Kailash Kher may look diminutive on stage. But once he starts singing, his voice owns the space — resonating over every beat accompanying the lyrics. He lifts words to a higher ground — into your soul. And he knows that.
Kher’s is one of the more familiar voices on MTV’s Coke Studio tableau and he is excited to be a part of it. “Being a known voice or a celebrated singer doesn’t stop you from seeking music. There are endless opportunities to collaborate with the finest raw talent and folk musicians, and Coke Studio has enabled me to share the platform with such talent. It is a very exciting process for me,” he says of his presence on the television programme.
In the West, drugs are rampant in the music industry and music artistes are almost synonymous with drug abuse. Indian artistes lead a pretty clean existence in comparison. Kher explains it simply, and then pauses briefly to translate what sounded fabulous in Hindi to its fabulous equivalent in English. “When you are high on the drugs of your soul, no worldly drug can compare… Music is my drug and I am high on my soul.”
“Music is entertainment as well as enlightenment and any song of mine that helps make the world a better place becomes an eternal favourite,” says Kher who is set to release another album soon with his band, Kailasa, that he formed with the Kamath brothers – Paresh and Naresh.
The music scene in India, has no real rules. You are as good as your last chart-buster in an industry where you hear a new voice every month. “Branding is key for a singer,” he says. “The star you will be singing for, the director and producer of the film, how big the film is – these are all important factors in taking a singer to fame and glory. Singing the title track for a Yash Raj Films production instantly means it’s a big song and will be positioned thus. It is all relative in the end,” he says.
Kher has had his share of rough beginnings when he came to Mumbai to actualise his dream of cutting an independent album. “When I spoke to music companies about the kind of music I wanted to make, I was always told that that kind of musical style won’t sell. I was disheartened and wondered whether all the effort and hard work had been in vain. But I continued doing what I was doing till someone heard me and went on to tell someone else that he had heard my voice. That’s how I started singing for advertising jingles and films. My singing career started in reverse – playback singing to forming my own band ‘Kailasa’.”
With Indian singers and composers clamouring to collaborate with Western artists ever since AR Rahman’s ‘Jai Ho’ made it to the Grammys, is he inclined to collaborate too? “No, not at all. I want to spread the light of my music in India. To me, the entire world is India. I don’t need to go anywhere. This is where I will make music for the rest of my life.”
Kher’s ‘must-haves’ for any singer who dreams of a career in playback singing. You must possess:
1. A humane and kind spirit.
2. Dedication, devotion and determination towards your work.
3. Strength to carry on in the face of adversity.
4. Patience because it’s not an easy business.
5. Most importantly, extreme talent.