With an unparalleled rawness, pitch and unique ability to blend Indian folk and Sufi, redefining the grammar of playback singing in the contemporary Hindi cinema, singer and composer Kailash Kher, who shot to limelight with “Allah Ke Bande” (“Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II”) will soon set up The ‘Kailash Kher Academy of Learning Arts’ (KKALA) at Versova in Mumbai.
Talking about the physical space, which will also have a strong online presence, Kher, the man behind the numbers like “Teri Diwani” and “Saayian” elaborates, “It will be called ‘KKala Dham’. A place conducive for aspiring and established musicians, scholars and researchers to come together. Just like Prithvi for theatre people, which boasts of a cafe for discussions and a bookshop, Kala Dham will grow into a space where anyone passionate about music can walk in.”
The centre, which was supposed to be launched on July 7 this year, but could not owing to the lockdown will impart training in music and performing arts, and also incorporate a dance studio and an intimate auditorium with a seating capacity for people between 50 and 100 where ticketed performances will be held every week. “We want to make the place abuzz with highly qualified teachers, industry veterans and new age musicians who have bent the rules,” says Kher.
The musician, who composed five songs in a single day this week says, “Singing in Sanskrit was an extremely meditative exercise for me. I will produce and launch the two songs on Shiva this Sawan.”
Optimistic that live performances will come back with a bigger fervour once the pandemic is a thing of the past, Kher, who in his career spanning 15 years has performed at 1,200 concerts worldwide and sung 1,500 songs for movies and albums, and has been fervently composing during the entire period, says, “The world has seen worse tragedies. Have we forgotten the World Wars? The key here is to be optimistic. Art has always been instrumental in soothing the soul and its place in our lives is indispensable. Even in times like these are we not doing hugely popular online concerts?”
Part of HCL Soundscapes on July 18, Kher feels that more corporates need to come forward to support artists in these times. “Major companies with huge profit margins need to understand their social responsibilities. This is also the time for people to evolve and use social media more meaningfully. I know for sure, our audience is there to stay, for our sound is loved for its originality of thought. Sometimes, we don’t even have to say a word to communicate with them.”
Recipient of the Padma Shri award in 2017, the singer feels that most youngsters are “looking at music” on YouTube and social media rather than listening. “Every sensory organ has its purpose. Music is supposed to move your soul, not provide a visual treat. You need to learn to bring your imagination into play for the imagery.”
Lamenting that most music channels are concentrating only on film music, Kher feels that leaving out independent musicians is unfair on the latter. “Either they should say we run a film music channel. Why is it that no other genre is given space? And the argument that independent music does not have takers is absolutely false.”
Talking about his project ‘Nayi Udaan’, which launches five music talents every year, the singer says that under this youngsters are mentored and guided on how to present themselves. “A lot of people have talent, but the key is to break through, that is where we come in. More importantly, we save them from the trappings of agents.”
His other project, ‘Nayi Rangat’, is organised in November in remembrance of his father who used to make and play the ‘Ektara’, though professionally he was a purohit. Stressing that little attention was being paid to Indian folk arts and many of them are on the verge of extinction, Kher adds, “Under ‘Nayi Rangat’, folk artists from across the country including villages are invited to showcase their talents on a bigger platform. Last year, we organised it at Central Park in Connaught Place in the capital.
Kher, who recently lent his voice for a Tamil track in the film “Bahubali” says that working with composers like Ilaiyaraaja, A.R. Rehman, Ram Sampat and Shanker Mahadevan is always a pleasure. “They bring new thoughts to the table. Not only is their work solid, they also know how to present it well.”
Ask him if he misses formal training in music, and the musician asserts, “We come from a culture where oral traditions have been strong. From the very beginning, I could learn entire prose textbooks, even my teachers would be surprised. I have learnt and absorbed by listening, and a lot of practice,” he concludes.