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Kailash Kher of Kailasa

Maria Giovanna Email Maria Giovanna
October 2009
Kailash Kher of Kailasa

Having successfully reached rock star status over the past few years in India and much of South Asia with his band Kailasa, the man from Meerut with the distinctive voice has set his sights on the rest of the world, starting with the United States and Canada.

While never forgetting the people back home, who have responded so positively to his work on film songs (‘O Sikander’ from Corporate, ‘Chak De Phattey’ from Khosla ka Ghosla, to name just a couple) and his trio’s successes like ‘Allah ke Band,’ ‘Tauba Tauba’ and ‘Dilruba,’ Kailash Kher and his band have now released an album on this side of the globe.

Cumbancha Records released Yatra (Nomadic Souls) in September and Kailasa are promoting it with an autumn tour through November, playing in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Atlanta, New York and other cities.

This leg continues the tour started during the summer. The band played at open air festivals like Celebrating Brooklyn, with the intention of reaching a more diverse audience, and to judge by the response of the crowd in Brooklyn, Philadelphia and San Francisco, it looks like Kher may be poised to turn many new pairs of ears onto his and Kailasa’s unique sound.

Between his film music recordings, his shows in the U.S., his performances in India and his TV appearances, Kher observes: “I have been constantly traveling. Traveling is the best institution to teach you so many things about life, relations, everything. Once people have liked ‘Saiayan,’ ‘Tere Diwane’ or ‘Aga Bum Ba Bum Bum Lahiri,’ I have to move ahead. That is my hunger. We are working towards that by an emotional route. When you do something sincerely and honestly, the result comes and touches millions of souls, what is happening right now.”

Over the summer, Kailasa’s third CD, Chaandan Mein, was released in India and has been a steady hit since then. Given that the previous two were also hits, Kher says, “It is like a hat trick to us.”

One of the CD’s songs, ‘Piya Ghar Aayenge,’ has particular meaning to Kher, whose father passed away suddenly in November when Kher was in Delhi to perform. “This song came to me like some enlightenment. The way my father left this world was like somebody celebrating the birth of something, as though my father’s soul is meeting the Almighty and getting Nirvana right in front of our eyes.

“He was completely all right health-wise. My father ate food the last night and slept nicely, and early morning, the pavan vela we call it, the best time, when everything is calm, quiet, pure, he started chanting ‘Hari Om, Hari Om, Hari Om,’ and his voice became louder and louder. Everyone asked, ‘Ji, why you are chanting so loudly today?’ and he started smiling and chanting and laughing without responding to us. After five minutes he was quiet. The whole day, my father’s dead body was lying there and everyone noticed, ‘Wow, he looks like a baby smiling.’” So this song is about that situation: the whole world should be celebrating this moment because my beloved will soon be here. When I listen to this song, I don’t want to listen to any other for at least half an hour.”

When asked about Yatra and why Kailasa needed a different album for their non-Indian audience, Kher was quick to clarify: “It’s not a different CD. Two new tracks we made as a souvenir, including an acoustic unplugged version of ‘Tauba Tauba,’ special for the international audience, because whatever songs are available in the world are already there.”

After his success on Indian Idol, Kher has joined the music reality show Kurkure Desi Beats Rock On with MTV. With auditions over, he explains: “We will be on the road traveling the entire India with the formed band of the selected musicians. We will make bands amongst them.”

But Kher shrugs off any notions of being a guru to the young competitors. “I am not guru. Galte se by mistake they appointed me as a judge. I contribute in whatever form people ask. But I’ll be having fun, I’ll be singing along also, jamming with the many talented boys and girls. I’m very impressed.” The show aired in August and concludes in November. Kher says there are big plans for the finale—maybe even a jam session with Eddie Vedder, whose work with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan he particularly enjoys.

The list of upcoming films for which Kher has sung is a long one, including Qurban, Himesh Reshammiya’s Radio, Rang Rasiya, Paathshala and Fruits and Nuts. Earlier this year, he had a trilingual hit down south in the acclaimed film Arundhati. Kher has also recently sung in a Marathi film, and for A.R. Rahman for the October release in Hollywood, Couples Retreat.

When not recording or performing, the sufi rocker is currently listening to Habib Koité (from Mali), as well as his usual rotation of Nusrat and a lot of Indian classical music.

The past ten months have been full of change for Kher. His father’s death came just as the family was planning Kher’s marriage to Sheetal Bhan, a union arranged by Kher’s family. Though some might have wondered how the musical nomad would take to married life (including Kher himself), he is enthusiastic.

“My father fixed everything. Since I was very busy, I kept changing the date, but the third time my father told me, ‘Whether I live or not, don’t change this date again because the bride’s family will feel really bad.’ So I had to stick to 14 February, and it is like a gift to me because Sheetal is a very pure soul, amongst the few souls who have so much positivity about things that I feel I’m in Heaven now. That is the kind of blessing I’m experiencing.”

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