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Kailash Kher Takes Manhattan
“I don’t know how to dance but my soul dances while singing in concerts. Many times I fly in void, my audience’s energy becomes the surface…Every pore of my body becomes the vent for breeze to pass through. I am weightless…in samadhi.” – Kailash Kher
It’s a God-given gift.
Kailash Kher’s unique voice which makes you lose yourself – and also find yourself – in his soul-stirring music. Indeed, if you want to discover truths about life and humanity in a tornado of music, there is no better venue than a Kailash Kher concert.
The Sufi singer is now coming to the heart of Manhattan, to Times Square, and audiences are going to hear his raw, fabulously powerful voice at Town Hall, in concert with his band Kailasa on May 3, presented by South Asian Music and Arts Association (SAMAA).
A Taste of Kailasa
Kailash Kher – A Whirlwind of Music
Last year, I had the opportunity of hearing that voice without it being amplified by orchestra or musicians, and it was still an amazing experience. The evening at a fundraising gala for the nonprofit Children’s Hope India began with Kher being spotlighted on a darkened stage as he invoked the Almighty for blessings with a stunning rendering of ‘Kashmir ‘ and following it up with the much loved ‘Allah Ke Banda’. It was just his stark voice, unadorned by music – and it affected everyone. At that event, The Pride of Kashmir Award was presented to Kher, who is from Kashmir, for his unifying music and his involvement with social causes.
His total passion for his art and for helping others have framed Kailash Kher’s life. Kher, whose hometown is Mumbai, has with his band Kailasa, comprising of brothers Paresh and Naresh Kamath, taken his interactive music to small towns and big cities in India, and across the world. Because he performs Sufi soul and Indian folk blended with contemporary pop, rock, reggae and funk, his music hits a chord with audiences everywhere, from Asia to the West to the Middle East.
A Band called Kailasa
Kailash Kher has been inspired by Indian classical, Pandit Kumar Gandharv, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Gokulotsav Maharaj, Nusrat Fetah Ali Khan, Lata Mangeshkar and many others, but has forged his own unique voice. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Male Singer for ‘Fanaa’ and also a Filmfare award for the Telegu film ‘Mirchi’. The versatile singer has sung in 20 different regional languages of India and given his voice in 500 film songs and that too accounts for his immense popularity. Some of his best loved songs are in gathered in albums ‘Kailasa’, ‘Jhoomo Re’, ‘Chandan Mein’ and ‘Rangeela’.
He’s performed internationally in many cities from London to Nairobi to Karachi, including GlobalFest at New York’s Webster Hall, Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco, Celebrate Brooklyn in New York and Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Indian audiences have seen him perform live in New Jersey and this is the first time a Kailash Kher concert is being organized for an Indian audience in Manhattan, so there is quite a buzz going.
SAMAA’s executive director Simmi Bhatia had earlier presented a dance performance by Hema Malini and her daughters, as well as concerts highlighted by a Shubha Mudgal-Bombay Jayashri duet, and a Pandit Jasraj and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia’s jugalbandi. This is a first in presenting Kailash Kher with his band Kailasa, and promises to bring in a mixed audience.
Kher who’s performed more than 300 concerts in a span of ten years with Kailasa, says, “We are still taking off and touching the higher altitudes!”
A Passion for Art & Heart
You can hardly talk about Kailash Kher, the singer without talking of Kailash Kher the social activist. He truly cares about the future of India, and about talks about the true India which exists in the unknown villages of the country. He has been asked by Prime Minister Narindra Modi to be part of the Swatch Bharat or Clean India Mission, and his is the voice you hear on the project’s anthem. It’s a campaign very close to his heart for he feels India is such a vast country with so much spirituality and greatness but the basics need to be improved so that good hygiene and infrastructure need to become public awareness projects: ” It is individual’s duty and we are making ordinary people a part of it.”
Kher also feels strongly about the role of women and the female child, and has also sung the anthem for the mission to educate girls: Beti Bachao Beti Parao. He says his message to people is that individuals have to take responsibility and can change their lives: “Even if you don’t believe in any higher power, at least believe in yourself. If you are born as a human, you have a duty to be healthy and productive. Clean – not just in body but also in mind and soul. All these practices will make not only our nation but our world, our cosmos so beautiful, spiritual and pure.”
Living a Beautiful Life
Kailash Kher and wife Sheetal have an adorable son Kabir, who is also with them on this New York trip. While life is good, Kher himself has seen many hardships in life, and has gone from struggling to make a living with advertising jingles to mesmerizing worldwide audiences with his powerful performances. Now his passion is to pass a beautiful, spiritual lifestyle to people along with his beautiful Sufi music.
So what’s his strength, his mantra for getting through tough times?
“One thing I have learned is that through ups and down, lows and high, you need to understand that nothing can last forever. That is the truth and the sooner you realize this, many doubts and confusions will vanish by themselves. Once you understand the fleeting nature of life, you can be content and composed, even in the worst phase of your life. Today if you are a king, be ready that tomorrow you might not be be one. Today if you are a chairman, be prepared tomorrow you may not even be a peon. We cannot determine the future – we can only be the deciding factor on our karma, our deeds.”
I asked him if his thinking made him a real Sufi.
He laughed merrily, “That I don’t know, whether if I am a Sufi or a Gufi – definitely, I’m a human! I am always trying to be a good learner, a good student of spirituality. Many of us don’t act like humans, we don’t even know how to live. People talk so much about high living and calmness yet in practice have so much anger that they fight even over a parking space! We make our body and soul a system of garbage, rather than holy or pure. So we have so much to learn yet. I think if anyone can be just a good human, that according to me, is the highest achievement.”