They say music has no language, no boundaries and no religion. Early this year, when Mumbai-based band Maadhyam decided to recreate Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s song Bina Mahi, acquaintances warned them about the possible repercussions of working on such a project given the strained relations between India and Pakistan. However, that didn’t deter the band members and they went ahead with it. “We are musicians and we feel that music should not have political borders. You will find thousands of fans of Nusrat sahab in India and likewise there are numerous fans of Mohammad Rafi or Kishore Kishore Kumar in Pakistan. Since Bina Mahi’s release, a lot our fans from Pakistan have also sent messages of appreciation,” says Mayank Maurya, the vocalist.
Since the song’s release on August 1, it has garnered rave reviews on social media. Interestingly, Pakistan-based Hi Tech Music Ltd, which has the rights of the original Bina Mahi, has contacted Maadhyam and shown interest in releasing the song in Pakistan under its label. “It is a huge achievement for us because after a gap of many years, an Indian band’s work will be released in Pakistan under their label,” says Maurya.
The project Bina Mahi happened by chance. Sometime in January, Dubai-based DJ Shadow got in touch with Maadhyam to collaborate on a music project. A long search and discussion followed and they zeroed in on recreating Bina Mahi. “The reason we selected this is that despite the current tense relations with Pakistan, our band members have always been inspired by Pakistani music. At the same time, we share an equal love for Indian music as well. Having been exposed to Pakistani music, we feel that there are so many good Pakistani compositions that have not reached Indian ears and Bina Mahi, sung by legendary Pakistani singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, is one of them,” says Maurya. He also added that they were also perked up the challenge of giving a contemporary feel to a qawwali.
Formed in the year 2015, Maadhyam is a four-member band comprising Mayank (vocalist), Shubham Srivastava (guitarist), Kamal Kishor (drummer) and Manish Ahuja (bassist). The band was formed in Delhi, from where the members moved to Mumbai in 2016 in search of opportunities in Bollywood and also to work on their original compositions.
The making of the song, produced by DJ Shadow, was also an interesting experience. “While he was doing his part from Dubai, we were working on the track here in India. Since all of us liked the final outcome, we thought the song should have a video that does justice to the composition. Hence, we contacted Haider Khan, one of the finest in the industry. The video was shot in an untouched, beautiful location in Rajasthan. After watching the video, a lot of people asked us if the video was shot in Egypt or some other overseas location,” recalls Maurya.
Given that the original song is sung by none other than Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the band members were aware that comparison is inevitable and the end product may fetch them both bouquets and brickbats. “We knew that there is an audience for the song in its original form and no effort on our part would make them appreciate our work. We also knew that today’s young audience is not very fond of qawwali and if we recreate a song that has the qawwali touch and give it a modern feel, they may like it. The original song is already a beautiful composition; we have just presented it in a different form,” says the singer.
The current trend of recreating old melodies, especially in Hindi films, according to Maurya, has both positive and negative aspects to it. “It’s good in a way that the young audiences, who do not get exposed to older songs, get to hear them. In the recent past, many such songs have become popular than the original ones. However, if the experiment goes wrong, you end up destroying something which was once beautiful,” explains Maurya.
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