Singer and music composer Mujtaba Aziz Naza fuses ‘Chadhta Sooraj Dheere Dheere’ with Flamenco!

The artiste re-imagines his father's iconic composition, giving it a unique contemporary twist
Mujtaba Aziz Naza
Mujtaba Aziz Naza

An artist of unparalleled talent, Mujtaba Aziz Naza’s soulful music has an enchanting influence on listeners. A versatile and accomplished music composer, his resonant voice is characterized by its emotional depth that transcends genres. The musician has inherited the flair for music from his father, Aziz Naza, an acclaimed Sufi singer who ruled the Indian music industry from 70’s to 80’s. Some of the most acclaimed tunes of Aziz Naza include the heartfelt tunes of Chadhta Sooraj Dheere Dheere, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom Sharabi, Qurbani, and more.

Following in his father’s illustrious footsteps, Mujtaba embarked on his musical odyssey at the tender age of seven. His contributions to acclaimed films, such as the soul-stirring Aayat in Bajirao Mastani and its evocative title track, exemplify his ability to add depth and emotion to cinematic soundscapes. He continues to make a significant impact by re-imagining his father’s iconic composition, Chadta Sooraj Dheere Dheere in the biopic of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Not just that, he has fused Sufism with Flamenco dance to create Chadhta Sooraj to Flamenco Fusion which was recently released (in December last year).

We talk to the artiste about this unique fusion, the challenges that came with it and lots more.

Please tell us more about Chadhta Sooraj to Flamenco Fusion. How did the idea come by?

The qawwali Chadhta Sooraj Dheere Dheere holds a special place in the realm of Sufi music, embodying the essence of human life’s journey. This piece, famously performed by my father, Aziz Naza, resonates with people of all ages. My aspiration has always been to explore new avenues, which led to the recreation of this qawwali for the 2017 movie Indu Sarkar, based on the emergency held by Indra Gandhi.

However, my ambition to innovate in live performances remained strong. The idea of blending Sufi music with Flamenco emerged from a collaboration initiated by my friend Akshay KR Singh, who introduced me to the Flamenco dancer Kunal Om. We envisioned a fusion that would captivate the modern audience and celebrate our cultural heritage.

This unique combination of Chadhta Sooraj Dheere Dheere with Flamenco dance proved to be a beautiful and successful experiment. It’s not just a performance; it’s an experience that delights the audience. We’re currently developing new sets and hope to connect even more deeply with the younger generation through this fusion. Our aim is to continue bridging the gap between traditional Sufi music and contemporary artistic expressions.

Are you planning to collaborate with other artistes for this fusion?

Absolutely! We’re open to partnering with artistes who align with our vision and can enhance this fusion. We will introduce this to the audience through different mediums. Sufism and qawwali, have a powerful allure, arguably more potent than other music forms. Imagine presenting this combination in a way that’s never been done before; it’s going to create quite a stir and resonate deeply with people. I have collaborated with one of my friends, Ashish Mohanty, also known as Naash94, for a song titled Reza, blending the elements of Sufi and R&B genres in an extraordinary way. Additionally, I have composed a beautiful song named Khudaya, sung by my brother Munir Aziz Naza, and we’re still working on it. Apart from this, we're definitely looking to collaborate to bring this powerful blend to audiences in new and impactful ways.

Was it challenging to reimage your father’s iconic composition, Chadta Sooraj Dheere Dheere in the biopic of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi?

Recreating such an iconic piece was indeed challenging. It was a daunting task, but I believe the blessings of my father and my ancestors are with me. Every time I perform it, I feel their presence, and the appreciation from the audience feels like a tribute to my father. Anu Malik guided me through the recreation with great sensitivity. There was a risk of criticism, as people often have strong attachments to the original. However, we did our best to honor the essence of the qawwali while giving it a new life. The final outcome is there for the world to see.

Please tell us how and when your musical journey start?

Music has been a part of my life since I can remember. My mom recounts how irresistibly I was drawn to music as a child and how I would try playing my father’s piano. He gifted me a custom-made harmonium when I was just two or three years old. I’d mimic playing the tabla and even attempt singing my father’s songs, as my mother tells me.

My father passed away when I was five, limiting my learning from him. At times, I find myself yearning for those lessons and teachings from him. My first stage show was at the age of nine, in front of a crowd of thousands. Despite my young age, I wasn’t nervous. This performance marked the start of my journey. I’ve worked with many people, learned so much, did some shows and released my first devotional album at the age of 12. The resemblance to my father, not just in appearance but in voice, often led people to recognize me as his son. While this resemblance opened doors, it also brought with it the challenge of carving my own identity in music. My journey has been one of perseverance, learning, and growth, far beyond the shadow of being Aziz Naza’s son. It’s a path marked by dedication, hard work, and a relentless pursuit of my own musical expression.

Mujtaba Aziz Naza on stage
Mujtaba Aziz Naza on stage

You have worked for films too. Is it more challenging than performing live?

I’ve had the privilege of contributing to notable movies like Bajirao Mastani, Padmavat, Indu Sarkar, Qarib Qarib Single, Marjavaan, and the recent web series Bambai Meri Jaan where you’ll see me on screen. You can see my work in the movie Prassthanam. I also performed in Mughal-E-Azam - The Musical, a grand and historic play. I’ve also explored myself as a music composer in Sniff by Amole Gupte and provided background music for Haemolymph: The Invisible Blood.

In studios, we have the luxury of retakes, technical aids, and software, ensuring perfection. Some may use auto-tune as well, but I refrain from using it. So, studio recording allows ample time and comfort. Live performances, on the other hand, demand spontaneity and adaptability. There's no room for error; it’s about engaging with the audience in the moment, where we have to weave impromptu sher as well according to the situation to engage the audience. While studio work is enjoyable with less pressure, live performances require meticulous attention and skill to avoid mistakes.

What is it about Sufi music that it never goes out of style and remains a favorite with music lovers?

Sufi music’s essence has unmatched power to connect with listeners on multiple levels. It can bring you closer to God, a loved one, or even your inner self. Sufi music transcends religion and cultural barriers, touching everyone who listens. Amir Khusrau composed for his spiritual guide, creating a tradition that continues to resonate deeply, chaap tilak sab cheeni ray, mosay naina milaikay. You can see the influence of Sufism in the film industry. Sufi music has the power to unite people, transcending the boundaries of any particular religion. It’s this universal appeal and the tranquillity it brings that keep Sufi music eternally relevant and loved.

Chadhta Sooraj to Flamenco Fusion is available on YouTube.

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