In an exclusive interview with Gianysh Toolsee, Tauseef Akhtar from Soul Fusion, shares with us his journey, from being a composer since the age of 15 to composing for movies. Soul Fusion has released tracks such as “Humein Jeene Do”, “Rahat-E-Jaan” and “You Know I Am Crazy About You” which blend Hindi and English vocals together.
Tauseef Akhtar has also worked as an as a chief assistant music director, arranger and programmer for Nadeem-Shravan and is a also Bollywood music composer, known for the titling “If You Wanna Love Me” from Aisa Kyon Hota Hai? and “Samandar” from Mr. Black Mr. White.
I had a concept of a female Indian Western duo in my mind. The girl who was supposed to do the Indian vocals didn't turn up. Cheryl and I jammed to start the compositions. It was Cheryl’s suggestion that I should do the Indian vocals in the combo and it worked with God's blessings. It took us a while to develop our own style and sound. Once we figured out the Soul Fusion style, we never looked back. We constantly try and improve on our songs and with time, we have developed more understanding and chemistry which is required for such combinations.
Why the name Soul Fusion?
It was an instant decision about this name. Both me and Cheryl believe that without soul there is no music. Since we belong to two different musical backgrounds, it is indeed not just fusion of two musical minds but also two different souls. That’s what Soul Fusion is all about.
Where did your love for a fusion initially come from?
I personally liked what Colonial Cousins had done and I am still a fan of their music. What I liked about their songs was that they were very simple to understand and their music reached millions of hearts because of its simplicity and underlying fusion element. It was an out and out commercial fusion which I had never heard before. So it’s mainly Colonial Cousins who was the driving force behind my liking for the fusion genre.
In all the songs, Cheryl sings in English and you sing in Hindi. Is Soul Fusion also targeting an international audience? One of your songs is even titled in English; “You Know I Am Crazy About You”.
Absolutely! It is our heartfelt desire that our music should reach every corner of this globe. Language is not a barrier and it is more of global music than just Indian or Western music nowadays. We would also like to collaborate with artists from around the world. That should be our next step. Rest is in God's hands.
Tell us more about how you and Cheryl start on a new song.
We never force ourselves to write or compose a song. It just takes something to trigger us or inspire us and a new song is born. The inspiration can come from anything which touches our hearts.
You composed your first album, titled ‘Aashiyan’, when you were only 15. What has changed in your passion for music since then?
It was a surprise for me when the Late Gulshanji (Gulshan Kumar of T-Series) offered me Aashiyan. It was a super hit ghazal album and I still remember that it was like a dream phase for me working with Anuradha Paudwalji and so many live musicians. All I can say is that God has been very kind to me and since Aashiyan, my passion for music has crossed all boundaries but I still feel that the ocean is deep and I have a long way to go.
You have been referred as the Indian music whiz kid. Tell us more how softwares have changed the way we produce music these days. How has your production techniques changed since 1993?
The process of recording songs has completely changed. I miss going to the studios to track the live musicians who used to fill the song with soul. I personally think that technology has helped us to achieve better results in terms of quality of sound and production, but due to so-called home studios, most of us are missing out on the vibes of the big studios where it used to be like a family of composers, musicians, recordists and the assistants. Softwares are a boon. It has helped us to do massive productions which were not possible before due to the lack of possibilities in terms of tracks etc. But at the same time, everything has its own pros and cons.
Who has influenced you musically?
Truly speaking, I was first influenced by my Guru Shri. Jagjit Singhji. I have grown listening to him. But later I was exposed to Mehdi Hassan Sahab and that changed my whole life. I am also a very big fan of Michael Jackson.
“Humein Jeene Do” is one of your most well known tracks. Was there any message that went into this track?
This song was a tribute to 7/11 Mumbai train blast victims. Though it was recorded at that time, we dedicate this song to all the victims across the globe who are targeted by evil acts of terrorism. This song is a voice of every human being who wants peace and wants to live a life of joy, love and harmony.
