Indian singer and songwriter, Lucky Ali, recently visited Bhutan and performed in Thimphu for the Bhutan International Festival. He made his debut with the soulful album Sunoh and his song O Sanam is considered by many to be his best song. He is well known in Bhutan. Kuensel’s Gyalsten K Dorji caught up with the singer during his stay here.
Q&A: You’re here for the Bhutan International Festival, but how’d you find out about it and why’d you choose to come to Bhutan?
It was something we wanted to do for many years but we never got the opportunity. We were waiting for the right forum to present our work and my guitarist is very closely associated with Bhutan. So when this opportunity of the festival came up and he asked us, there was no question of saying no, and we just came. I didn’t expect people to know our music. We didn’t expect the warmth and love that we got from here.
Were you surprised to find so many Lucky Ali fans in Bhutan? Apparently, the audience was singing along to most of your songs during your concert?
Yes, that was really surprising that they sang my songs. One thing I’ve noticed over here is that your musicians are very talented. My simple advice to the youth of Bhutan who are into music is that you’re playing very well, your understanding of music is amazing, what you’re picking up is amazing, but leave the ideology that is being pushed through that music. Because it is the experience of those people who’ve written that music. And push in your own ideology, push in your own thoughts, and make it with your own influences … make your own brand of music. We’ll look forward to something like that coming out of Bhutan.
Like your style of music, which is a fusion of western and local.
I see the same thing here. It’s a quantum leap.
How did you get to that point where you were able to balance the two influences?
My influences have been so varied. I am a third culture child so I’ve an infusion of many cultures in my growth. You are fortunate to being exposed to cinema, music, and art that way. But the choice that I made was that I didn’t want to do what everybody else was doing. I didn’t want to follow any genre. I wanted to develop my own ideas and I didn’t know if I could put them into a genre. And it is not a genre, it is basically easy listening music, it is everyday music and it’s everybody’s music.
You talked about finding our own ideology. You must have interacted with our musicians and gotten some insight into the local music industry. Are there any areas that we should focus on so that our musicians can reach that point where they can develop their own ideology?
I think they’re already there. They’re at the doorstep. You’ve got the instrumentation. You’ve got the music understanding happening. You’ve got genres you can play around with and the amazing thing is that they do it so well. So with all these advantages I wouldn’t be very surprised if within six months you have a Bhutanese expression or an international expression. Basically the idea is to do something that you like to do. When your heart says that “Yeah I like this” then the world will like it.
The music industry in Bhutan is small, the market is small, any advice for our musicians?
Music should be for love not to make money. Not to become famous. It’s because you love to sing. It’s because you love to make people happy. And people are happy by virtue of the music inside you. So that’s spreading the harmony. But the moment you start thinking that you want to be a star, (natural law) does’t like it. It will not permit you to do that. The moment you respect natural law and you don’t pay attention to all these … you will realise that you will have reached far, so fast. The idea is not to get so caught up by ideas that are totally not my culture at all. My music is international but whatever I’m speaking is according to the environment that I was brought up in and the thoughts I was brought up in.
Musicians capitalise on the movie industry so that can make it an income generating occupation, it’s happening abroad i.e. Bollywood, even here. Would you discourage them since they’re not necessarily making music for themselves ?
I wouldn’t discourage them but I wouldn’t encourage them either. If music was my profession then I’d be working like how everybody in the film industry is working. Because it is not my profession and because it’s my serious hobby it not only affords me the respect, it gives me a good salary, and people love you also. The moment it becomes your profession, you’re doing everything for the market. When you do things for the market, then you’re finished. Then you’ve got no standing.
You were able to meet His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen during your visit.
The best experience of my trip to Bhutan was meeting with His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen. What struck me about His Majesty the King was his simplicity, his intelligence and his feeling for the people of this beautiful nation. I feel you’re in very good hands and I think you’ve a very bright future ahead. I feel very close to Bhutan for some reason. When we stand with our King and walk forward – I’m talking about everybody – it makes a difference. You don’t have to be rich to be rich. Having dollars does not mean having riches. What you all have, you’re the richest nation in the world … Meeting with the King only enforced my confidence that there are good people in this world and there are good people making a change. They’ve reaffirmed our faith in good things. That’s what we’ll take back with us.
Do you plan to return?
I hope Bhutan calls me again.