It’s merchant magic

By Sameer Naik Time of article published Oct 31, 2011

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They’ve sung catchy jingle adverts, their song has become the sporting anthem of India, and they’ve collaborated with the likes of Lady Gaga.

Yet despite these achievements, India’s famous sons Sulaiman and Salim Merchant are still surprised by their success.

Now, the brothers are in the country and cannot wait to perform for their South African fans.

Bollywood fans will recognise their versatile talent, as the Merchants are the voices behind some of the hottest tracks in several of Bollywood’s most popular movies, such as Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Kurbaan, Ab Tak Chappan and Pyaar Impossible.

I caught up with them on the phone this week to ask why South Africa held such an appeal for them.

“The fans here are absolutely crazy,” said Sulaiman.

“We performed here once before at the World Cup kick-off concert and the fans were so amazing. We had no idea what to expect but the crowd was shouting and cheering our names, we were over the moon.”

The Merchant brothers will perform tonight in Durban and tomorrow in Joburg for the first time since participating in the Fifa World Cup 2010 Kick Off Concert last year.

The brothers performed a song entitled Africa, you’re the star for which they received a standing ovation from the thousands of music fans at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Steeped in a family tradition of music as the sons of composer and veteran of the film industry Sadruddin Merchant, Salim mastered the piano at the Trinity School of Music in London while Sulaiman took up tabla training with such legends as Taufiq Qureshi and Ustad Zakir Hussain.

Salim and Sulaiman conceded that they were the first to be surprised by their success in Bollywood after their score for the smash hit film Hameshaa 14 years ago, even though they had done some film work before that. The duo have been churning out chart-toppers consistently ever since.

The musical brothers said they would be spending four days in the country.

“Hopefully we have a day off so we can fly out to Cape Town or something. Right now it’s unplanned so we will decide closer to the time,” said Salim.

With a string of awards from leading Bollywood awards events FilmFare, Zee Cine, Screen and IIFA, as well as an Emmy nomination under their belt, the brothers have established a firm international following with their music scores that match the rapidly changing style in Bollywood productions.

“Its such an amazing feeling knowing that our music is loved around the world, there isn’t a better feeling,” said Salim.

Besides collaborating with American hit singer Lady Gaga, the Merchant brothers have also collaborated with local musician Loyiso Bala.

“It was great collaborating with Loyiso. He is such a nice humble man and it was a privilege working with him so we had lots of fun,” said Salim.

“Also working with Lady Gaga was a tough but very rewarding experience. When we had initially offered to collaborate with Gaga for a Bollywood remix of her song, we were not too sure of her song.

“We than researched it and found out it had been a number one track in 14 different countries and we were taken aback, so it was a privilege working with Lady Gaga,” said Salim.

The brothers are also the voices behind Chak de India, the Indian national sporting anthem, sung especially when the Indian national cricket team is playing.

“To hear thousands of fans singing our song is amazing. Not only are we proud of each other but also very proud of representing India,” said Salim.

Salim and Sulaiman Merchant will be in concert with top South African dancers at the ICC in Durban tonight and at Emperors Palace in Gauteng tomorrow night. Tickets are available from R150 at Computicket.

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