“AR Rahman is a wonderful musician and it was great working with him again!”

– Shiraz Uppal teams up with India’s finest composer and plans on improvising further… his way!
Shiraz Uppal may not enjoy the star power of Atif Aslam or Ali Zafar but he is the only man on the modern music scene of Pakistan who has worked with India’s finest composer, AR Rahman, twice.

He did it in 2001 with Nayak where he sang on the tune, ‘Shakalaka Baby’ and now after a gap of seven years, he has reunited with AR Rahman on a new single, ‘Secret of Success’, which is partially in English and mostly in Hindi. The single is on the soundtrack of a film titled Boys.

And the film has some solid credentials going for it.

While AR Rahman has composed the music for the film, Abbas Tyrewala (the writer/director of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na) has written the lyrics. Boys, first made in Tamil in 2004, is being dubbed in Hindi and features Siddharth (one of the leading South stars and the brooding young man in Rang De Basanti) and Genelia D’ Souza (who rocked in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na earlier this year) in lead roles.

Shiraz Uppal came on board the project when Rahman offered him earlier this year after they met up in Chennai.

And even though Shiraz has been around for eight years now, it was his beautiful album Jhuki Jhuki (2005) that made others sit up and take notice of his talent as a singer and songwriter. His single, ‘Roya Re’ for the Pooja Bhatt film Dhoka (2007) once again put him in the spotlight and became one of the biggest hits of last year. The song also won a nomination in the Song of the Year category at the Lux Style Awards. Even Ali Azmat is a fan of Shiraz, which is quite something!

In this interview with Instep Today, Shiraz Uppal reveals why he is game on working with AR Rahman, the reason he prefers to compose his own tunes for Bollywood and his experience on a rigorous three-month tour of the US of A and the UK.

Instep Today: You’re working with AR Rahman again…

Shiraz Uppal: Yes. I have known him for years now. We’ve always been in touch all these years via email. When I was recently in India, I went to see him in Chennai at his studio. Then he approached me with this song and I instantly said yes.

AR Rahman knows that my studio is up to standards which is why he was completely cool with me recording the vocals at my own studio in Lahore. After recording, I sent him the vocals and he has put music to it.

Instep Today: How is the experience been working with AR Rahman?

Shiraz Uppal: It’s fantastic. When I first worked with him, it was somewhere in 2001 for Nayak. Back then, it wasn’t as common for Pakistani musicians to go and sing in Indian films or perform there too often.

I couldn’t get the visa for India in 2001. At that time, Rahman was working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Bombay Dreams so he flew me out to London where I recorded ‘Shakalaka Baby’ and I was pretty nervous. His work has always been incredible so I was feeling some pressure. But he made me very comfortable. He isn’t strict about maintaining one tone throughout. With Rahman, there is room for improvisation. He encourages it. I remember Lucky Ali was also recording for Yuva at the same time I was recording for Nayak and Rahman was equally calm with him. He never gets angry and is a down to earth person. AR Rahman is a wonderful musician and it was great working with him again.

Instep Today: Do you agree with the view that Bollywood is increasingly becoming a necessity for our singers?

Shiraz Uppal: It gives one a market but it isn’t necessary. We are proud to be Pakistanis. Now I have worked in Pakistan for eight years. And now that I’ve worked here consistently for many years, I am looking at India. Every singer wants to expand and enter different markets. So we export our product abroad and India is the first market that comes to mind because of our language. As for singing in Indian films, that’s purely choice.

Instep Today: With AR Rahman you’re singing on his tune and with ‘Roya Re’, you composed the tune. Was that a deliberate effort?

Shiraz Uppal: Yes. With AR Rahman, I’ll sing to his tune but with others I like to compose myself. For instance, if I have a song on my album, it may become super popular if I give it to a film but it won’t necessarily go with the film. There is a situation where a song is placed. I’d rather compose it a brand new tune for a film. And when it comes to lyrics, one has to sit down with the lyricist to understand what he needs and how it can be worked out as a team. I prefer composing my own tunes.

Instep Today: You were nominated for Song of the Year (‘Roya Re’) at the Lux Style Awards but you didn’t come to the show. Why?

Shiraz Uppal: I was very happy on being nominated but I didn’t attend the LSAs because I didn’t receive an invitation.

Instep Today: You also went on a tour recently?

Shiraz Uppal: Oh yes and it was my longest tour yet – three months. I went to the USA and the UK. I performed in New York, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Sacramento, New Jersey, Phoenix, Los Angeles among many other places.

Instep Today: How was the turnout?

Shiraz Uppal: Fabulous. There were no foreigners at all. But the Pakistanis abroad welcomed me everywhere. Because of the media boom in Pakistan, local channels are airing all around the world so people know everything that we do here.

Instep Today: Are you working on a new album?

Shiraz Uppal: Yes and I’ve finished it. But it isn’t the right time to release the album. A few people have told me that it won’t be beneficial to release it. I’m waiting for the right time to release it.

Instep Today: What is up for you next?

Shiraz Uppal: I’m shooting the video for ‘Secret of Success’ in India. And then I’ll figure out when the album should be released.

link: Jang Instep Today

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