Bollywood Singer Sonu Nigam’s “Klose to my heart” concert mesmerizes the Washington Area crowd

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September 5, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Fairfax, VA – The Patriot Center was packed on Friday night (August 31), to hear Bollywood’s reining male playback singer Sonu Nigam, perform in a concert that was surely close to everyone’s heart.

September 5, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Fairfax, VA – The Patriot Center was packed on Friday night (August 31), to hear Bollywood’s reining male playback singer Sonu Nigam, perform in a concert that was surely close to everyone’s heart.

Sonu Nigam, Bollywood’s best male playback singer, performing at a packed Patriot Center on Friday, August 31.

The artiste, with a voice as melodious as it is versatile, blazed a trail in the nation's capital proving, beyond a doubt, his enduring popularity!

At 39, his youthful looks and sprightly gait belie his age.  Barring a short break, he performed non-stop for some three hours, accompanied by a 32-member symphony orchestra. The DC show was organized by local promoters Manish Sood and Deepa Shahani of Intense Entertainment.

It is noteworthy that Sonu was on a concert tour across the US earlier this summer. The shows were so successful, the response so staggering, he came back from India for three more, including a second stop in the Washington area.

At a press conference on the eve of his concert here, Sonu explained, “When we go to a country, we always keep a gap of two years.  I have been performing for so many years and I never repeat a place.  But, this case (Washington) is different. I came two months before for a private show and the concept was different.  It was a concert with eight musicians. This is a public show with 32 musicians”.  

Sonu Nigam, Bollywood’s ace singer, is flanked by Washington show promoter Manish Sood (left) and Deepa Shahani of Intense Entertainment at a press conference held on the eve of his concert.

A member of the press and media wanted to know what is so special about the show in the national capital region, to which Sonu replied: “This concert by itself is a very different concept.  Of course, I wanted to do this for a long time, but I wanted to do it right. Darshan Mehta and Rocky (Rajesh Kaushal of Balaji Entertainment, Inc.), the international promoters, also agreed upon the fact that we should spend more money, pay more attention, make this show more expensive because we have a lot of musicians, a lot of technicians.  This is not any easy musical show to pull off. But, thanks to the blessings of God and all the people who made the show so great, it has come out to be very different.  We were originally supposed to have just eleven shows and in the last trip, we did twenty.  Now, we have come here again to do three more. So, you can very well imagine that people have really loved the show and we ourselves are very attached to this concert”.

Anyone who went to the Sonu Nigam concert, aptly titled ‘Klose to my Heart’, can attest it was an unforgettable event.  After all, music is about emotions! The artiste began with rich tributes to legendary singers like Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar and their heart-tugging songs continued to feature prominently throughout the show.  Sonu is well known for his rendition of Rafi’s immortal songs and he took the audience down memory lane with a good number of them including: “Kya hua tera vaada” (Hum Kissise Kam Nahin), “Tum jo mil gaye ho” (Haste Zakhm), “Abhi na jao chhod kar” (Hum Dono), “Main jat yamla pagla deewana” (title song) and “Pardah hai pardah” (Amar Akbar Anthony).

Sonu Nigam is seen here with Ajay Kapoor, member of the Intense Entertainment team

While the Indian music industry is blessed with legendary singers, Sonu seems fixated on Mohammad Rafi and at the presser INDIA THIS WEEK, asked him the reason for his preference. “It is almost like asking a scientist what is so great about Einstein?”, he counter questioned.  “Mohammad Rafi was a pioneer in singing in various kinds of styles”, he went on to explain.  “There have been awesome singers like Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Manna Dey, and we all respect them. But, Mohammad Rafi was the only one who sang bhajans, qawwalis, ghazals, high-pitched songs, low-pitched songs, sad songs, fast songs, comedy, and patriotic songs. There is no other singer who has such a plethora, variety of songs.  So, he was a very blessed singer and that’s why, as a singer, I respect him”.

On stage, Sonu emulated Rafi’s versatility and rendered myriad numbers. “I am trying to give you a mix of everything”, he told the listeners. “I think the audience has different tastes. It is a wholesome audience, good audience”, he said, clearly delighted with the Washington crowd.

Accordingly, he sang: qawwalis – “Eh meri Zohra Jabeen’ (Waqt) and “Tumse milke dil ka hai jo haal kya kare’ (Main Hoon Na); sad lamentations – “Aaj purani raahon se koi mujhe aawaz na de” (Aadmi), “Nadiya se dariya, dariya se sagar” (Namak Haraam); peppy songs – “Yeh jawaani hai diwani” (Jawani Diwani), “Dekha na hai re, socha na hai re” (Bombay to Goa), “Zindagi ek safar hai suhana” (Andaz); a patriotic song – “Ae mere pyare watan” (Kabuliwala);  romantic numbers – “Yeh jeewan hai” (Piya Ka Ghar), “Mere sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu” (Aradhana); tributes to the late Jagjit Singh, Mehdi Hassan and Rajesh Khanna.

Sonu has lent his voice to Shah Rukh Khan in several films and he treated the audience to songs like “Dil, yeh dil deewana” (Pardes), “Suraj hua maddham” (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham), “Main agar kahoon” (Om Shanti Om), “Yeh mera dil pyaar ka deewana” (Don), “Main hoon na” and “Kal ho na ho” from films of the same name.

