Music composers Salim and Sulaiman Merchant talk about their recent collaboration with Rajasthani folk musicians, music industry and reality shows.
Having scored music for over 100 films, Salim and Sulaiman Merchant are among the most popular composers today. With varied influences from cinema, folk, sufi and electronica, their work has an eclectic ethos. The duo has enthralled audiences across the world with their live concerts. In their latest presentation at a Sufi festival Sama’a: The Mystic Ecstasy at NCPA on February 24, they teamed up with folk musicians from Rajasthan only to showcase a bouquet of sufiana songs from the traditional repertoire as well as from Bollywood and independent albums. From Yeh Hosla, Bismillah, to Allah hu Akbar by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the group performed a rich poetic folklore by several Punjabi and Sindhi Sufi saints.
In their long spanning musical career, Salim-Sulaiman have some really great films to their credit like Chak De India, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Iqbal, Fashion and many more, which according to Salim has allowed the duo to give their best compositions, arrangements and treatments. “It’s been a fabulous journey with all these films, Bollywood has truly inspired us to do music that touches one and all,” says Salim, adding that their collaboration with Rajasthani folk musicians is very old and is an outcome of their deep fascination for folk musicians. “Their voice quality, their musicianship and that raw Indianness fill our hearts with joy and euphoria. We have always wanted to collaborate with them.
And now we have been touring all over the world with this group,” smiles the musician. Insisting, he adds that the duo always had a vision to work with folk musicians on their songs to add folk rawness, “That truly brings out the true colours of our music and makes it something that connects us to our roots.”
In the past few years Bollywood has seen the rise of many music directors. While some composers parallel to Salim-Sulaiman have stepped back in the competitive industry, the duo continues to share music across the world. However Salim believes that the time is tough for the Indian music industry owing to recording companies.
“Right now, it’s a tough time and thanks to the record companies, we are digressing more than progressing,” rues the composer. Over the years, the duo has not just composed for Bollywood music but their melodies have been appreciated in Hollywood films too. “Every project has it’s own process, whether Bollywood or Hollywood, the content and premise shapes the unique soundscape of each score,” Salim explains.
As rhythm and melody go hand in hand, Salim-Sulaiman’s similar creative sting for music is what makes this pair one of the best jodis in music world. Both composers will soon be completing three successful decades which Salim credits to the time they spent studying and listening to music early on. “I’m very fortunate that Sulaiman took up percussion and I keyboard, and ever since we’ve been making music, we have complemented each other,” he recalls.
When asked if live music and reality shows bring any challenge to them, Salim comprehends the idea saying, everything they do with music is a challenge to their interest. While live shows help them connect with fans and followers, being judge on reality shows is a learning.
“Live shows connect us to fans and followers all over the world and it’s a fantastic experience to witness the passion and dedication of the aspiring singers. Their dedication inspires me a lot,” shares Salim, based on his experiences after having judged two seasons of musical reality show Indian Idol and Indian Idol Junior. Meanwhile, the musical duo is working on their upcoming projects like Setters - a film by Ashwini Chaudhary, and Desert Dolphin by Manjari Makijany.