In spite of his young age (born in 1973) Sonu Niigaam is already one of the biggest singers in India for more than ten years. In the Hindi film industry he’s the very well known playback singer who gives his voice to such great actors like Shahrukh Khan. But Sonu Niigaam is also very successful as a solo artist and singer who has already released different own music albums. His concerts all over the world are sold out, the last two years Sonu Niigaam was on world tour with his “Simply Sonu” concerts. Now he’s finally in Germany, that’s for the second time. Six years ago he was in Germany for the first time.
We met the smart Sonu Niigaam after his concert in Offenbach on 26th October 2007. And in spite of some technical problems Sonu Niigaam proved his professionalism by entertaining and rocking the audience for more than three hours, together with singer Gunjan, his father Agam Kumar and his very great musicians and dancers.
Sonu Niigaam: Was the sound too bad?
BNA-Germany: No, not at all…it was really good. But first of all: welcome to Germany. We are so glad that you finally came. I think you made many many people quite happy by coming here, as we were waiting for years. So thank you very much.
Sonu Niigaam: Thank you, it’s a pleasure.
BNA-Germany: When I was sitting in the audience I saw your family. And the only one who was sleeping is your son. Is it possible?
Sonu Niigaam: (laughs) Yeah, because what I got to do to make him sleep is that I sing.
BNA-Germany: That would have been my next question…but you are really lucky that he was the only one sleeping. The rest of the audience was really enjoying the show and you did a very good job.
Sonu Niigaam: Thank you very much.
BNA-Germany: You were already talking about the technical problems. Actually it didn’t sound that bad, it sounded normal, but actually what happened?
Sonu Niigaam: First of all the sound wasn’t appropriate. We didn’t have any reverb and we did have any delay. Secondly the mixture was not correctly.And of course my keyboard player didn’t have his keyboard. That is also something which is strange as Germany is a nation where you can not give an excuse of non-availability of an instrument, because there are hundreds and thousands of musicians over here and so you can not give an excuse like this.
BNA-Germany: The next question we are wondering: We have seen the scene about few years now. Every time when Indian celebrities come here to Germany they get hooked up with a wrong or with a strange kind of organising. Usually when other kind of international stars are coming, they are making their contracts with German firms and promoters and you Indians seem to keep it between yourselves.
Sonu Niigaam: We are not friends with anyone. If I would know I would do it definitely. That is gonna be a fact.
The thing is that we havn’t dealt with this guy (Haris Patscha, Anm.d.Red.). There was another coordinator from India. That’s the problem. And that coordinator is a trustable man.
BNA-Germany: Tejas Parmar, or?
Sonu Niigaam: Yes, Tejas.The thing is, we want to give our best to the audience. And it also makes my task difficult. I have to put in more effort, everybody have to push more to be able to work up the atmosphere. But nevertheless I think you learn your lessons and in the future we definitely want to work… in fact me and my manager were talking that we should collaborate with a German artist or a French artist and do shows with them and sing with them. That would be such a beautiful fusion of music like he’s singing in German and we’re singing in Hindi or in English.
BNA-Germany: Are there already some kind of concrete plans or is it just some kind of dream?
Sonu Niigaam: We will do that. Right now we decided working on it. So if you have any ideas…please tell me.
BNA-Germany: There is one strange thing: when I’ve heard you singing “Stayin’ Alive” it was really funny. And I thought maybe you might be singing your own songs in English now, because it seems to be quite a fashion right now…any plans on it?
Sonu Niigaam: (laughs)
BNA-Germany: Because it’s really hard. All of us here know a few words in Hindi because we are fans and we are into the scene. But for the rest of your fans, I think it would be so beautiful if they would get the words.
Sonu Niigaam: Next time I think we will have some more English songs. We could have done more English songs this time also, but see when you use certain songs you need certain sounds add to it; even when we are playing “Stayin’ Alive” we need to have a brass sound, but this keyboard didn’t have it. Hopefully the show we’re going to do tomorrow will be much better in the sense that we have our stuff. The artist has to be provided what he required. It’s almost like a fighter or a soldier’s going to a war without his gun, without his animation. You can not be sent to a war front without proper gears…but we excused them because they had no clue at what level we have performed. But this is a big lesson for them because the next time they have to be careful.
BNA-Germany: I think the organizer right here in Frankfurt tried really to do his best. And I think it turned out not that badly. Maybe it’s just your self expectation which is not fulfilled completely. But for the audience it was great that you came here. And you really don't need to be worry for yourself… Any chance, that we might have English spoken music; your own songs with English lyrics, because that would be easier for us.
Sonu Niigaam: How about not just my music but other people’s music also?!
BNA-Germany: Really? We would be happy. Otherwise you should give us Hindi language courses…
Sonu Niigaam: (smiles) Tomorrow I think I will add more new stuff, so we will do more songs in English tomorrow.
BNA-Germany: But what about your own songs…to reword them?
