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Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Salim-Sulaiman On Covering Each Other’s Songs For MX Player’s ‘Times of Music’

The musicians talk about how they picked the songs for the show, the admiration they have for one another and more

Rolling Stone India Jun 20, 2020

Composers Pyarelal (left) and Salim-Sulaiman. Photo: Courtesy of MX Player

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Streaming platform MX Player’s newest original series Times of Music has gone live with its first two episodes today. The program which aims to celebrate Indian sound through the ages over 11 episodes will open with artists Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Salim-Sulaiman performing renditions of each other’s songs.

In this interview with Rolling Stone India, composers Pyarelal Sharma and Salim Merchant explain how they went about choosing the songs to perform for the show, putting their own stamp on the tracks, MX Player’s involvement in the project and more. Excerpts:

What are your thoughts on the concept of the show?

Pyarelal: What they have thought, they have included 20 composers, who are all equally good. They haven’t shortlisted just anyone. They asked me if I liked it and I did. I spoke to Salim and Sulaiman and asked if they liked it and they said that they would enjoy it.

Salim: I think it’s fantastic to get, you know composers from now to talk to composers from the yesteryears and I think this is a brilliant concept to have both of them do each other’s song. It’s a great way to send respect and love to both today’s music and the music which was made back then. I think it also brings the musical fraternity together in a very respectful and beautiful way. And, I think it’s a great way to unite and bring value to listeners about good music, you know because everyone thinks that music was fantastic back then, but I think differently. I think there’s some good music made now as well and there are some select composers who are doing some great stuff. And, it’s nice for the yesteryear composers to give respect to that.

How did Salim-Sulaiman go about choosing “Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi” from Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s catalog?

Salim: It was a very difficult thing for me to do because Laxmikant-Pyarelal have done countless songs. I think it was a really very difficult task for me to pick one. But I went with ‘Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi’ since I thought that was a very iconic song. Quite honestly, I had chosen a different song before. I had chosen ‘Na Jaa.’ I think I thought that you know, maybe it’s good to do a slightly more popular song by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Then again, ‘Mere Mehboob’ is a very, very popular song. It has a sad sort of a vibe because it is a sad song but I felt like it will lead to a very contemporary sort of arrangement and you know I had an idea that I thought would work really well. That’s why I chose ‘Mere Mehboob.’

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Pyarelal you’ve gone with Salim-Sulaiman’s “Shukran Allah.” Tell me why you picked that song?

Pyarelal: The song is really nice. The music is such that you cannot say anything about that. In reality, it’s the same thing. But everyone has their point of view. It depends on you how you do it. Every element in a song is important. What is the root of the song? There’s a phrase, then a mukhda, which we haven’t disturbed. Once you listen to it, you’ll understand. The song had a very good and simple melody.

What direction are you taking the song in?

Salim: ‘Mere Mehboob,’ has a very contemporary style. I feel it can be driven into a funk style, it can get into a little bit of a hip-hop vibe as well, like in the antra. It can lead itself into a slightly R&B hip hop style. But, I think most importantly what I want to keep common is certain things, certain feelers of that song and the spirit of ‘Mere Mehboob.’ I wanted to keep that intact and not mess with that. And, I think we were successful in doing so. Also, Laxmikant-Pyarelal had a very unique orchestral sound to their music and I wanted to bring that element in this song as well.

What are your thoughts on Salim-Sulaiman as artists?

Pyarelal: They are very nice. They know their music. They don’t take it lightly. Salim is a good singer and plays keyboard very nicely and knows how to arrange. Sulaiman is a very good rhythmist, with percussion instruments. As people, they are so good-hearted. The main thing is, the life of a musician is very different. Even the way we sit is different because we always carry our instruments on us. That alone will tell you how much he can play. Music is very natural.

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Do you have an inkling of how you think Pyarelal would perform your track

Salim: I am very excited about listening to what Pyare bhai has to do with ‘Shukhran Allah.’ This is one of our most iconic songs. I feel it would be really amazing to hear Pyare bhai’s arrangement to it. The composition ‘Shukhran Allah’ has an old-world charm and it will be like a treat for us to hear what Pyare bhai has done because we have followed his music in a very close way and his arrangements, especially his orchestral arrangements and his ensemble arrangements when it comes to multiple rhythms and polyrhythms, he brings in some form of like middle eastern flavor and Arabic flavor. I know that his sensibilities are just phenomenal, you know, when it comes to arranging. He’s a maestro in his own right.

Thoughts on MX Player’s involvement in this project?

Salim: I think it’s a great platform. Especially, having a show like Times of Music on this platform is going to bring a lot of value. It’s very entertaining, it’s really important for people to know the process of music-making and how it was back then and now. Although music has changed a lot, the process in a lot of ways is the same. Especially when you are composing, when you have a lyricist on board, how the process is done and whatever back then, of course, there was a lot of live stuff done, right now there’s a lot of programming stuff. But, you know, it’s got its own charm. What’s really nice is to get that appreciation from composers from yesteryear. It’s really cool the way this show has been designed and I wish and pray that it continues for multiple seasons because it’s a show that would really be appreciated by the consumers, by the listeners and you know help good music sound better.

See the trailer below and click here to watch the first episode of MX Player’s ‘Times of Music.’ 

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