It was in 1997 that the composer trio Shankar Ehsaan Loy came together for the first time, for Mukul Anand’s film Dus. The movie was unfortunately never completed owing to the director’s untimely death, but the songs did come out, the song Suno Gaur Se in particular becoming quite popular. SEL then went on to greater things, winning a National Award among other numerous accolades. Our interviewee for the day though, is the ace guitarist among the trio, the man whose career in music began much before Dus, with a jingle for Paragon Shoes thirty years back. A man whom we have incidentally interviewed five years back as well! In our latest interview, Ehsaan talks about his jury experience at The Stage, SEL’s Marathi debut etc.
30 years in the music industry. How has the journey been? How have you seen the scene change, over such a long period? Be it indie, or film?
It’s been one of learning and growth musically and spiritually. The scene has changed a lot over the last few years especially as the internet became one of the strongest mediums for music. Indie musicians are finding it easier to put their music out there through youtube etc. Film music has grown too as the tastes of people change it naturally is more trendy now.
You are on the jury panel for The Stage. How has the experience so far been? And what do you think of the prospects regarding acceptance of the show as such in India, given that it is the first of its kind?
The experience has been amazing, we have such wonderful talent in this country. Am happy that at last there is a platform where singers who don’t sing in Hindi or any of the local languages are getting to show off their singing skills and get some recognition.
The general pattern with reality shows, what with a lot of them in town, has been for new talent to garner the spotlight when on such shows and not be able to leverage that success in their career beyond the show. Though The Stage is first of its kind in that it targets the English singing musicians, do you see a similar challenge arising here too?
The whole idea of Universal Music being involved with the show and Devraj Sanyal being a member of the jury is so that the winner of the show can have a career beyond the show.
You recently expressed your desire in mentoring young musicians and producing/writing songs for them. Are you going to do some of that on The Stage? Or are there other plans too? To refer back to the interview we had five years back, you had mentioned “SEL Sounds” with similar intentions. Is that still in the offing?
Well SEL songs does exist it’s just that we have been too busy with our Bollywood music etc but the plan is definitely there and when the time is right and we have the correct artists we will song write for them.
You headed one episode on Coke Studio at MTV a couple of years back. Are there any plans of returning to the show? And how would you compare the Indian version with the Pakistan one?
Well we did one episode and am not sure when or if we will do another one. It has been a successful show because it blends different forms of music which appeals to the listeners. Both the Indian and Pakistani shows each have something unique to offer as both countries have immense singing and musical talent.
Coming to the movie scene, SEL recently did a debut in Marathi, and a classical-oriented one, going by the promos and songs so far. How was that experience, given you have not done a soundtrack that is purely classical and period before this?
Well it has been a good experience doing the music for Katiyaar (Kaljat Ghusali). Shankar is a maestro in classical music and composing the music has been a learning experience for us. Marathi film and theatre still draws upon the Indian classical tradition and its sad that the Hindi film industry has almost left that behind.
You have done a lot of guitar work as part of SEL. Have you ever played for other composers? Or have you ever felt after hearing a song that you wish you had played for that?
Well I have played for Vishal Shekhar and Gulraj Singh on occasion and will do a session if asked to do one. I haven’t felt that so far that I would want to play guitar on a particular song. There is enough guitar in our songs 🙂
You had mentioned your bands Faces in the Dark and Fuzzy Duck in our last interview. Are you still active with those? Have you dabbled with any other indie stuff yourself recently?
Well I have been playing with a few projects like The Fender Benders and Fender and Friends featuring the endorsees of Fender guitars. I am also playing a few concerts with Parikrama. Faces and Fuzzy Duck are on the back burner for now.
What are your other projects we should watch out for in the immediate future?
Rock On 2, Mirzaa, Vijay Acharya’s new film, Ghayal 2 etc.