Soulful Asian sounds of a Scandinavian music star JOY OF CREATING:
NORWAY-BASED SINGER SYED ALI DISCUSSES HIS UNIQUE MODERN-CLASSICAL STYLE
NORWAY is famously associated with fantastic fjords, mountains, skiing, phenomenal footballers, and winning loads of medals at the winter Olympics, but it also has a talented singer connected to his south Asian roots, who is producing popular songs.
Syed Ali learned classical music from a young age before making a name for himself on the local live circuit. This led to his debut song Hum Tere Dewane and subsequent single releases. He is currently working on new projects, including upcoming song Tu Jahan Mera, which is a duet with popular singer Gunjan Singh.
Eastern Eye caught up with the Norway-based singer to discuss his close connection to music, inspirations, and future plans.
What first connected you to music?
I listened to Bollywood songs and ghazals at an early age. I was fascinated by the amazing compositions of RD Burman, OP Nayyar, Naushadji and Shayyam sahib. I used to be amazed by the wonderful singing of Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar. For some years, my family drove between towns to make a living and my father listened to Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali Khan, Jagjit Singh and Pankaj Udhas, which developed my taste for ghazals and Urdu/ Hindi poetry.
What led towards you learning classical Indian music?
When I was around 11 years old, I accidently stumbled on records of classical singers like Bhimsen Joshi, Girja Devi and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. That is when I started taking classes at the only school with Indian music courses in Norway, Oslo School of Music and Arts. There I was fortunate enough to meet my guru, Shri Lal Sahajpal, and have been learning music from him ever since.
Who were your biggest influences growing up?
I have always been inspired by classical singers like Bhimsen Joshi and Girja Devi. The way they control their voice and do their magic is out of this world. I have got much inspiration from Mohammad Rafi sahib. His voice and style of singing touched my heart at an early age. I also love more devotional type of music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and am part of a qawwali group in Norway, RagaNor, performing and playing for local audiences.
Which of your song releases have been closest to you heart?
My first release Hum Tere Dewane will always be close to my heart, even though I have strived towards improving with each song. It is a passionate romantic song, and the music video perfectly represents that feeling.
How would you describe your music?
My music is inspired by modern urban hip hop mixed with classical elements from more traditional desi music. We love to experiment and have recently been using live instruments like flute, sarangi, violin, tabla, harmonium, etc. Our aim is to make modern hip hop and trap music with lyrics and composition that appeal to not just the younger generation, but also to those who are used to listening to more 1980s and 90s type of Bollywood music.
What can we expect next from you?
With the support of the Norwegian Art Council, we are working on some great songs with known artists like Gunjan Singh and Naseebo Lal. We are also planning to get more famous artists onboard. My upcoming music is going to vary from more hip hop based production to orchestral music mixed with urban sounds. We are making some unique compositions for diverse audiences.
Which of your unreleased songs are you most excited about?
Upcoming song Tu Jahan is the most exciting project. We have used several live instruments and collaborated with the fabulous voice of Gunjan Singh. Anyone that has listened to Bally Sagoo will remember her cover song Aja Re and many more hits she has sung. We are honoured to have her onboard. The track is almost finished and will release soon.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to work with singers like Jonita Gandhi, Neha Kakkar, Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan. I would also love to collaborate with UK and USA based artists like the PropheC, Jay Sean, Raxstar, Imran Khan and many more. I am already working with upcoming talents and recently dropped two cover songs with Ritu Rawat and Neeti B. Basically, I am looking for anyone with talent.
What music dominates your own personal playlist?
I listen to various genres and styles, from traditional classical songs to more recent trap and hip hop music. I enjoy qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and the smooth voice of Lucky Ali, it all depends on the mood. Mostly, I listen to live music, stage performances with more improvised music. It gives me new ideas and inspiration.
If you could master something new in music, what would it be?
I would love to learn tabla. I have been listening to legends like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Shaukat Khan and Ustad Tari Khan for a long time and have performed live, accompanied by tabla players. The control and deep understanding that a percussionist requires, is amazing. I am also interested in learning sound design, mixing and mastering sounds.
What inspires you?
New ideas inspire me. I love to compose, write, experiment and make something new and unique. Normally, when my producer and I work on new beats, I start writing lyrics to an initial composition. If the composition is good, we proceed and make a song. Sometimes it can take days, and other times it takes a few hours and the whole song structure is set. All the sounds, my feelings and state of mind inspire me to make the music. Sometimes, I just get the urge to make something new on my own.
Why do you love music?
Music is a way for me to express myself. It’s a world where I can invent and improvise without any limitations. Music gives me strength and hope, especially in difficult times. It helps me focus and I truly believe that it is a universal language. It unites people from different backgrounds and cultures to find a common platform. Sometimes life seems to be this repeating circle and music gives me the variation I need in my life.
Instagram & Facebook: @SyedAliMusic and www.syedalimusic.com