Love is in air when he sings, Shahbaz Aman

Reshmy Krishnakumar
Monday, April 2, 2018

What could be the appropriate adjective to describe this man; singer; composer; or an unusual embodiment of love? He bagged the Kerala State Award for Best Singer, for the melodious rendering of a beautiful song which just flowed like a river. He is the talented musician from Kerala, Mr.Shahbaz Aman. He was here in Kuwait for a Ghazal night organised as part of the IARTCO Movie Club launch. Here are the excerpts from a delightful chat IIK had with him.

IIK: Congratulations! It’s our pleasure to have you with us. We are more than happy to feature a talent from our homeland, soon after receiving the State Award. How was your program with IARTCO movie club?
Shahbaz: Program was good with pleasant audience. I visited Kuwait for the first time as part of a Middle East tour by Surya Krishnamurthy, years before. Later, I came for some other programs. But this time it was really a different experience. The venue was away from the hustles of town area, in a tent, which is so uncommon for the Keralite audience. May be it is part of Kuwait culture. With a tint of rain, the ambience enhanced the beauty of that evening.
Always a chat like this is an experience for us. May be a question of yours can help me to remember something which I have forgotten or even a different version of some event or memory can evolve in such talks. Thank you for the wish and the opportunity to converse with Indian community in Kuwait.

IIK: Your audience would be happy about this award. Do you have something to tell them to share the joy?
Shahbaz: Receiving a state award is definitely happiness. But I have nothing to tell or share with my audience just on the basis of this award. They are part of me. My life is spread into two worlds; film world and the concert world. The concert world is where I am often seen. It’s been long 18 years since I entered this concert world and my audience and their love is the one which got evolved through these 18 years. I don’t think my audience is just for the film music I did. Of course there may be a minority who loves only that. But the majority falls in the category where I am given the love and liberty on how to sing and how to behave. The film world is where I stopover for a shorter period, where I just walk in when I get an assignment. I finish my part well and then just vanish. Both are two parallel tracks of my journey. The happenings in the film world will be there parallel to the concert world.

IIK: Is there any difference you felt in the love and acceptance of the audience in this part of the world?
Shahbaz: Yes. From 2003 onwards I am singing for the expatriate audience. They are much more emotionally attached to music than those living in their own motherland.

IIK: What could be the reason? Is it the lost feeling?
Shahbaz: If you remember, earlier our cartoonists used to draw an expatriate with a tape recorder in hand. Though sarcastically drawn as the show off by a Gulf employee, I have always felt it as portray of the 2 planes of nostalgia they carry based on the two lands of their existence; the motherland and the breadwinning land. May be a same set of 10 or 12 songs he plays in that recorder and it provides him with two different types of nostalgic emotions. When he is in India he feels the heat of memories related to his bread winning land. His thoughts will browse through the reminiscences of his life there, friends, roommates, the financial commitment he might have made for his travel to visit his loved ones for a month or two etc. After holidays when he is back to work, his thoughts are engrossed in the memory and care for his loved ones back home. Same songs he plays on both the lands and derives two types of emotional attachment. Tape recorder is just a symbol. He is actually carrying it in his heart and soul. Those songs are part of him. He cannot leave those songs and go back home. Same way he cannot keep it at his home and come back to workplace. He connects the two lands on either side of the ocean through music.

IIK: So when you sing for them what is your feeling into it?
Shahbaz: They are more passionately attached to me through my songs. It gets reflected even in the demand of songs at the concert. I can clearly make out that at every concert. Actually, expatriate life is a wonder which shares life on both side of the ocean and music plays a significant role in his life. Every song he demands at a concert is not just a song for him. He might have gone through some hardships and it might be those songs which helped him to face and overcome it. He might have attached a sea of emotions to such songs. The 3 hours he gets with me, singing live, is a luxury which comes to him once in a while. Even though he has to go for work early morning next day, he will never miss those 3 hours with me. He sits there with an anxiety whether he will be able to hear those favourite songs live from me, waiting for a chance to make the ‘farmayish’. He sits there with the thought that after these 3 hours whether he would get an opportunity again to hear me or not. The demand comes from heart. Singing for him is completely different compared for those whose emotions are just on one side of the ocean. To a person who is settled in his own motherland, his nostalgia or emotions is related to his past and present only. The difference can’t be expressed in words.



IIK: Why people ask for the same songs as ‘farmayish’ during your concerts?
Shahbaz: The songs which I sing are already here for so long. I am singing the same songs everywhere for the last 18 years and people still ask me to sing the same even now. If you see deeply, isn’t this world itself a repetition? The same sun is rising from east and sets in the west, every day. But each rise is different and has got different beauty. It’s the same ‘you’ and ‘me’ which is getting repeated daily. But we are different in every moment, every day, in some way or the other. The same me as a singer and the same you as audience, who is different at each moment, makes each concert different. The same theory is there applicable to these songs also. The same song is born differently at each demand; those old songs also look like new at each time. The repetition itself got its freshness. May be that’s the reason.

IIK: Since you know that the songs on demand would be the same, do you purposefully create any difference at each concert to make it unique?
Shahbaz: Not at all. But it is a fact that for me, the same song cannot be sung in the same manner. Every time it’s a new notation and the accompanying artists also take a new path, each time. Together it gives a new feel and experience, for us as performers and you as audience, irrespective of the fact that we are singing the same songs for years.

