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Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy on the secret to their 25-years strong musical partnership

The musical trio, who was in Dubai to perform at Expo 2020 Dubai, talks about their unexpected musical journey and what holds them together


Somya Mehta

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 12:18 PM

We know them from the chartbusting hits of popular Bollywood film albums such as Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Rock On!!. Think hit numbers like ‘Kajra Re’ from Bunty Aur Babli and ‘Señorita’ featuring Hrithik Roshan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Etched forever in the history of Hindi film music, the list goes on. The musical trio behind giving repeated successes year after year, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, are amongst the most critically acclaimed music composers in Bollywood. With Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa as its members, the band has completed over 25 years in the Indian film industry, composing music in multiple languages. The musical trio, who was in Dubai to perform at Expo 2020 Dubai, talks about their unexpected musical journey and what holds them together.

On completing 25 years as a band

“The best thing is, we’re the same crazy trio,” said Mahadevan, adding that while the trio has grown up with each other, they wouldn’t call themselves “grown-ups”. “It’s been such a wonderful journey. We’ve been so blessed that some force from above has always kept us together. That’s also because we, as people, respect each other and each other’s musical ideas and values,” he added. The three band members, who are also individual musicians with their distinct trajectories, have created award-winning music through the course of their collaborations.

“The beauty is after 25 years, you just have to turn back and look at your body of work, when we hear our own songs, we feel proud. Sometimes, you’re just sitting somewhere and somebody plays your song, that’s magical. Even if you’ve created one song, which has the depth or the impact of ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ or ‘Maa’ or ‘Ae Watan’ or even ‘Kajra Re’, you feel lucky. That is the most satisfying experience, to look back at the body of work that we have done in these 25 years,” said Mahadevan. “Even after all these years, we still have as much fun doing what we do, composing music together and hanging out. We’ve grown up as musicians together. It’s been a beautiful journey and it will continue for long after,” added Noorani.

Secret to togetherness

When asked if they had envisioned this journey when they started out, sticking together for over 25 years, Noorani responded, “Not at all. We actually just got together to do a couple of things and it became a career. Nothing was planned. It was fated.” In bands, especially where three creative individuals are concerned, there can often be creative clashes with egos and other differences that can shatter the relationship.

So, what’s the secret to this successful musical collaboration? It’s the collective love for music, adds Noorani. “There can be differences in many ways, not only about the music, but it could be just the way you live your life, what your values are. There can be many clashes. But you have to make one thing clear, you’re there to make the music and to have a good time making music because it is such a big part of your life. And it’s such a beautiful part. You’d be a fool to let it go because of some silly clash.”

To this, Mahadevan added, “We have a lot of respect for each other and each other’s musical ideas. So, we just flow into the tide, having a great time. We are also individual musicians, having our own musical journeys. We come together for films and make sure we enjoy every moment of it.”

Evolution of the music industry

Music, especially in a lucrative film industry like Bollywood is different now to when the trio set off on their journey many years ago. Both, the way music is consumed and the type of music consumed, have seen a transformative shift in the last decade. “There’s a constant change happening, with different trends that are coming in. We’ve tried to go with the trend as far as possible. But you can’t go too steeply in that direction because then you’d be completely compromising what your own values are as musicians,” said Noorani.

According to Mahadevan, good music will always stand the test of time. “The music industry has done well, especially technologically. In terms of what people listen to, what kind of influences there are on music, that is something that will constantly keep changing because people are now exposed to music from all over the world, through YouTube and Spotify,” he added. “There’s a lot of access to a lot of material, which people have in order to change their way of thinking and their musical preferences. Hopefully, this can give way to more creativity,” the composer-duo signed off.


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