I don’t think any person from my generation would have had their childhood complete without dancing to Daler Mehndi’s songs in school functions, wedding festivities or just in front of house guests. The power, vibe and rhythm of his voice in his party songs always got my foot tapping, while also invoking the intensity within me. Recently, the singer mesmerized me again with his voice in Atrangi Re’s Garda Uda Diya, and I have been listening to it since its release, on loop.
We got into a conversation with Daler Mehndi about his recent song and here’s what he had to say:
How was it singing for Garda Uda Diya and what new did you have to bring to the table this time?
Garda is Magic in music, words, voice and visuals. It’s Garda! In one of my telephonic conversations, Anand L Rai told me that when he went to narrate the film for the music to AR Rahman Sahab, which was 2 years back, Rahman was clear about the voice he needed for Garda and told him that he wanted Daler Mehndi to sing it. Rahman sahab is the creator of the song, Irshad Kamil has written it and I got the opportunity to sing with a free hand and add or improvise wherever I want. When the intention of everyone is to achieve something stellar, stellar performance is what gets executed. Garde Mein Jadu, Jadu Mein Garda! When everything in the world was grim, garda was being woven to create magic.
Working with AR Rahman is always a dream for any singer. What was your experience like with him?
It was stellar as always. It’s a dream for any artist to work with another artist who honors his calling, his work like a prayer. When truth meets truth, there’s magic. From Rang De Basanti to Nach Le and now Garda, it’s been a rewarding experience.
Bollywood has been recreating old songs for a while now, but very rarely does it happen that a song, which is just a decade old, gets recreated so soon. But that happened with Aila Re Aila in Sooryavanshi. How does that make you feel?
I feel that remakes of songs are a great way to revive them and bring them to newer audiences. But it was pretty unusual for me too to see that a decade old song would be remade. However, it roared on YouTube. I just feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to entertain people with such power-packed songs.
There was an era in the ’90s and the early 2000s where pop music and Hindi film music co-existed, but that era died down eventually. Since the past five years, that trend seems to be coming back again. Do you think it is a great time to be an artist?
Music is Life. It’s a language woven with feelings and emotions and is needed by one and all. Now, more than ever, it’s a great time to be an artist. And when you are aligned with yourself, every time is a good time. Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Instagram, Zoom — the world is closer than ever and the boundaries are diminishing. You can collaborate with any one or interact with your fans. There are so many genres and so many languages to try. It is a great time.
Your songs have always been iconic. So much so, that even today, every party is incomplete without a Daler Mehndi song. When you started off, did you know that this is the kind of legacy you are going to build?
My mother used to say this daily without fail, that I will be very famous and a great singer. I received many blessings along the way, along with some very genuine directions and teachers. I always felt that Daler Mehndi will be a stellar name, but I didn’t know that he’d be loved not only by Indians but by people from South Korea to Bangladesh and Belgium and so on, as well. People around the globe love my songs and it’s on every party playlist. I have had three generations dance to my songs with equal familiarity and gusto.
Does Daler Mehndi ever feel the pressure?
None ever. I never feel like I am doing anything, it’s always the Divine in me who is at play.
With the new wave of music coming in, is Daler Mehndi the artist happy?
Change is the only constant. I started with Bolo Ta Ra Ra in 1995, and at the end of 2021, I had songs like Raula Pae Gayaa featuring Rajkummar Rao, Aila Re Aila featuring Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh, and Garda featuring Akshay again, while also having voiced ‘Garjega Gujarat’ featuring Gujarat Giants for Pro Kabaddi League. You tell me, where is there any scope to feel anything but happy.
Decades may pass, but the magic of Daler Mehndi’s songs will never fade away. I have always danced to his voice in the past and I will continue to do so till my dying breath. It just makes me so happy and excited that even after so many years, the singer is still delivering such chartbusters and I expect many more to come from him in the following years.