Shaan: Goal of Love in Concert is to entertain and engage

The popular Bollywood singer is performing in Dallas (July 20), San Jose (July 21), Newark, NJ (July 28) and Washington, DC (July 29).

Popular Indian playback singer Shaan is currently touring the United States as part of concert series to spread awareness about the opioid crisis. As part of the Love in Concert, which was kicked off earlier this month, the singer is performing in 10 cities in the United States. The concert series is being promoted by the American Pain Association. The following are some of the cities he will be performing in the next few weeks:

Dallas: July 20

San Jose:  July 21

Newark, NJ: July 28

Washington, DC:  July 29

In an interview with Isha Roy earlier this week, the Mumbai-based singer spoke about the tour. Here are the excerpts:

This concert has a very important message in raising awareness for the opioid crisis.  Can you tell us a little about the goal of this concert tour and what do you hope to accomplish?

The goal of the concert is to entertain and engage with the audience but at the same time subtly raise awareness of the serious issues around opioid abuse including youngsters who are misusing prescription tablets.  We also want to make parents aware of the risks associated with having expired medications at home that are going into the wrong hands and being used for the wrong reasons. The numbers around opioid abuse both here in the US and in India are alarming so something needs to be done fast.  

The overall theme of the show is Love in Concert where through music talk we’ll talk about love in its various aspects.  Through songs and dance we’ll celebrate the different type of relationships that revolve around love for example the love between mother-child, brother-sister and the patriotic love for your country.  There is also a focus on loving yourself which is the key to being happy and confident in who you are.

People come from all walks of life, all ages, and backgrounds to your show.   As a seasoned performer, how do you connect with the different types of people making up your audience and keep them engaged throughout the performance?   

Our goal is to keep the audience engaged by keeping them involved with the overall direction of the show.  We’ll be taking requests from the audience and in fact will have a mobile app available for the audience to vote on what 3 songs they want to hear.  We’ll also get people on stage to pretend to be the actor / actress they love the most whether it be Kajol, Shah Rukh or whoever else they want to act like.  We will be singing songs from the 1960’s all the way to 2017 so we’ll have music for everyone in the audience.

We’ve done 4 shows and they’ve all been sold out.  The crowds have been very appreciative about how much they feel a part of the show.   The act is getting tighter with every show so I have no doubt we have something special in store for every city. 

Your music career took off at a very young age of 17 and you of course you come from a very music driven family.  Tell us a little bit about your early start and the inspiration behind your career choice.

I’m a third-generation singer who is very fortunate to benefit from the share of luck that my grandfather (Jahar Mukherjee) and father (Manas Mukherjee), who were more knowledgeable and talented artists than I am, deserved.  Music came naturally to me. Honestly, I felt music was something I didn’t have to work too hard for and something I guess you can say I was born to do.

I tried other jobs but found music was something that just felt much more natural to me compared to other jobs.  In 2001 when things were going well, I took vocal training for the first time at the ripe old age of 32 because I didn’t want to be 10 song wonder.  I’ve continued with the training and feel like at 45 I’m singing the best I ever have. Ironically, I don’t sing the big songs from the big movies now but that’s something out of my control.  What I do have control over is doing great in terms of keeping myself fit and prepared.

You have been a part of the Indian film industry for over 20 years.   Some say the music quality was better in the yesteryears. What are your thoughts on the state of Bollywood music now and where it’s headed?  How has it evolved?

That is something that has been brought up by every generation but personally I believe music is something that reflects what society wants.  If society didn’t like the music they would have rejected it. I’m sure the music we have today will be more appreciated 10 years from now.

Today there is a growing inclination to bend towards the business side of music and cater to a larger audience.  Basically, what has happened is music is more focused on entertainment now and something which is easier for the listener to digest.  This is why there are more recreations now that are more groove and hook oriented and don’t necessarily have too many changes in the structure throughout the song.  The simpler you keep a song the more views and listens you get.

You have provided vocals for so many popular film songs in multiple languages.  Do you have a favorite song that you connected with on a personal level from over the years?  

No not really, while of course music is a passion it’s also something I have to keep professional and because of that I don’t have a favorite song.  Given a choice, if I had to sing songs for myself, it would be Kishore Kumar songs. His songs are like comfort for me.

You have done some collaboration with international singers.  Can you tell us a little bit about the work you have done on an international level?  Do you have plans to do more of such collaboration?

I would love to.  The opportunity came to me thanks to the company I was signed up for at that time at that point. It was an international company which had signed up many international artists and I was their only artist from India.  It wasn’t like I went out there or came out here to the US to proactively pursue collaboration with these artists. It just happened because of this connection. Now that the company is not really working out of India and I am not contracted with them anymore, I don’t see how that can happen but of course I am very open to it and very excited if some proposal of this sort does come my way.  I will surely jump on it. I also think having a strong English accent helps with these collaborative projects in English and it has certainly helped me understand the vibe and helped me in working with the band blue for the song “One Love”, collaboration with Michael Learns to Rock for his album, and all the other artists.  I am able to blend the Indian side, the Indian ethos to the song with the western vibe.  

There are so many singing competitions on TV right now and you have been a judge yourself on many of these shows.  What are your thoughts on these shows in promoting young talent? Is it easier for young talent to be discovered now than it was when your career was taking off?  

That is true.  A lot of people ask what happens after the shows.  But whatever happens after that is up to that talent to take it forward.  I think it’s a great platform to be a part of these reality shows if you look at it as a training, as almost like a crash course in music, in live performances, and in being able to engage your audience.   Often times these shows are usually projected out to be as your stepping stone to success. But actually, success happens much later after that because you can get popular for your voice by singing someone else’s songs.  But the real challenge is when you create your own music or sing original songs in your voice. That is when you understand if you have the right expression or if you have the vibe in your voice. It’s like the difference between tracing a photograph and having to sketch it yourself.  Reality shows don’t train you for that and that will come with time and will come from your own training, hard work, and acumen. So it’s a great jump start to knowing how far you stand among the new voices, do you really have it in you, and then from there you have to start your hard work and you are going to get there.  A lot of people get very excited with all the popularity, going live, and doing all the shows. It’s an annual thing and a couple years down the road they are forgotten and they feel very cheated and that this didn’t bring me anything. So, it depends how you look at it.

Having accomplished as much as you have in India and abroad, what’s next for you in terms of upcoming projects or goals or any specific artist that you would like to work with in the near future?  

I have a wish list but no specific plans.  I am open to different things. In the meantime, I am enjoying this journey even though it’s not at the pace it used to be.  I truly enjoy being able to create these live shows and concerts and being able to perform for my audience. I am very grateful to the composers who gave me all those songs and all my audience who come and still attend my concert and fill up the auditorium.  I also have my YouTube channel where I put up my original compositions from time to time. For me it’s a great time to do whatever I want to do creatively through live shows, through creating different songs, and through doing shows on television and being able to encourage new talent.

I feel very lucky and fortunate to have a body of work that has attracted audiences for years now that has believed in me as a live performer and entertainer.  That keeps me motivated because I feel I can’t let them down.

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