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Salim Merchant all set for Diwali concert at Expo – Khaleej Times

Saturday, Nov 06, 2021 | Rabi Al-Aakhir 01, 1443
Published: Mon 1 Nov 2021, 2:14 PM
Last updated: Mon 1 Nov 2021, 4:52 PM
Celebrated music composer duo Salim-Sulaiman are no strangers to the UAE, having last performed in Dubai at Bollywood Parks in May 2019.
They also took to the city stage for an Eid concert in 2014, ahead of which they told City Times that making music was a “spiritual experience” for them.
Salim and his brother Sulaiman, whose careers have spanned almost three decades, are credited with composing music for over 100 Bollywood films including Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Band Baaja Baraat and Fashion and are also known for their independent releases featuring cinematic, folk, electronica and Sufi influences.
Anthems like Chak De! India from the duo – who also have their own music label called Merchant Records – remain endearingly popular.
Therefore when one half of this renowned sibling pair, Salim Merchant, dropped into the Khaleej Times office on Monday, October 28, we were suitably impressed.
Salim spoke about Expo 2020 Dubai, his love for the city and the UAE, and his first big live concert since the pandemic hit – a performance with Sulaiman and Vipul Mehta as part of Diwali celebrations at the India Pavilion at Expo on November 4.
Salim is also one of the latest Indian celebrities to be granted the UAE Golden Visa.
He shared on Instagram, “I’m so honoured to receive the Golden Visa from The United Arab Emirates! A country that values quality of life, believes in building community , supporting Arts & businesses & providing infrastructure for the future. I’m excited to be part of this Future! Thanks to Dubai Film and TV Comission and Saeed Al janahi for supporting Art & Artists. @filmdubai @aljanahi Thanks to @gdrfadubai @dubaiculture.”
A post shared by Salim Merchant (@salimmerchant)
Salim revealed he’s been busy since he flew into Dubai, throwing in a concert at Expo 2020 Dubai as well as a hyped cricket match which he called “disappointing” for its lack of competitiveness. He has also been rehearsing for the upcoming Diwali show and being a fitness freak, trying out activities like cycling and kayaking.
“A.R. Rahman invited me for the Firdaus Orchestra concert at Expo 2020 Dubai, which was very nice of him. The performance was beautiful, very impressive. I love the fact that he and the government of UAE were pushing the all-women orchestra, the first one in the world. It was very inspiring for so many women, and men too.”
A multicultural haven
Evidently enjoying an amazing trip to the UAE, Salim revealed what appealed to him most about the country, and Dubai. “I love the UAE in terms of its openness to different societies and cultures of the world, its mindset of diversity. I love the fact that the quality of life for families is so beautiful. Human development in terms of living standards is pretty high.
“It feels really good to be living here when it comes to working hours or family time.”
A post shared by Salim Merchant (@salimmerchant)
“And in Dubai, you get the best of both (worlds): partying and nightlife – whether it’s clubs, eateries and food, and then there are other great lifestyle activities like cycling, trekking and hiking… The infrastructure is mind-blowing. There is great stuff for families and kids – schools are fantastic. Of course I am not even looking at the malls and shopping (laughs). Dubai’s ruler has created a ‘Disneyland’ – it’s a great place to live!”
Salim who was all praise for the visionary work that led to Expo 2020 Dubai, let us in on what fans can expect from the Diwali concert at the India Pavilion.
“Firstly I am very thankful to be invited for the Diwali celebration – the festival is a big one and performing on Diwali at the Indian Pavilion at Expo means a lot to Sulaiman and myself.
“I know what the UAE government has built at Expo – I saw the infrastructure; so much money has been spent to showcase every culture and tradition and the positive (aspects) of different countries. It’s a great and fantastic showcase, and especially after this difficult time of Covid. They’ve managed to do such a magnificent job and I am very happy that I am a small part of a huge movement which is Expo 2020 Dubai.”
The upcoming Diwali concert is even more special, he insisted, because it marks the return of live music on a big scale for him and Sulaiman. He shared a glimpse of the set list which includes popular songs from Kurbaan, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Student of the Year as well as vintage classics from Bollywood, Punjabi and Sufi tracks, and a hit medley.
“People are so hungry for live music, and this is the first big public concert that we are doing after Covid. It’s a massive feeling for us. So we’re excited,” he said.
Making ‘timeless’ music
While there’s no doubt that concert buffs are looking forward to the return of live music in a big way, opinions as to what makes a ‘hit’ song will always be divided.
As someone who blends both the modern and the classics in his melodies, Salim didn’t shy away from jumping into the debate. “The problem is that today’s hit songs are also forgettable because people are just trying to make hit songs. Sulaiman and myself have always tried to make good songs because when you do that, there is a huge chance that it will become a hit. But when you just try to make a hit, you may miss and it may not be successful. For a timeless quality, the melody has to be beautiful. It’s something you should be able to sing without any instruments. You can’t sing some of today’s melodies without a beat. What was so good about music from the past? You are not dependent on any instrument; the melody is by itself so rich. That quality is missing sometimes these days.”
It’s a quality that’s no doubt present in Salim-Sulaiman’s latest 10-track independent album Bhoomi 2021 which brings together renowned artists from all over the country including Sukhwinder Singh, Raftaar and Harshdeep Kaur. Two recently released songs from the album – Ja Ja Re featuring Vishal Dadlani, Sattar Khan and the Langas (an improvised traditional classical bandish), and the catchy Ghar Aao Na with Bollywood songstress Sunidhi Chauhan – are generating a lot of buzz.
Salim said, “Bhoomi is a movement which I started last year. I wanted to create a season of songs that is reflective of our culture, our tradition, our history, our devotional side. Be it classical music, be it thumri, be it ghazals, be it qawwali, bhajans, hymns or more. We’ve had some incredible singers both seasons. Ja Ja Re (a bandish which is hundreds of years old and the first song a student of Indian classical music learns) is sung by Sattar Khan who is a folk singer from Rajasthan and Vishal Dadlani who is a pop rock singer, which makes it contemporary. We’re going to do it (Bhoomi) every year.”
Talking about what distinguishes a good singer from an average one, Salim, giving the example of Sunidhi Chauhan, commented, “I think their versatility and their ability to sing different genres and understand and appreciate all different types of music. Always be a student – be able to grasp things and learn new things.”
Work that’s like a holiday
Commenting on the many hit songs that he’s created with Sulaiman over the years and their enduring appeal, Salim shared that he never looked upon music as a “profession”.
“For me, music is a passion. I’ve been on a holiday for the past (almost) 30 years. I’m very fortunate that we had good and different films to play with and hence we could make different kinds of music. We were very lucky that we were able to diversify – and of course we are who we are, because of our listeners, our fans. We make songs out of good faith and it’s our fans who give us the love.”
In parting we asked Salim – who lists Sukhwinder Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal among his favourite singers – what keeps him going and motivates him on a daily basis. “I can’t pinpoint that but I sleep, eat, breathe music. I’m just blessed because I don’t work a single day, but I’m cursed as well because I can’t sleep much. People listen to music to relax. When I listen to music, I start getting ideas!”
DIWALI CELEBRATIONS AT EXPO
Musical Night by Salim-Suleiman & Vipul Mehta
Date: Thursday, November 4
Time: 9:30pm-11pm
Venue: India Pavilion
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