Music, in India, is one of the most important part of our lives, we have our lives revolving around it. Hence, it is no surprise that some of our best musicians are one of the biggest celebrated personalities in the country. He is also one of the most loved individual in the music industry and here is a proof to it:
No matter where Shankar Mahadevan, Farhan Akhtar and Devraj Sanyal were, they had to take time out to wish one of their favorite persons, on his birthday.
While largely everyone knows that Ehsaan Noorani started his music education in India under Mr. Bismarck Rodrigues and then moved on to Los Angeles for further studies, a natural question that came to mind was, if he knew back then, how far his music education will take him professionally? This was what he said, “I started my education under Bismarck Rodrigues, who unfortunately passed away at the age of 93. I was his star student not just because I was good in learning and progressing but also because I always stayed connected with him. In 1985 I went to study in Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, because that’s where the action was at that point of time. There, I was exposed to whole new music culture. I could know and learn many music styles which helped me gain a high degree of music knowledge. However, by the end of my studies, my visa was about to expire and renewal was a big challenge back then. I came back to India and I was thoroughly confused on what to do next. While I kept honing my skills at music, one day I got a call from Ronnie Desai to play guitar on a jingle. This is where it started for me commercially”. He further added, “While the work of creating jingles was slowly and gradually coming up, I was, at the same time, working with Louis Banks and Ronnie Desai and also in a band called Mickey’s New Home, along with Ranjit Barot and Sanjay Divecha. Work started coming my way gradually and it kept getting better.”\r\n
While all the great talents have always had a humble beginning, it was natural for us to ask him, when was it that he thought he made it big in the music industry. “Well it was a gradual process, but if I have to look back, it was Mukul Anand’s movie Dus, that got us into mainstream. From there we picked up as Shankar Ehsaan Loy, as the Bollywood musician trio. Then movies like Dil Chahta Hai and Rock On with Farhan Akhtar got us more visibility in terms of the kind of music we create. We have been successful in creating a mainstream music which has a touch of blues, jazz, rock, Indian Classical to it. This has also helped audiences and music lovers change their outlook towards Bollywood Music. Bollywood music has never been the same after Dil Chahta Hai” said Ehsaan.
This discussion however, brought us to the very next and natural question, how does Ehsaan Noorani balance his Bollywood and Non Bollywood commitments and his life overall. He gave us an insight into his life and lifestyle, “It kind of balances out itself, Shankar is the busiest of the three of us though. We have our own routines for that matter and daily schedules. I, for example, get up early in the morning and do meditation and yoga. Early part of my morning also goes into playing guitar and learning some new techniques, juggling with social media at the same time. There is so much happening over YouTube and there is so much to learn. At 11 then we start working on SEL projects which goes on till 6 or 7 in the evening. If we have other projects running in parallel, for eg. me and Loy went for a gig recently in Kolkata, then we do that also simultaneously. So overall, Bollywood and Non Bollywood commitments balance out themselves in the natural course of time and we keep doing what we do.”
There have been multiple big projects, bigger than ever shows and constant learning process that Ehsaan is involved in. But there is one aspect of his life that no one has ever been able to achieve yet in India. That is, him being endorsed by Fender as their brand ambassador and launching a Signature Style on his name. We delved deeper into how it happened and it was a very interesting story. Ehsaan recalled “A friend of mine Jasbir Singh brought the Fender Guitars in India. We used to always discuss on the kind of guitars that need to be procured for Indian artists. This went on for some time. Fender Guitars personnel were coming to India and Jasbir wanted me to meet them, not knowing that Jasbir had arranged for a special surprise. The Fender Guitars personnel presented me a custom guitar and I felt really honoured. We remained in touch for my future guitar requirements. Jasbir, in the meantime, proposed the idea of launching the Ehsaan Noorani Signature Stratocaster. Fender was also on-board with the idea and this is how the signature series turned out.”
As we discussed about the signature series, we also touched upon his various performances that he has had over so many years. We asked him to pick one that makes him nostalgic even now and he recounted, “Every performance is epic. Some performances are also not as great as my expectations are but each one of them has its own share of memories. We have played all the colleges and that is really fun. We had one performance in Delhi which happened to be on my birthday. I was in for a surprise when a huge cake was cut in the middle of the performance and the crowd of more than 40,000 sang the Happy Birthday song for me. That was really a touching moment. Recently, I was with Siddharth Mahadevan to perform for Indian Army. That had its own high and we had great fun.”
From performing live to judging live shows Ehsaan has been wearing many hats. We talked about his stint as the judge in The Stage 3. Upon being asked about his views on the current generation of singers, musicians, he was full of praises and some advises, of course. “Current generation is very well exposed. They know how to present themselves and are well aware of contemporary music. We had the chance to meet a range of artists. Some straight out of college who probably would not pass as top notch in the first go, but with just slight training and guidance they can be phenomenal. We met some artists who cannot speak English at all but were performing Justin Bieber songs. Quite a few of the contestants come from Indian Classical background so their basics are strong to begin with. Overall, there is a huge talent and it is very promising.”
Talking about talent also goes together with talking about opportunities for the talent. As he spoke about the opportunities, he touched upon various facets of the current industry. “Festivals have increased over a period of time and so has the no. of people attending these festivals. This has given more avenues for musicians to perform. Live music scene at local clubs is getting better. Having a strong live music scene in clubs is very important for musicians. At the same time, technology has taken a huge leap in music. YouTube and SoundCloud are two very big mediums available to artists now. Reach of the artists has increased and technology has given them the visibility that was not available in the past.” He seemed quite optimistic of the changes happening as he himself is a very social media and technology friendly person. This brought us to another question. We asked him, what in his view is needed to be done for the Indie bands to have more visibility and reach. He made a very clear point to it by saying “Independent Music scene will improve if there are enough endorsers. Independent music has its own follower base and the kind of demographic it serves. It is important for brands to realize that potential and harvest the reach. Again, reach is very important. Had it not been the reach we could generate through SEL and other collaborations, Fender would have probably not signed me. In today’s world, influencers are looked up to as the ones who can add value in collaboration. So, if a band has the reach and it has a structural set up, then it will attract many endorsers. In India, unfortunately, a structural set up of record labels endorsing artists and willing to invest in their music is missing. This also has a huge scope of improvement.”
We can obviously see his immense attachment towards non Bollywood music in the kind of projects he is associated with, we asked him about his upcoming Bollywood projects. Ehsaan said “Currently we are working on quite a few projects. There is a biopic being made on a very famous hockey player, Sandeep Singh, by Shaad Ali in which Diljit Dosanjh is the lead. Then there is Saaho, directed by Sujeeth, with Prabhas in the lead. We are also working on Raazi by Meghana Gulzar, Mere Pyaare Prime Minister by Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, Halka by Nila Madhabh and Mani Kannika by Krish.” With this huge line up of projects, we are sure yoga and meditation comes in handy for Ehsaan in his daily life, very much evident in his fitness too.
Before we could wind up Ehsaan had a message for his fans too, “While we have been kept busy with work, we would like to say that we don’t exist without fans. As long as they are there with us, we are there as performers. We are humbled that we have a fan base across the world and we would like to give them a shout saying that we adore and respect your love to us.”
As we came to an end to our conversation, two things came out very visibly to us. Firstly, talent and perseverance in what one believes always pays off and Ehsaan Noorani is one of the biggest examples of it. Secondly, the higher one reaches, it is the humility that would ultimate carve you as a legend. Ehsaan Noorani’s humility stands out in the entire discussion and it will not be unfair to say that he is already a legend guitarist in India.