You are the son of Akhtar Azad, renowned for traditional Qawali. What influence has your upbringing had on your music?
I am blessed to have been born in a family of musicians. I had the opportunity to grow up witnessing artists like Jagjitji, Mehdi Sahab, Nusrat Sahab and many more great singers. At the same time I was exposed to great poets like Qateel Shifai, Wali Aasi, Rahat Indori, Waseem Barelvi etc. I had access to amazing collection of Urdu literature from my father's library. There can be a whole book written about the experience I had growing up with legends and witnessing them singing, writing and composing in my small little drawing room.
You joined Bollywood in 1993 and worked as a chief assistant music director, arranger and programmer for Nadeem-Shravan in movies such as Dhadkan, Yeh Dil Aashiqanaa, Kasoor, Raaz, Hum Ho Gaye Aapke, Tum Se Achcha Kaun Hai, Ek Rishta, Andaaz, Hungama, Dil Hai Tumhara, Yeh Dil, Bewafa and Do Not Disturb. You have also composed for Bollywood movies such as Aisa Kyon Hota Hai?, Mr. White Mr. Black, Mere Baap Pehle Aap and Kushti. What are your priorities in Bollywood at the moment? Do you think Bollywood has given you your dues?
I still have to do a lot as far as Bollywood is concerned. I am working on some songs right now before I approach some producers/directors. I want to develop my own style and come out with melodious compositions which I feel is my forte. Since I assisted Nadeem-Shravan for a long time, I learnt a lot of things from them. My mentor Nadeem Bhai still briefs me as far as Bollywood is concerned. God has given me a lot and it really doesn't matter what Bollywood or Hollywood gives me. I am happy doing music and that’s my passion and the most important thing for me is to keep that passion alive.
How different is composing for movies and for your own album?
Album is a reflection of an artist’s mind and soul. There is no boundary as far as creativity is concerned in an album. One can experiment, express and present a song in the manner he/she likes in a private album. Film music is challenging as it has certain parameters to follow. Mostly when the director wants a song for a particular situation, it is real fun to compose for that particular situation and yet come out with a hit. So there is a big difference between composing for album and films.
Talking of Bollywood, what do you think of the current state of songs being churned out?
Frankly speaking, I hardly hear good songs nowadays. Though I liked a few songs done by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Pritam and Vishal-Shekhar, I still am thirsting to hear those songs which can make me cry and touch my heart. It's been a while I have heard a song twice. The last soundtrack I heard couple of times was Taare Zameen Par. I miss the melody of Nadeem-Shravan and Anu Malik.
Who do you think is really doing it on the music scene at the moment? Why?
Pritam. He delivers some fantastic hits. All I can say about him is that he knows the pulse of the audience.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
I am busy working on some songs for Soul Fusion live shows. We survive on performing live and the audience is becoming more demanding day by day. So at the moment, my whole focus is towards the quality of shows we are doing. I will be starting work on some film songs in a couple of weeks from now.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get his or her music out there?
We all are waiting to hear some nice songs. New talents should come in and give us a taste of something which we all have never heard before. There is no point in repeating what others have done in the past. So work hard, believe in yourself and trust God. Please don't copy anyone. Originality takes time to register but it stands out.
Name a few albums that have changed your life/thinking?
Sajda, Beyond Time, Dil Padosi Hai, Aashiqui, Meraj-E-Ghazal and History (Michael Jackson).
What does the future hold for Soul Fusion?
Chartbuster hits and huge success (GOD willing).
Where can our readers preview and buy your songs?
We have released three of our songs on www.artistaloud.com where the readers can download these tracks at a very nominal price. Also our videos are available on our Official YouTube Channel - www.youtube.com/soulfusionindia
It was a pleasure to have this interview with you Tauseef.
It was my pleasure too. You have really done your research well about me. Peace and love to all.
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