For a band that began thousands of kilometres away when three of its members were in school, Sanam has come a long way. Blessy Mathew Prasad speaks to the young rockers about why remixing old Hindi music is earning them a lot of praise
They’ve got looks to kill for and voices to die for. They’re super talented and true gentlemen. Little wonder then that winning hearts is second nature to them. Meet SANAM – the young all-male band that has traveled across the seas from the Arab world to our very own Mumbai, scorching a path across the music industry, and have ever since been powering the musical dreams of millions of youngsters.
Sanam Puri (23), the lead vocalist who lent his voice for Bollywood hits like Ishq Bulaava and Dhat Teri Ki has made it big in the industry already, but no amount of fame and fandom can lure him to part ways with his band. Talk about loyalty. Sanam, Samar Puri (lead guitar, vocals and Sanam’s brother), Venky S (bass guitar and vocals) and Keshav Dhanraj (drums) are like family. Inseparable. With songs like Hawa Hawa, Behka and Teri Aankhon Se, the band, which reaches their audience through their Youtube channel Sanam became an instant hit among Indian teenagers all across the world. There’s probably a reason why their songs are mostly recreations of old Bollywood classics, full of romance, happy and soulful, something that families can enjoy together. We asked them and this is what they had to say:
Probably the most frequently asked question, but why the obsession for recreating old Bollywood classics?
Samar - Our parents used to watch the classics at home so it was natural for us to develop an appreciation towards them. When we put out our rendition of Lag Jaa Gale, we got a great response from the viewers on Youtube. This encouraged us to rework other classics like Tujhse Naraz Nahi Zindagi, Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi, Gulabi Aankhen and luckily it has helped us connect with Hindi film music lovers all across the world. We get many messages from teenagers on our social media pages saying how they watch our channel with every member of their family. The fact that they can bond with their elders listening to our songs really makes the whole thing worthwhile.
How did you meet? And what is unique about the relationship you share?
Venky - Samar was my batch mate in Indian School, Muscat, Oman. Both of us played guitar so we formed a band with a couple of friends. We got his younger brother Sanam to sing and we jammed on pop rock and punk hits. Many years later while I was active in the college rock scene in Bangalore, I met a Chennai based drummer (Keshav) who was the drummer of bands like Nerverek and The Buzz Theory. I reconnected with Samar and Sanam who were making a move to Mumbai to pursue a music career. So I hooked them up and they met at Keshav’s garage. They hit it off real well and they decided that they wanted to perform their songs as a band. This led them to taking part in a nationwide music competition. I joined them in the finals where we won a record deal. That was when we started releasing music as a unit and it’s been a thrilling journey so far. For me it’s like jamming with old friends, and that’s the essence of our relationship. It brings out positivity and hope in our music.
Have you all had professional training in music? What made you decide to pack your bags and move to Mumbai?
Venky - None of us have had formal music training per se. We have picked up how to play our instruments or sing either through watching instructional lessons/videos, passed down information, or just listening to the masters of any genre. We started playing at an age where it was easy to access all kinds of music. So the litany of listening to music and breaking it down was quite essential in being self taught. The passage to the world of music was always led by a family member – in Keshav’s and my case, our elder brothers. For Samar/Sanam, through their dad. There was a point where I watched one Hindi film a day while growing up thanks to my mother who loves watching films. I guess that sowed the seed of my love towards those evergreen songs. It’s hard to forget the melodies by the great music composers and it subconsciously creeps into your musical psyche.
Does your music have influences from the Middle East?
Venky - Amr Diab, Cheb Khalid, Nancy Ajram, Wael Kfoury, Elissa and the legendary Abdel Halim Hafez are some of our favourite artists. We are always amazed by the Arabic pop artists for their music production skills and many a time we learn something new/get inspired by listening to them. Some of our favourite songs are Osad Einy, Abdel Kader, Aicha, Wahastiny and I really dig Waleed Al Shami’s recent hit Aheba Kolesh. My personal favourite is Amr Diab.
Your music videos are all very picturesque and exotic. Tell us about the shoot and the experience, especially the ‘Ocean’ series.
Keshav - Presentation is key in today’s music industry since the consumption has become audio/visual and mobile through various devices. There is so much we learn from each video shoot – the preliminary planning and conceptualisation, shot breakdowns, working on budgets, location recce, wardrobe selection, etc it’s all so interesting! We learn to adapt on the sets and sometimes the best shots are captured out of pure luck. We were delighted to shoot at Ocean Hills, Uttan as it’s really added a chilled out vibe to our songs.
During our travels to Maldives and Mauritius we had the opportunity to shoot music videos and those picturesque locations need to be experienced by one and all. Documenting our travels in our music videos is a great way to connect with audiences. And since Samar edits many of our videos, it’s become an integral part of releasing the song. This whole DIY thing keeps you curious and we anxiously look forward to the next shoot once we’re done with the final edit of music video.
What do you guys do in your spare time? Do you hang out together a lot?
Sanam - I’m crazy about video games so I’m always checking out reviews and the latest trends in the gaming world. Keshav and Samar also hang out by the PS4 playing cool combat games. We guys love trying out all kinds of food joints when we hang out together. Keshav is into Calisthenics and I’ve been doing these crawling workouts – they really knock you out! Venky loves watching new music acts around town, random stuff on Youtube, concerts, traveling the world with his wife Remya .. actually we all love travelling around the world, given the opportunity. And usually its where our work takes us. Amsterdam and Suriname were great and it’s heartening to see how the love towards Indian culture is so strong amongst those who attended our concerts there. We can’t wait to explore South Africa which is our next international gig destination. This would not be possible without our band manager and fifth member, Ben Thomas.
Any crazy fan moments?
Samar - Well, yeah, there are those crazy moments. Like the one time Venky’s glasses got whacked off his bass amp. You live and learn, so I made sure the same thing didn’t happen when an audience member wanted my hat (laughs).
A lot of fans think you (Sanam) should get into acting. What do you have to say?
Sanam - You could say that I love acting in our own music videos (laughs). I’ll take it as a compliment and I would like to thank the fans for all their love and support.
It looks like you experiment with a lot of unusual/different instruments? How would you describe your style of music?
Keshav - Apart from drums, I’ve often used different percussions in our songs, for example cajon, dafli, ghungroo, cowbells and electronic pads. Our music style is broadly pop or pop rock. Though our songs can vary in genre from song to song as we try and explore all our musical influences. We try to highlight the melody of a song while arranging the track. This is usually adorned by layered vocal harmonies and classical strings.
Do you plan to come up with more original music?
Samar - Definitely. It’s our focus for 2016. We have released songs like Ishtyle and Nazron Ko Nazron Se so far this year. It’s been getting a great response and we hope that people love and appreciate these just as much as our renditions of the classics. Our next song will probably be a rock song and we are very excited about it.