Rendezvous with Hans Raj Hans.
By Shivani Sharma
Ranked high amongst the terrific Sufi brigade in India, Padma Shree awardee Hans Raj Hans is one of the rare gems that our music industry boasts of. A versatile folk and sufi singer, Hans Raj Hans has proved his mettle time and again by contributing to various singing styles. His love for Sufism and his style of employing classical variations has won him worldwide accolades. Here are some excerpts from the conversation with the legendary singer who was in the city recently to perform with Wadali brothers.
How was your musical journey from devotional genre to the more recent Bollywood. What would you prefer?
I am a proponent of versatility. There is no preference as such. I love singing for Sufi nights and Bollywood movies equally. Folk, classical, devotional, pop – I want to sing everyday and bid farewell to the world while singing.
Do you think Punjabi folk and Sufi should be incorporated more into Bollywood?
Sufi music stands apart and doesn’t need any support from other industries. Classical music is a world in itself. If these are incorporated more into Bollywood, the musical sensibilities will improve. The artists (Sufi singers) are well established anyhow. They don’t need exposure in Bollywood. The artists want to propagate the essence of Sufi music and since Bollywood has a mass reach, it can help them even more. As such, there is no fuss over getting into Bollywood.
Do you think there is an increased vulgarity when it comes to lyrics in today’s music industry? Have songs lost their meaning and charm in the light of increasing urbanisation?
Vulgarity has been present in some form or the other since ages, and it is bad anyhow. Music, Poetry, Arts shouldn’t propagate vulgarity. Music is a medium to meet the one true authority. And for those who do not believe in god, music helps in fostering peace, satisfaction and harmony. So, obscenity and vulgarity should be kept away from music. While I am singing, I make sure that everyone in the family enjoys and listens to my songs and that it doesn’t hurt the sentiments of people, or make them uncomfortable in front of their family.
Do you feel projects like Coke Studio help in increased interaction between artists of the two countries – India and Pakistan?
Coke Studio is a great platform to bring together different artists and music composers. Even I was a part of it. I want our singers to perform fearlessly in Pakistan and their singers to feel at home while performing in India. Be it singers, poets, writers or journalists – no matter what religion they belong to, there’s a common thread that binds them together and it is the thread of art and service. They shouldn’t be divided and treated differently. The politics of divide and rule, as propagated by the politicians should be kept away from art. We should respect and welcome all the artists who travel to our land to perform. Ghulam Ali Sahab deserve all the respect for his immense contribution to music.
There was a rumour regarding you converting to Islam in 2014. How did you react to it? Does the Indian media over sensationalise things?
I don’t know how and why this news spread. I am mostly travelling and visiting places, which is why they must have given me “the name”. It’s okay if they did. If I am born in this country and Hinduism is my religion, there must be a reason behind it. Why would I want to change it? Besides, with the passage of time, I have stopped believing in the concept of religion. I only believe in the religion of love and there’s no distinction of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian when it comes to love. In the end, everyone returns to mother earth. I believe that everyone meets in a common land after death and I belong to that world. Our soul has neither a gender nor a religion.
At a time when urbanisation has hit the scenario in full throttle, do you think today’s youth is losing out on the gems of the old world. Have genres like devotional and Sufi taken a back seat? Who is to blame?
It’s okay if people are walking on the path of globalisation. We should be acceptable and experience the world culture and tradition without any bias. It’s important to learn all the good things from the world. Noise and obscenity must be avoided. The music of the world has a lot to offer. Be it Jazz, Blues, Rock etc – we must pick up the best of the other worlds and spread our gemstones too. Whiney Houston, Steven Wonder, Opera are mavericks and must be listened to.
I have performed in American and British universities and they have appreciated my performance. I don’t want to propagate distaste and negativity. If I stand true to my work, people will see through my soul and acknowledge the talent automatically. This is what every emerging artist should do. Stay honest to yourself. Even the West is ours; the entire world is ours! Borders are man made and hence I don’t see a point in creating differences. I don’t believe in borders or religion. My religion is humanity and equality. Love is my one true god.
Who do you think can be the torchbearer of traditional Punjabi Folk music in today’s young brigade?
I can only give them my blessings and advise them not to lose themselves in drugs or alcohol abuse.. (laughs). They must think positive and good things and only then it will reflect in their music. Music is a form of love and it should not be adulterated with lust. The lust of money, flesh, popularity can strip off the honesty from your music.
Who is your favourite artiste? What is that one dream collaboration you are looking forward to?
I prefer listening to Hindustani Classical music – the likes of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib, Praveen Sultana, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan Sahab. When I am in the mood to listen to light and soothing music, I prefer Lata Mangeshkar ji, Jagjit Singh ji, and Mehndi Hassan. These gems of our music industry are like a garden full of flowers, you can’t pick and choose, your favourits. You experience and enjoy their work according to your mood.
Do you think the winners of the singing shows are getting the amount of exposure they should? Or has it succumbed to the dynamics of the supply-demand chain?
Reality shows are an excellent platform for the younger talent to get a ticket into the industry. They might not make big into the music world instantly, but the telecasts help them a lot – to come into notice of music directors and help them get work.
What are your future projects?
I will be next seen in Gurinder Chaddha’s historical drama titled “Viceroy’s House,” on the inside life of Viceroy Mountbatten’s house. I am playing the role of a Sufi person in the movie. The British-Indian film start Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Om Puri, Human Qureshi and is set to release this year.