IIK: Is that the reason for uniqueness in your concerts?
Shahbaz: I have been doing concerts from 2000 onwards. In these 18 years we were able to create an identity of our own. The songs we present are all the same. But the way we deliver it is different at each stage. Improvisation may or may not happen. I don’t even know which song I would be singing next. There is no hard and fast rule that is to be followed. I can’t even say from which line I would start the song and where it stops.

IIK: So what defines your concert? Is that your audience defines the path of a particular concert or is that you drive them through?
Shahbaz: It’s a blend of my audience and me. As I said, there is no pre planned schedule, it just happens. Through these years there developed a community who listen to me exactly the way I sing, without any prejudice. There is no expectation about a song. People now recognise this characteristic of ‘Shahbaz Paadunnu’ and they enjoy that uncertainty. It is completely a free world of music in which they are also a part. If this audience group is replaced by another group of audience with a different taste, this yonar would fail. For us it is a give and take of love. It is all about just experiencing together whatever happens in that 2 or 3 hours. Happiness, comfort, freedom, peace; we are not able to make out what that feeling is. All I know is that my audience is experiencing something which they can relate to their inner self. Otherwise this style would not have travelled these 18 years. You asked me before about the uniqueness of my concerts. This feel of freedom, love and peace is also the unique feature of ‘Shahbaz Paadunnu’. This style can even develop to a stage where people can present this as a format.

IIK: In these 18 years, how you saw yourself evolving with ‘Shahbaz Paadunnu?
Shahbaz: For me it’s not a stage. It’s my life itself. People have seen me in various forms; as one who just sings, as one who interacts with them while singing, as who talks a lot to them during the concerts etc. It gave me the realisation that we can live being ourselves. It proved to me that it is possible in this world, where all expect everyone to be in some format, to be in your plane and at the same time accomplish your desire, to be the way u feel like and still can establish yourself. It gave me the confidence to be myself. It gives the energy to live and express myself without any veil. If I am feeling a discomfort in sitting here while talking to you, I have the energy and will to tell you that honestly and request to change this place.

IIK: How a freely flowing personality like you can fit into the fixed frame of film music?
Shahbaz: Possibly, there exist the elements of those music patterns, somewhere deep inside me. I have a family and a disciplined life with them which is very much into the frame work it demands. At the same time I have the traces of someone who is beyond this frame. May be that is why I am able to sing such songs where you don’t feel it as sung by me in usual style. The time span when I can be in this frame is the question. For example, if a song is of four minutes duration, you may not see any changes or improvisation till three and half minutes. But during that last half minute a change will happen. Something I will bring into it. It is an unexplainable process that happens unknowingly in me even in my life.

If you see closely you can see that overspill from me even in the film music. There are many such outliers from the frame in my film songs. May be it is expected when a person who was enjoying his freedom is put into a frame. For my luck, may be, whatever happened till now was almost in sync with my style and I could deliver without much stress. No one, till now, expected me to sing or even approached me to perform such an extreme which is far away from mine.

IIK: Is that what happened in the award winning song of ‘Mayanadi’; the freedom to flow like a river in music?
Shahbaz: Yes. It was Ashiq’s idea to place together two of his friends who was drifting in their own planes with no common point to meet, me and Rex, and the song just drizzled out from us. All that we had was the visuals of that moment where we cannot differentiate love from our mind, body, or soul. We both could relate it to our life, love and soul and what happened next was just an expression of love in us through music. The same happened with Anwar Ali, the lyricist, and the magical song was made. The song got acceptance because everyone who felt that song could relate it to their inner self.

IIK: So what are your further plans? Will you feel this State Award a bit heavy to meet the expectation from an award winning musician, in taking up your future assignments?
Shahbaz: Next project is my own work, ‘Guru meets Mastan’. History says that the Sufi poet Icha Mastan and Sree Narayana Guru met at some temple in Kannur, spending time together in the cool shade of Banyan tree. The meeting was not a pre-planned one. But it turned out to be one which is heavy with philosophical value. ‘Guru meets Mastan’ is a work based on that. When we tally the weight of my responsibilities, my works, the weight of this award would be less. The research work for ‘Guru Meets Mastan’ is going on. To take up a subject like Icha Mastan and Sree Narayana Guru itself is so heavy that the responsibility which comes with an award feels much lighter.

IIK: Is that a video album?
Shahbaz: No. it is an audio. I am trying to visualize their conversation through music. Through my composition, through my singing, I am trying to trigger the thoughts in my audience. The basic nature of all my creations is audio. Everything that I experience enters me as audio. The sound of a train enters my mind as lots of notations. Music is the collection of sounds. Do you know why the visuals are so popular these days? We live in a world where our eyes are over used. Man is crafted by God as the King of Visuals; but the blessing of sight is being used excessively. We forget to see with our inner eyes. We lack that inner sight.



IIK: What would be the message to those audiences who could not attend your concert here and wait for your words on IIK?
Shahbaz: Convey lots of love to all of them. Tell them that the recordings of live concerts uploaded on internet will not convey the feel you gather by experiencing it in real, at a concert venue. Even the live telecast of the concert won’t be able to convey it. May be you could not attend today or tomorrow. But it is worth waiting for months or years. If we both exist, try to come and experience my concerts live.

Thank You Mr.Shahbaz Aman for your time and once again congratulations for the achievements and all the best for future works.

Reshmy Krishnakumar is working with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) as Research Assistant. Having done her post-graduation in Statistics, she worked as lecturer at St.Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, until her relocation to Kuwait. As a freelance writer, she is contributing to various magazines, blogs, and websites. Her passion includes classical dance, writing poems in Malayalam and Hindi. She is a member of the Writers’ Forum, Kuwait and the Indian Women In Kuwait (IWIK)
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