A day before, at a press conference, we pointed out that when Sonu used to perform at the Warner Theater in Washington, earlier, there were few accredited male playback singers in Bollywood whereas nowadays, each song seems to be by a different and new artiste.  We queried him about this change in the Indian music industry to which he replied, “Anywhere in the world, there are changes and we have to always accept them.  It has been 20 years that I have been in Mumbai performing professionally and it has been 34 years that I have been performing on stage. I started singing when I was four years old.  So, I have been here for a long time and I am still doing a lot of good work.  This year itself, we saw such a wide variety of my songs from ‘Agneepath’ to ‘Desi Boyz’ (“Allah maaf kare”) to “Teri shirt da main ta button soniye” (‘Kya Super Kool Hain Hum’) to “Jab se mere dil ko uff” (‘Teri Meri Kahaani’). So many various songs in this one particular year have come out.  What more does a performer want? At this time, as you said, there are so many new voices and so many singers who do not need to practice because today the technology is so awesome that even if you can’t sing, you can rectify it. It can be tuned in correctly.  So, in these days and times, I am doing pretty well, that’s a blessing!

Sonu Nigam is flanked by Mr. Kirit Udeshi (left) and Mrs. Mala Udeshi at a meet-and-greet following a press conference with Bollywood’s best male playback singer

When asked the reason for his sustained success. “I am satisfied, that’s why (I am successful)”, he answered. “I am not insecure.  I have trained myself this way. I don’t get affected by anybody else coming in, though I have seen my seniors doing that when we were struggling. So, what we have learnt not to do from some of our seniors is what I am implementing now.  I lead my life in a very simple way.  I just focus on my work.  Nothing really bothers me that much. I am a pretty sorted guy in my head … I do not plan my life anymore.  Some people make big targets, others make small targets.  I have learnt to live my life being directed by somebody, some other force”.

An attendee wanted to know what is so special about the Washington show.  Sonu candidly replied, “When you are on tour, everything looks the same.  It is more like a war front for us. I have to perform for the audience and my songs are the not-so-simple ones.  We choose the difficult ones where there is a bit of ‘gayaki’ (art of singing), some songs are high-pitched and I am incorporating a lot of variety of songs in this particular show. Those three-and-a-half hours of performance, plus two-and-a-half hours of practicing music, plus two-and-a-half hours of going to the gym, taking care of your system, your lungs, it is almost a nine hour ordeal for me every day when I perform. So, I don’t get to differentiate between Washington, DC and New York.  For me, it is only the concert. Sometimes, the venue stays in your heart. One day, I would like to come to Washington, DC without any work or agenda in my head, look around, see the place and breathe the air the way an unknown working person breathes”.

Usually, famous artistes hesitate to name their favorite works. Sonu was not only forthcoming when asked, he actually requested the reporter, “Can I say three”, to everyone’s delight, and proceeded to name his favorites: ‘Deewana’, a chart-buster; ‘Classically Mild’; and ‘Chanda Ki Doli’ which, he said, “was arranged and composed by me.  So, it’s very close to my heart”.

Sonu added, “the ‘Rafi Resurrected’ album in which I performed with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra also stands out, and another album, ‘Mausam’”. A pioneer in his field, he told members of the Washington press corps, “There were some classical fusion songs in the 1990s when nobody even thought of it.  So, most of my work has been ahead of the times and I respect all of it”.

Regarding his forthcoming albums, he admitted to being lackadaisical. “I am doing stage shows”, he said.  “One gets so busy singing for films. On top of that, I am composing the music for two films: ‘Jal’ and ‘Super Se Upar’.  That’s taking a lot of my time. I was planning an album with my partner Bickram Ghosh who is a renowned classical percussionist.  We started working on it a year and a half ago and have still not completed it.  Somewhere, along the way, it is my fault. I have an international album coming up with Universal Music which will be launched in September.  I shot two videos for it last month”.  In addition, he has collaborated with singers Jay Sean and Jermaine Jackson, among others.

Given his achievements and success story, an attendee at the press conference was curious to know what is left to accomplish.  Sonu admitted, “I have done almost everything – television, acting, films, albums, all kinds of songs. I think the only thing that I haven’t done which I have been wanting to do for the last 10 years is, strangely, owning a farmhouse with my own cattle and poultry, lots of trees and vegetables”, he said, to laughter. “I have this occasional desire to just go somewhere (as a recluse). Two months back, it was the Himalayas. I would want to go for a walk at 5 in the morning. Do some yoga, sit alone, practice music. This is my heartiest desire. Before I die, I would want God to fulfill this desire of mine”, he said.

Sonu was asked if he saw music as a bridge in India-Pakistan relations. He is perhaps accustomed to this question and did not see the need for any lengthy explanation. After all, music is universal; it knows no borders or boundaries!

Speaking in Hindi, he said: “There is no need to give a lecture on this.  Musically, we are all joined. When I came to Washington last time, it was for a concert organized by Pakistani doctors (APPNA – Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America). We have also done a show for Indian doctors (AAPI – American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin). It is not as if someone loves us less or more. That is not the case.  Music ya art ek aisi cheez hai jo sabko achchi lagti hai (Music or art is such a thing that is enjoyed by everyone). When I hosted (the television show) ‘Chhote Ustaad’ with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, two years ago, a lot of kids came from Pakistan. When I get a chance to go to Pakistan, I will definitely avail of it”.

By the same token, when asked if he had a message for the people of Afghanistan, Sonu said, “I generally do recognize all the people who are there (at the show). Afghans don’t need to be recognized; they are so beautiful looking that they stand out in all crowds”.

He recalled his trip to Kabul where he had gone to perform, unbeknown to him that it would be an unforgettable experience. He told the press, “I don’t know if you heard of it or not: the stage collapsed in my sixth song, ‘Saathiya’.  We just escaped injuries, thankfully. I will tell you why I respect Afghans. If it was India, no disrespect meant, it was impossible to come out of a situation as chaotic as what we had in Kabul. Despite the stage collapsing, there was no agitation, no bitterness, no arrogance from the audience. They quietly left the venue. In fact, most of them helped our people to get out. That’s why we appreciate the culture of Afghanistan”.