Call up a film buff these days and chances are their caller tune will ring Kabhi Kabhi Aditi… But while the song from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na has become really popular, not many are aware of the man behind that youthful, fresh voice.
It’s easy to get slotted here and given that Bollywood is all about cliques and camaraderie, one is tempted to go that route with Rashid Ali as well. Rashid is the flavor of the season (apart from the boy-wonder Imran Khan) given that his song ‘Kabhi Kabhi Aditi’ from the film Jaane tu… is a chart buster. And yet the NRI singer is untouched by the feverish aspiration of making it big in tinsel town; he’d rather simply be a busy musician for now.
Rashid was spotted at a concert in London by A R Rahman about six years ago. Rahman walked up to him for a casual chat, although Rashid did not know much about him except for his work in Rangeela. “We got along and I became part of his troupe for a while as a guitarist,” he says. He worked with the maestro on the Bombay Dreams project in 2002 in the formative phase, only to quit soon when the schedules became too manic. They traveled together across India on the 2003 tour titled Unity of Light. There, he improvised on ‘Ooh la la la’ by infusing it with jazz, and played the title track of Rangeela as well. “Jazz gives a musician rigor. You have to fuse the various elements of music very subtly, pretty much like Hindustani classical music. If you master that, you can improvise on any kind of music.”
Born in UP and brought up in London, his father a retired businessman and mother a ghazal singer who trained with Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, Rashid’s sensibility towards melody has been multi-ethnic. He grew up with strains of classical Hindustani music wafting at home while outside, it was R&B, Jazz and House. He is of that generation that was obsessed with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Sting. Today, some of his favorites are Al Di Meola, Flamemco guitarist like Paco De Lucia and musicians like Chick Corea. Sting has been an enduring favorite.
“I was like a sponge as a kid, soaking it all in,” says Rashid. “I am happy that I grew up in London, as it exposed me to a wide range of international music — Greek, Italian, the lot.” While in his teens he gravitated to fusion jazz, and soon took to the guitar. He chose the guitar over the violin when faced with a choice of instruments as he knew that the former would support his singing as well. “Can you imagine me singing ‘Kabhi Kabhi Aditi’ while playing the violin,” he laughs, humming the first lines. “The guitar offered both vitality and virility, as it always does to boys in their teens.”
Clearly then there was to be no looking back, at least not with Rahman after that. He offered playback support in a few Tamil films with him, until Jaane tu was to put him on the map eventually. “I have never consciously aspired for Bollywood; but wanted to do just enough for people to recognize my voice, my guitar and eventually my compositions,” he says. “Come to think of it, I was always keen to go on stage, even as a kid. When my mother released her first album of ghazals in London, I went up on stage and sang an old Kishore Kumar favorite, ‘Mere dil mein aaj kya hai’. Going up on stage as often as I was urged to, during community functions and such, didn’t bother me at all.”
Next up, Rashid is busy putting the final touches to his compositions for an album to be produced by Rahman, of whom he says, “A R is very definite about his ideas and vision but at the same time gives the artist freedom along a given framework. He has always welcomed my musical ideas and individuality such as on some of the guitar vamps on ‘Kabhi Kabhi Aditi’.”
Apart from Kabhi Kabhi , Rashid has also lent his vocals to Kahin To Hogi Woh from the same film as well as Ishq Ada Hai from the upcoming film Ada – A Way of Life. Ask Rashid if he felt nervous about singing for his Bollywood venture and he replies, “I was not nervous about singing since I have been doing it for a while but each time I feel conscientious about putting in the right feel and expression for the song which the listener should sense. I was excited about all three songs. What I like is that all three of them have different emotions that are conveyed to the listener.”
The singer has received numerous compliments about his singing, but the best one he says is that his voice sounds young, fresh and that it is unique. Other offers from Bollywood too are pouring in but Rashid’s taking it one day at a time.
“There are other offers in the pipeline which I am considering,” he says. At the moment, Rashid is working on bringing out his own album where he has played the guitar as well as sung original compositions. “My main goal is to successfully complete my own album which will further define my voice, guitar playing and what my own music is all about,” says Rashid.