Interview of the Week- Shaan, Musician

Time has flown by. One’s first memory of singer Shaan is of him and his sister Sagarika meeting composer Biddu at a Juhu bungalow, just before signing up their album Naujawan. That was over 25 years ago, and the singer has moved from becoming a known Indipop star and reality show host to an established playback singer and popular live performer.

Shaan has been there, done that. Yet, this week marks a first for him in another area, as he will do an all-English set in an online concert. In the fourth part of the Jim Beam Originals series, presented by Paytm Insider and curated and promoted by Turnkey Music & Publishing and Music Plus, Shaan will pay tribute to one of his idols, Bryan Adams, this Saturday.

Shaan’s band will include keyboardist Merlin D’Souza and guitarist Sarosh Izedyar. And while he’s excited about his event, he’s also looking forward to some other projects in 2021. In the middle of his busy schedule, he takes a break for our Interview of the Week.

How much has Bryan Adams influenced you personally?

Growing up in Bandra, I heard a lot of music from the 1980s. Most of them were pop-rock or good old pop. When I was given this opportunity to do this show, I liked the concept. I wanted to choose between Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams. Since Bryan has a lot of singalong favourites, I decided to go ahead with him. The time is also perfect for his kind of music, as it comes just a day after Christmas and one can enjoy it at home.

Before the lockdown, you were constantly busy with live performances. How have you adapted to the new situation?

One has to adapt. I remember I had 12 shows in January and was part of two music videos. Then the slump happened. I was to tour Europe in April, and tours of the US and Australia were also planned this year. All got cancelled and some amount of time was spent hoping things would normalise. But one had to adapt. Initially, I did online shows from home, singing with tracks. From September, I worked with a band and we would record together and perform live. I am not comfortable with situations where the drummer is somewhere else and the guitarist is somewhere else. People do that, but I’m sure it involves a lot of post-production.

As a business, where do you see the future of online events?

There are pros and cons. But one has to look at the positive side. One just can’t sit back and say he can’t do shows because doesn’t see the audience and is unable to speak to them. Even the online space has matured, and I am now more comfortable singing to a camera. It’s not the real thing, but the best one can do is to make things appear as real as possible, In my live shows, including the Bryan Adams tribute, I don’t believe in just going and playing songs in a routine manner. There will be some banter, something the audience will enjoy and take back as an experience. Having said that, online shows are only a part of what I’ve done after lockdown. There has been television work, jingles. I am looking forward to other exciting projects.

Any you’d like to mention?

I shall be focusing more on my role as a composer. This will be more for OTT film projects, but that’s a side of my musical personality that I want to focus on. There’s a film called Hush, which is a whodunit. There are a couple of other OTT projects in the second half of 2021 but it’s early to talk about them. I’m working with singers like Sunidhi Chauhan, Shalmali Kholgade and Bhoomi Trivedi. Hey, that doesn’t mean I shall be singling all the male songs myself. Sonu Nigam, Vishal Dadlani and others will be singing too.

Talking of film music, you’ve cut down on your work in that area, where you were so busy a decade ago. Any reason?

It’s not a choice I made. It’s the way things turned out. The number of challenging opportunities came down, and more younger singers also started coming in. But I’ve always believed that if one door closes, another opens. I started my own YouTube channel three years ago, and as I said, I got more into composing. I keep myself busy, and there’s something that always comes up. And there have been some good film songs too. I did the song Tujhe Rab Mana in Baaghi 3 which I liked. There was a song in Yaara (Har Dafaa with Shruti Rane).

Twenty years ago, your core fans must have 20 or 25 years old. Now they’ve all grown up and in their 40s. So at live performances, do you still prefer the older songs? How do you choose your setlists?

From the period 2000 to 2010 I would have a regular string of hits. So I had to be constantly innovative with my setlists, including the newer songs and yet retaining the older favourites. There was no shortage of new songs. Even till the live scene was active before the lockdown, I believed in shifting the setlist, including mash-ups and new twists. And of course, one sensed the crowd mood. Of course, my speciality has been corporate shows. So in many cases, I have to create my setlist keeping in line with the brand and what that particular audience wants.

You’ve also sung a lot of regional numbers. Bengali would be comfortable, being your mother tongue. But how did you approach languages you didn’t know, like ones from the south?

I put in 100 per cent in whatever I do. Regional songs were definitely more challenging, and I would discuss in detail with the language supervisor or the lyricist. But I enjoyed it, and besides the known languages, I also started singing in other languages and dialects like Kumaoni, Garhwali, Marwadi, Tulu and a dialect from Tripura. One learns along the way.

There was a time when you were one of the big names in Indipop, with albums like Loveology, Tanha Dil, Aksar and Tishnagi. Now, with non-film and independent music becoming big, do you plan any album?

Not an entire album but I have a project which I’m really looking forward to. See, many people know me for romantic songs, but I have also sung many songs about social issues. It is the latter kind of songs I plan to concentrate on. So every month next year, I plan to put out a song covering one important aspect. In January there will be a song about taking care of one’s aged parents. This will be followed by songs on mental health and child labour. Doing commercial music is not enough, and one has to give back something to society.

You’ve been around since the glory days of Indipop in the mid-1990s. What’s the difference between then and now, especially with many film musicians getting into the non-film space more frequently?

Yes, things are heading in the non-film direction, though the focus these days is to put out singles rather than albums. But those days, it wasn’t just about putting out the CDs. The artiste was involved with everything, from singing and writing to being involved with the production to appearing in the music video. The labels were focused on building artistes. Basically, we’re creating the same thing but the priorities have changed.

Book your tickets here and watch Shaan perform his rendition of Bryan Adam’s hit songs

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