also love, prayer and enlightening (laughs). It’s an individual choice.
Legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan is one of the surprise highlights on the album. How did you get him on board?
Apart from acting Amitabh ji is a great musician and singer because he knows folk music. He comes from a background of music and poetry as his father was a well known poet. I invited him to join us on 'Dharti Pe Jannat Ka Nazara', a song we were working on for the television show Kaun Banega Crorepati (Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire). I requested him to sing a few lines for that and he agreed. Once he did that we were all excited. To our surprise he came to our Kailasa recording studio and sang, so we just had to include this in Rangeele.
Your two-year-old son Kabir (pictured above) makes his singing debut in Rangeele. How did he end up contributing?
We were all surprised when we heard him humming the tunes as we created them in the studio. But as soon as we put him in front of the microphone he would get shy. We put in our best efforts and finally captured his vocals for Samvaad (Hudkaan Maan Bitti) which is a light-hearted song inspired by my childhood.
Your lyrics are often spiritual and intimate in nature. What kind of writing process to you go through when creating a new song?
When I write lyrics I don’t do that in formal written form but in the spoken language which we call ‘bol chal ki basha’. Then I compose a very intense melody and then Naresh and Paresh Kamath, my Kailasa music partners, kind of come up with a very real and organic song. So our sound is a very unique in its own way and our fans are more of a niche yet mainstream audience. They are very sincere and genuine and count our music as more of a classic form, a kind of a collector’s edition.
Your rich, powerful voice has earned you comparisons to Pakistani legend Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Is that a badge of honour or burden?
It’s a huge compliment but with that comes responsibility. I don’t take it lightly. Nothing can get me carried away because my beginning was very tough and I came through big hardships that made me realise that nothing comes easy. And if it does come easy then you have to give it your best and make the world a better place because of you.
Besides performing with Kailasa and appearing as a judge on reality television talent shows, you are synonymous with Bollywood playback singing. How did that aspect of your career come about?
My career actually started through jingles in 2002 when somebody heard my voice and only then I started getting offers for films. I had my band Kailasa and was working on my own private album and that’s also where people came across my style of singing. Luckily the film songs I sang became chartbusters. I have worked with big composers like A R Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Vishal Bhardwaj, Ram Sampath and Saleem-Suleiman and have learnt so much. God has been kind to put me through so many variations of work.
You have been involved with Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign in India. Do you have a political stance and where does the music fit in?
As a responsible citizen of India I always grew up listening to great people sacrificing for our country and our voice, so I am very sensitive to these things. When I heard about Anna Hazare and his movement I really wanted to do something. The best thing I could do was to compose music and so I wrote and performed the song 'Ambar Tak Yahi Naad Goonjege.' The song is very popular amongst the youth and Anna said it was being used as an anthem, especially in his village, to rally support. I composed it in April 2011 when he first went on hunger strike.
Kailasa is going in its first ever world tour beginning in April 2012. Where will that take you?
My band Kailasa and I haven’t been on tour before in the UK and Europe so we are really looking forward to coming to London, Birmingham, Leicester and Liverpool. The tour will make a pit stop in the Netherlands before moving on to the United States, Canada, Surinam and Trinidad amongst other Caribbean countries.
What can your fans expect to hear?
We will be performing crowd favourites like 'Allah Ke Bande', 'Teri Deewani' and 'Saiyyaan,' as well as tracks from Rangeele, plus Nusrat classics like 'Sanu Ek Pal Chain Na Avey.' People just go crazy for these songs. The concerts will be about giving audiences a rocking experience and enlightenment through music. We are very excited and looking for a good audience turn out. We want everyone to know that Kailasa is coming to your city and we are going to rock you and connect soul to soul. Come and experience it.
Why is it important for you to be part of a band?
I formed Kailasa because I had very different sensibilities for the kind of music I believed in creating. I come from the Indian countryside and all the band members, including the key founder members Naresh and Paresh, have been born and bought up in modern cities, so their influences are completely international and western sounded. But our sensibilities gelled completely and by some miracle they compliment each other.
You’re a role model to many. What’s your advice to aspiring singers and musicians?
Follow your instincts, listen to all kinds of music and don’t get stuck with only film music. Film music comes from all kinds of music. You can create your own way and your own interpretation of music and that’s how you can make a difference.
Kailash Kher and Kailasa’s UK Tour Dates:
Wednesday 4th April 2012 - Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Friday 6th April 2012 - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Sunday 8th April 2012 - HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London
Monday 9th April 2012 - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
For more information visit www.saregamaevents.com
Image courtesy of Saregama Events.