Chances are that almost every contemporary Bollywood number you listen to will have the musical styling and sensibilities of duo Salim – Sulaiman underlining it. With more than a decade’s worth of presence in the industry, and easily over a hundred songs credited to their name — both, Bollywood and otherwise, this sibling will next be seen performing at the coveted two-day SulaFest on February 1 and 2. We got in touch with them before their big act and learnt more about their love for music, collaborations, and travelling for inspiration. By Bayar Jain
1. India is host to innumerable music festivals all year around. What do you think makes SulaFest, particularly this year’s edition, stand out from the rest?
It’s definitely going to be different as we will be performing! But, we will also try to bring some kind of happiness or joy to the audience, and will try to make an impact with our music, sound and our production. We are hoping to bring people together, and allow them to party and groove to our music.
2. This is your maiden performance at the coveted SulaFest. What convinced you to make your debut here?
We’ve been to Sula when it was in its inception stage. Rajeev Suresh Samant, the founder of Sula, had invited us about eight years ago. We’ve heard a lot about SulaFest, and how it’s one of the biggest music festivals in a vineyard. We’re really excited that they’ve finally invited us to perform this year. We’re really looking forward to it.
3. It’s a known fact that your music incorporates various genres like cinematic, folk, electronica and Sufi, among others. What inspires you to experiment with different styles?
We’ve always enjoyed listening to music. That’s why our inspiration is to listen to different kinds of music and to constantly keeping growing. We like to grow as musicians by applying different frequencies and different styles in our own music. This is incredibly different from what we used to do in the past. With time, we’ve tried giving something unique to our fans and audience.
4. In the last month of 2019, you toured around the country and performed in eight cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Kolkata, and more. Which among them is your favourite, and why?
It’s a difficult question since we feel India has great pockets of music audiences all over. Somehow, performing in Maharashtra gives us a lot of joy because it is home. Whether it’s in Mumbai or Pune, we feel like we’re at home when performing there.
5. India has a myriad of musical genres, all diverse and unique. Is there any other country in the world which you think is similar – if not the same – in terms of their musical diversity?
We think America is really diverse in terms of music. Being a land of immigrants, many people live there, that has, in fact, welcomed different cultures and music into the country. People from Spain, Middle East, Norway, India, Pakistan, and etc. live there — so you will also find music from different languages. It’s a country that welcomes various artist cultures.
6. You’ve worked on collaborations with many Indian artists, as well as international names like Lady Gaga, and Enrique Iglesias. In terms of process and styles, how different are these collaborations from one another. And, how are they similar?
They’re not similar at all! When we collaborate with any artist, we ensure we incorporate the artist’s style in the music. While we obviously ensure we keep our roots, sounds and personalities intact, we also give space to the ones we are collaborating with. It’s always different from each other.
7. Which Indian city would you consider the musical capital, and why?
Kolkata, because many of the country’s finest artists are from there. It has many books of music — be it western, jazz, Indian classical music, or even folk music. Also, they are very good listeners.
8. Have there been any instances in your international travels where, despite having a major language issue, your music helped blur boundaries?
It happens all the time. Once, while performing at the Nomad Music Festival — the world’s biggest musical festival that takes place in United Kingdom and Australia — we came across this artist who was playing a Bollywood set in the afternoon. Although people from around the world would come there to play music, it’s a different vibe when someone dances and grooves to Bollywood music despite there being no one from India, Pakistan, or Middle East in the crowd. It’s hard to express how we felt. No one in the audience understood any of our big songs from movies like Kurbaan, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Band Baaja Baaraat. No one understood the language, but everyone understood the beats of the music. The euphoria created, and watching the people dance was mesmerising.
9. When facing a creative block, where do you go for inspiration, and why?
We wouldn’t call it a creative block. We prefer to call it a rest or a pause in our musical careers. When that happens, we call our friends and play video games!
10. Which city, both Indian and International, is your favourite to perform in and why?
In India, Mumbai because it is home. Internationally, it would be Dubai.