Saleem Zaman, Sydney’s own great singer!

Manju Mittal - zaman










By Manju Mittal

Mohammed Rafi diehard fan and an exceptionally talented singer and musician Saleem Zaman needs no introduction to his fans in Sydney. Saleem Zaman has performed in Sydney many a times and won us all as we have become his ardent fans and devotees of his mehfils. He is one of the most popular singer who croons like Mohammed Rafi. Notable for his versatility, Zaman can sing songs of various genres – romantic, patriotic, ghazals and bhajans and his ranges amazes me, his rendering of golden old songs of Rafi at the concerts always take us on a nostalgic journey. Saleem Zaman has devoted many of his concerts to charity and fund raising for many worthwhile causes in Sydney. He sings in several Indian languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Punjabi, Nepali, Oriya and Sanskrit and also foreign languages Spanish and English. This is an achievement by itself.

I got a chance to talk to Saleem Zaman close to the date of his upcoming Rafi Concert in early August. Here are excerpts of our interview.

When did you come to Australia and how difficult the journey has been?

I visited Australia first time in 1991 for business reasons. I was invited to 7-concert music tour which included New Zealand in 1995. Meanwhile my family and I decided to make New Zealand home to raise our children. Life in Auckland was a dream until the global financial crisis struck in 2008 and after a few years of struggle to restore stability, we decided to make the hard decision of relocating to Australia in 2012.

Tell us about your upcoming Rafi Concert on 8th August 2015?

I am a die-hard fan of the Legend Mohammed Rafi (Most people in Bollywood refer to him as Rafi Saab ) and I consider myself a student of his playback art. Whatever music and singing I understand and deliver comes from listening to Rafi Saab’s renditions, and from studying his versatile contribution to the Indian Cinema. The least I can do in return for my ”˜Guru’ is to celebrate his legacy once every year in a small or large way, and I have been doing this ever since his demise in July 1980.

This will be my 35th annual tribute to Rafi Saab, and I am so delighted to find such a large number of like-minded music lovers in Sydney who are offering me unflinching support for this event. Last year being my first in Sydney, I could only cater to a small audience of 300 Rafi fans. This year, I am being supported by a team of event managers to stage a bigger and better concert for about 700 Rafi fans at an acoustically designed auditorium, C3 Conference Centre in Silverwater. Some of Sydney’s finest musicians, singers and anchors have accepted my invitation to form a team of 12 professionals who have volunteered, and we aim to present something uniquely different. My vision is to recreate some of Rafi Saab’s golden melodies as close to the original recording as possible, which can be quite challenging in a live performance for any team. I can promise the audience a night to remember for a long time to come.

Have you got a target audience for your concert?

Sydney is blessed to have a variety of entertainment events that meet the different tastes of the Indian community. Sangeet mehfil serves a small, niche segment in the diaspora who enjoy nostalgic journeys down memory lane re-living their fond memories from yesteryears and appreciating the nuances inculcated in the creatively coined lyrics musical compositions, presented professionally in a good listening environment.

Is there a particular song that is close to your heart?

Yes, “Ab ke baras” from the movie ”˜Bandini’ extremely well rendered by the legendery Asha Bhosale, conveying the emotion of a married daughter who misses her parents, siblings and her childhood friends. My father was a central government employee and used to be posted at different locations in India, I fondly remember my mother singing this song whenever she missed home. This melody has always tugged at my heart and at times moistened my eyes.

What does music mean to you?

Music offers me relaxation from life’s challenges whether I am listening to my favourite songs or performing for good listeners or analysing diverse music compositions or working on my own creations. I forget all my worries when I am lost in the music world.

What do you have to say about today’s film songs?

Well, this is an age of technology and every era has produced songs which people of that generation can relate to. Western influence and the internet have also played a big role.

What are your earliest memories of music?

It would have to be my first public performance in kindergarten at an Air Force School in Karnataka, where I had academically achieved first rank in the state. At the price distribution function, I still fondly remember marching to the stage in an air force uniform to receive the award. My proud father had arranged with the school management for me to also present a children’s song which he taught me rigorously for a week before the ceremony. Although I was very nervous, I seem to have rendered it good enough as the chief guest Mrs. Air Vice Marshall who was flown in from Delhi to present the award, whisked me away in her car, and brought me back to my parents with a car full of toys. This experience was the best inspiration a child could get for just singing a simple song.

What are the achievements you are singularly proud of and your ambition?

I am simply providing a humble music related service to a niche segment in the Indian community. Personally I feel gratified to find lot of passionate music lovers in Australia who enjoy light music through my sangeet mehfils and we get together periodically to re-live our nostalgic filmi memories from yesteryears. Ever since I bid farewell to Bollywood in 1996, my ambition has been limited to being able to the next generation whatever little I have imbibed from my humble endeavours in professional light music and studio recordings. I aim to seek opportunities to create new music for film and other productions down under utilising my singing, composing and recording skills.

How would you describe yourself as a singer and any message to your friends and fans based here?

I consider myself a light singer with sizeable exposure to the playback Industry. I wish to thank all my friends and light music fans for their encouragement and support.

Sydney’s Indian music lovers are keenly looking forward to witness Rafi sung by Zaman on August the 8th, 2015. Rafi was a great singer whose songs still ring in our ears and devoted singers such as Zaman keep him alive. Rafi lived in India, sang in Indian films, in mid last century, yet here we are, in Australia in the 21st century still able to listen and relive Rafi through, Zaman. So Rafi-lovers! see you all there!

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