Mumbai/Bombay – Chintoo Singh Wasir, a chip off the old block in the Indian film music industry, has accompanied legends from Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh to Mehendi Hassan, and has even recorded rabab and guitar music for Shania Twain and Phil Collins.
Having performed with many others, Wasir, a master at various instruments, is coming of age of his own and spoke to India America Today at length about his challenges, passions and dreams in an exclusive interview.
Since “Omkara” in 2006, you have come a long way. What are the challenges that you have faced?
Before the Omkara movie, I had a tough time struggling in that period. I had seen the attitude of the people in this field, and had gone through the usual ignoring by the established singers and recording companies, so it was really a great challenge for me to bring my best work before the people.
How much did it help being the son of music director Mohinderjeet Singh?
It had helped me a lot in my music, because in my childhood I used to hear Indian classical music instruments every day, which also helped me to understand music. Moreover whenever my father would have sittings, I used to play guitar with him, but finally I had to prove myself in the music world.
Why did you choose music and which musicians influenced or inspired you?
I was supposed to go into the navy, but I was greatly influenced by music, as it was running in my veins. My instrument was guitar, so I was inspired by many guitarists like, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, George Benson, Larry Carton, and groups like Shadows, Dire Straits, and the Beatles.
Who in your life inspired you to follow your dreams? Did anyone pour cold water on your ambitions?
I grew up in a musical atmosphere, and because of my father, I started developing an interest in it, which soon turned into a passion. I did not look back after that. There were many people in music who tried to discourage me, but I sing shabad and Sufi songs with the rabab, which helps and supports me in all ways and guides me in fulfilling my dreams.
How did you get interested in the rabab and thumba, in addition to the usual guitar?
From my childhood, I was fascinated by the sound of the rabab. When I heard that Bhai Mardana used to play the rabab for Guru Nanakdevji, I was very much influenced. So when I went to Pakistan, I bought a rabab and started practicing and singing Sufi songs with it.
Can you elaborate on the origin, history and art behind playing these instruments?
The rabab is an instrument brought by Afghan traders in the 12th century, which is normally played in the Gulf countries, and also Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, etc. It is a stroke instrument which has a very mellow sound with depth and has two octaves to play with the pick. To me it is like a meditation and takes you to another world.
You have a very strong international audience. Have you been to the United States to perform? Which other countries?
I have been to the US fifteen times to perform with groups and great singers like pandit Ajay Pohankar, Jagjit Singh, Anoop Jalota, Pankaj Udhas and fusion groups, etc. I have also performed in Kenya, South Africa, Russia, and Europe.
What is your assessment of the audiences in the US and other countries?
I have been very lucky in this matter; whenever I have performed in the US, I was appreciated by the audience, and even the singers and musicians asked me to play and sing with them in their performances and recordings.
What is your vision for the future and what all have you planned?
I am very happy the way people have accepted and liked my albums and performances, not only in India but all over the world. I plan to keep on doing many more instrumental and Sufi albums in the future and to perform in many shows all over the world. (IATNS)