MUMBAI: The maverick is known for his eccentric way of talking and behaving that’s a part of his unique persona. He’s little different when we speak on the phone the accent pseudo-stylish and the demeanor quite over-the-top. We guess that’s what makes Sukhwinder Singh, Sukhwinder Singh.
He is gung-ho about his “unplugged” series of concerts coming up in the U.S., Canada, West Indies and Surinam. “I am doing an unplugged concert for the first time ever!” he crows. “This has a special charm. If a singer is good, creative and passionate, this works well. I have watched such concerts of Elvis Presley and Stevie Wonder on video, and this will be an ‘asli’ (true) concert on a large scale, akin to a ‘mehfil.’”
Will it actually be unplugged? He laughs, “We will have to put in some plugs, but the idea is the show will be 90 percent vocals, not 90 percent instrumental sound! I am going to enjoy myself!” he decides.
He adds that he has sung unplugged at private gatherings, like in Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s, Vishal-Shekhar’s and Vishal Bhardwaj’s homes for non-commercial purposes, obviously. “This time, we have 17 to 20 musicians like a solo flutist; we have a piano, two unplugged guitars, two electronic guitars, five percussionists, tablaa, pakhawaj and drums. I will go closer to the song in that sense,” he says.
The singer is planning to have lots of fun. “I will sing sitting in front of the audience, and we will have chats in between,” he promises.
Singh rues the frenzied pace of this generation of musicians. “They have the fear of failure or the arrogance of success. They want at 18 what older people wanted at 40. Don’t they know that the zero aggression tortoise wins against the hare? Relaxation is life’s biggest chord. Every song must be sung or made deep from the heart!”
The singer has good reason to preach all this: he feels this is the principal reason why he has sustained in the field for 30 years without losing out after several contemporaries and juniors have vanished from the scene. “My yoga, my one to one-and-a-half hours of riyaaz in the early morning and my one hour-long beach stroll are a must for me too,” he adds.
Singh is now singing in some films, notably “Bajirao Mastani” and “Talvar,” and is kicked about Mira Nair’s international Broadway play that presents Indian culture to the world. “The poetry and Vishal Bhardwaj’s music have got a good response,” he says.
We get to a sore point: Singh has always been crediting A.R. Rahman (beginning “Dil Se...”) in interviews with his career debut and success. Most interviewers do not ask him about his beginnings because of ignorance, thinking that Rahman introduced the singer, and so he does not bother to correct the misinformation!
In reality, Singh is a Laxmikant-Pyarelal discovery from the 1986 Subhash Ghai film “Karma,” which was 12 years before the Rahman chapter began in his career. L-P had also given him hits in “Yateem,” “Khilaaf,” “Saudagar” and fairly popular songs in a couple of other movies.
He seems a tad chastened as he answers, “You are right; I have erred! This error will definitely be redeemed in my future interviews — I will take care! But, even today, when I pass Laxmi-ji (late composer Laxmikant)’s bungalow in Juhu, I stop my car and get out and bow before it. That is my Laxmi temple!”