Sonu Niigaam: To reword them? The thing is, we can reword them, but it doesn’t have the same impact. Every language and every music has its own soul. It’s almost like me trying to sing “Stayin’ Alive” in Hindi (starts singing the song in Hindi which sounds really bad). I think I do better the English stuff sing in original English and my songs to be staying in Hindi. Even for the people who understand the words,...because not many people in India understand the real meaning of the words in English, because they speak English but sometimes the accent of the American songs is not as theirs. But the feeling of the music is understood. People were grooving to my music only because they understand the message behind the music.
BNA-Germany: You did explain how Hindi or Indian film industries elaborating songs for a movie: you start with finding the words, and afterwards you put in the music...It was really funny with the potato or "alu" song ( alu-gobi-muli-mutter-panneer)..., but what exactly, when you are really famous, a singer with a huge international name, how do you come into the game. How does your involvement start, when the plans for a movie become real? Do they already think "ok, we take Sonu Nigam", he’s singing that one...?
Sonu Niigaam: No, it's pretty random if the star is fixed. The director or the music composer thinks that “this is the one we want for the hero - we want two songs by Sonu Nigam and two songs by someone else or maybe we want all songs by Sonu Nigam or no song by Sonu Nigam”...It is a decision taking as the movie progresses. It is not something decided or that can be decided in the schedule. Unless your movie is a musical based movie, where you know that his is the best singer, that Sonu Nigam is the one who can really sing those songs, only then you are decided that you are going to singing all the songs of the movie. In Bollywood one movies has lots of different genres of music. You can have a complete rock song on one hand and you can have a completely bollywood filmi song on the other hand, and then you can have patriotic songs and that all in the same movie. So due to the different kind of genres you can not just have one kind of sound as the situations happen in the movie. Unfortunately movies and music are completely into one hand in India. I would want to separate it, to separate the identity and that's what I'm working on and that's what we are doing very successfully now. But unfortunately music is depending on the situations of the movie...if it's a sad situation, the song will be a sad song, if it's a happy and really a fun constitution it will be a fun song.
BNA-Germany: It's really funny that you want to separate it, because that works pretty well?!
Sonu Niigaam: The actor is not singing. And this is only happening in India, nowhere else...
BNA-Germany: It was a strange thing when I read about your movies. I think you have quite a lot of potential; you are very present and have a presence that it's hard to explain it and you would be really a good actor the way you make faces, the way you make people laugh... You have the potential for doing that. And so I'm wondering why the films didn't go as well as expected.
Sonu Niigaam: The general idea or perception of Indian cinema is that Indian singers are not... as someone honored on the screen. They fit the stage, they should be singing on stage shows, but not on screen. It's almost like you are known for ten years as a singer, and all the certain people won’t accept me as an actor. Indians are not that open minded as they have a lot of limitation in perception...they want a certain star...
BNA-Germany: What if you would stop background singing...?
Sonu Niigaam: You have to make a lot of effort. You have to go through a lots of criticism and my major problem in the movie thing was that at that time I just became a top singer of India...so the perception is the same: the obvious singer was so strong behind me and before me there was no one who attended this, because there was only one singer Krishore Kumar who acted and sung. But he became an actor first and then he became a singer.
BNA-Germany: That’s the only way it works?
Sonu Niigaam: Actors are set to be singers, but singers aren't set as actors...but it is changing even after my movies did not that well. On the phone I was just discussing with some producers and directors. They strongly want me to do a musical movie...
BNA-Germany: I want to ask you the same. When can we hope for your next movie...?
Sonu Niigaam: We are looking for a good production house, because I realized if you don't know to market the movie correctly, it doesn't reach out to the masses. You could have made a good product like "Love In India": my last movie was critical clean, everyone said it is a great movie with a great acting and so on, but it did not do well because the movie released nine months after the promotion started. And people don't have that patience...a movie after nine month does not exist in the people’s minds. So we need a good production house, maybe we look for a co-production from India or a co-production from somewhere else... It is a beautiful musical story and I'm really sure about the movie but I want to make sure that we have the right people to make the movie and to promote the movie.
BNA-Germany: If you do that, we wish you the best for that project. And if you finally release it, please don't forget Germany, because we are always left out. It's always for the rest of the world, but Germany never. So we hope that this will change as well. So you are giving a very big part of this. I think you know that Germany is very interesting for many Indian stars.
Sonu Niigaam: I promise when I will go back to India, I will see to it. Whenever I'll get the chance to I will come back to Germany and I will spread the message all over India also: Whole actors come to Germany and whole actors perform over here...
BNA-Germany: Our last question: Actually we’ve seen that you are having plans to do an Internet presence, some kind of web site or blog (http://www.sonuniigaam.in).
Sonu Niigaam: Yes, I'm waiting for my new album-release because I want to launch my website with my album. My album is called "Classically Mild", it's an Indian classical fusion album. It should be launched by end of November or the first week of December. And with that I'm gonna launching my website.
BNA-Germany: And it will have a forum as well, where fans can contact you?
Sonu Niigaam: Yes, we want to have a forum. I want to do lots of things. It probably will have a portal where people can send me music. And I choose the best music; I want to get new composers...as there are thousand and thousand of people who have good ideas in their mind...
BNA-Germany: You have our support for this as well as for all your plans. We thank you very much.
Sonu Niigaam: Thank you.
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