Salim–Sulaiman, the talented and popular Indian music composer and singer brother duo knew about their inherent love for music, even before they knew anything else in life. Salim and Sulaiman Merchant, the musical duo behind some of the biggest Hindi songs and also a few in Tamil and Telugu, spoke to Namita Gupta in an exclusive interview as they brought in the Bollywood vibe, with their record-breaking hits at SulaFest 2020, India’s biggest vineyard music festival.
How has your journey been growing up as brothers in a family where music was an important part of your tradition as your father Sadruddin Merchant was also a music composer?
Salim: When growing up together, there was always music around us even while we were playing or doing anything else. Our father was a music composer before he became a manufacturer of musical instruments. So, in our childhood days, we had musical instruments around us as toys. At the age of like five and eight, we were introduced to quality music and we both studied Indian classical and Western classical music, so were extremely fortunate to blend in both the worlds. I studied classical piano at the Trinity College of Music in London; Sulaiman learnt drums before being tutored by Ustad Allah Rakha, Taufiq Qureshi and Ustad Zakir Hussain. Since our passion turned into our profession, we have enjoyed every bit of our non-stop musical journey. It’s been over two decades and over 100 hit songs, but it still feels like we have just begun.
Who was your idol in your growing up days?
Ustad Zakir Hussain.
Any crazy and fun things your fans have done for you?
Sulaiman: Our birthday gifts turn up from everywhere. We feel so blessed. We have a close bunch of super fans who follow us everywhere, not only on our social media. Some of our fans travel the world to catch our performances, where ever we go. When we performed in London, they came to London, when we performed in Singapore, they came there for us and what not. As we announce our concerts, they book their tickets and come. Many of them have told us that they have come to the SulaFest for us. It gives us great energy and motivation to keep going.
As brothers do you have any differences and how do you sort them out?
Salim: Yes, we do, but it’s natural. It’s nothing big.
Sulaiman: We don’t need to sort them out, it just sorts out by itself.
Your performance was a super hit with thousands of fans enjoying every bit of it. How do you feel about performing at the biggest vineyard music festival?
Sulaiman: We have visited the vineyards before for one of the SulaFests and we loved the vibes. Since it’s one of the first music festivals and it’s so popular across the world now, we are happy to be a part of this happiest music and wine fest. It’s been growing every year, so it’s great to perform here. Our fans love our favourite hits Chak De!, Ainvayi Ainvayi, Kurbaan, Shukran allah and others, besides some new compositions – from slow, mellow to upbeat and uptempo, the whole gamut.
What’s new in the pipeline for you?
Sulaiman: We are releasing a new music album called Bhoomi 2020, since the independent music scene is big in India now. 20 years back we did an album called Bhoomi after which we got into mainstream Bollywood music and concerts across the world, so we never really got the time and space. So, we decided to get into the studio, as that was a very special album for us. So now our pet project that’s really close to our hearts is Bhoomi 2020, which is a mix of folk with today’s sound of electronica frequencies. It’s just completed and features some incredible singers like Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Sukhvinder Singh, Jonita Gandhi, Nikita Gandhi, Osman Mir, Kaushiki Chakraborty, Raj Pundit, Vipul Mehta, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and lot of amazing artists. Jheeni jheeni is our brand new single. And a lot more music and concerts too.