Art Talk, the weekly show on NewsX, is India’s one and only dedicated show on art that profiles artists from various fields who have dominated their respective forms of art. This week senior executive producer Jujhar Singh talked to the young band Astitva about their musical journey. With emotional music and soulful lyrics, multi-genre Hindi band, Astitva is one of the most successful young bands in the country today. Formed in 2007, the band has five members - Salman Khan who is the lead vocalist; Zaman Khan, the lead guitarist; Ayush Gupta, the drummer; Amit James, the bass guitarist and Kamal Kharera, the keyboard player.
The search for a distinct identity
This band experiments a lot with Sufi music, Bollywood, Hindi rock and Jazz music. Explaining the USP of the band, Salman says that their songs together are their first priority. The individual songs come later. The main focus of the band is on melody but more so on lyrics which are in Hindi or Urdu. There are some really beautiful songs penned down by Salman who is referred to as the Javed Akhtar of the band. Their lyrics also tell stories about the concerns of regular Indians. According to Ayush, every song has a reason to exist and to be created. Even though they are musicians, they face the same problems like everyone else does. When they go back home, they grapple with their individual issues and that angst translates into songs. When they are happy, they end up writing happy songs. Zaman feels that every song they do is a capsule of their day-to-day experiences and stories. They came up with their first album Patang Dor in 2014. Their song , Tu hi Bata De Hey Khuda was downloaded 10-15,000 times within a week of its release.
Salman, the lead vocalist actually hails from a family of musicians. He belongs to the Rampur - Sahswan Gharana of music. His grandfather, Ustad Ghulam Saiq Khan is a Padma Shree awardee and his father is Ustad Shakeel Ahmed Khan Sahib. While the guys love to travel and their profession takes them all over the country and abroad, they try to discover new things whenever they go to a new place. Zaman is the lead guitarist and is a self-trained guitarist who started practising when he was just 10 years of age. Reminiscing about the old days, he says, “There was a wooden plank in my house and I used to tie rubber bands around it and play them like strings! That’s how I discovered how much I loved making music.” Ayush, the drummer of the band ,initially learned tabla at the Pracheen Kala Kendra in Chandigarh. He was a lead tabla player at his school and even today when he sees great percussion artistes, he goes up to them for tips and inspiration.
Amit is the bass guitarist and is quite popular in the Delhi music circuit. Musically, he is perceived to be the strongest in the band. According to Salman, Amit has heard and digested a lot of music. His retention power is the best in the band. Kamal works the keyboards. He brings a completely different edge to the music of Astitva.
The Delhi anthem
Astitva is also the brain behind Delhi’s official anthem - ‘This is where I belong’. In 2010, they were playing at the Commonwealth Games and they decided to play a song dedicated to Delhi. Later on, the band got a chance to play the song in front of the former Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit. When she heard the song, she fell in love with it. She asked the band to record the song nicely with good systems. And then she made it the official anthem of Delhi.
Bollywood and future plans
The band has also done two Bollywood films, Valentine’s Night and Main aur Mr. Right but the need to explore a new sound eggs them on. They want to define a new genre that will be identified with them. The band is also working on a second album and it is likely to come out by the end of this year. They have seven songs lined up so far for the album but they are still taking their time with it because of their back-to-back shows and travel.