Dubai: Sanam band talk all things music ahead of concert in the city

Popular music band Sanam discuss rehashing old Bollywood classics during visit to the Khaleej Times office ahead of concert in Dubai


Husain Rizvi

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Photos: Yasmine Mustafa
Photos: Yasmine Mustafa

Published: Sun 18 Dec 2022, 5:40 PM

Last updated: Tue 20 Dec 2022, 11:53 AM

Friendship. And love for music. Two things have kept popular Indian band Sanam together for over a decade, even as most bands today are prone to splitting up.

Sanam formed in 2010, comprising brothers Sanam and Samar Puri, lead vocalist and composer, Venkat Subramaniyam or Venky S, bass guitarist, and Keshav Dhanraj, drummer.

But before the group was formed, Samar and Venky were batchmates in a school in Muscat, way back in 2002. The two played guitar and dreamed of starting a band, and got Samar's younger brother Sanam to join as a singer. Years later, the trio went on to pursue higher education in different cities, and that is when Venky met Keshav.

The four got together and began jamming in Keshav's garage, and that's where it all started to play out.

Now, with over 10 million subscribers on YouTube, the band is hugely popular for its renditions of Bollywood classics as well as original compositions such as Jaane De Mujhe, Mukhda, Main Hoon, and many others.

The band regularly tours within India as well as internationally. And, on Friday, December 23, Sanam is returning to Dubai for a concert at Sheikh Rashid Hall, Dubai World Trade Centre. Tickets available for purchase on Platinum List.

Sanam, Samar, Venky, and Keshav visited the Khaleej Times office ahead of the show and talked about what makes them tick as a band, and what fans can expect from the performance. The group also wowed us with a live performance of Gulabi Aakhein Jo Teri Dekhi, leaving us all in awe of their talents.

You have been together since 2010. That’s a huge time for a band. To what do you attribute your longevity?

Sanam: I think it is the fact that we are friends first, then we think of ourselves as musicians. We just love the fact that we blend really well.

Keshav: We've known each other for a long time, and I think that's what binds us together. And, also the fact that, for us, this is a journey. It is not just about putting up our album, or about fame, money, or anything of that sort. It is a journey for us, and we want to experience life together as friends. And, we're happy doing music together, travelling the world and performing for people. That's what keeps us together.

Tell us that one pre-show habit you have that nobody knows about?

Sanam: I have to have my dinner four hours before I perform. Otherwise, it gets in the way of me singing, if I eat just before the performance.

As a band, what advice would you give to those who dream of becoming pop stars?

Keshav: I think the main thing is to focus on what's most important here. If you're doing something like music, focus on your skills because when ego comes in, you can't really focus on creativity. When many people are working together, you have to understand each other, give each other space to grow musically and creatively. That's one thing you can keep in mind.

Venky: It is very important, when you're performing, to do what you really like to do. And, if you can form a connection with the audience, just keep working on that because that's where the human emotion about performing music really lies.

Today’s social media world comes with its own share of pressures. How do you, as a team, stay mentally strong?

Samar: We don't focus on Instagram and Facebook that much. I think it is a bit important for us, but we never give so much attention to it. We focus more on making songs and videos, but I think it is time that we focus on that as well.

Keshav: One thing that we're proud of is also the fact that our YouTube channel's entire growth has been organic. We put out our music, and after a couple of days, we move on to the next song. And, fortunately for us, a lot of people put us on playlists and the growth just continues. That's been really nice for us. In today's world, there are so many different platforms, so you have to understand those platforms and do what's right for those platforms individually. So, we're just starting with that.

Sanam: When we started out, everything was easier and it was organic, but now things have changed. People have to put in money, need to be out there, it is just not the same any more. So, we also took some time to transition into the world of putting in money and to get yourself out there. It is not that easy, but now it is getting easier.

Keshav: It is changing and we have to adapt like everybody else has to. But I think the main thing here is content.

Sanam: Yeah, the intention has to be that whatever you put out there, people should be able to listen to it anytime. It shouldn't be like a trend to which people listen to for two, three months and then forget about it. We want our songs to stay with people and, through renditions, it has been easy for us to do that. But, we are working on originals as well.

One would say that you guys started the trend of rehashing old Bollywood classics and you met with such success. At a time when so many remakes don’t do well, how do you explain your massive success in this field?

Sanam: Honestly, there's nothing that we plan over. Our intention has always been to put out what we feel, and we feel good doing this. We just love the process of making music and having a good time. I think that's probably what reflects in our songs. The main point is that we don't want to lose the soul of the songs when we are recreating them. Because, that's what people connect with. If you take that out of the song in the recreation, then there's no point. Also, we don't think that we are successful as there's so much more that we want to do.

Keshav: We feel like we're just starting right now. I think it is the simplicity of the stuff that we do. Maybe that connects with a lot of people.

What can visitors expect at your forthcoming Dubai concert?

Venky: I think most of the people would like to see what we usually put up on YouTube. They're fond of listening to that music, they watch it on repeat. So, definitely a lot of stuff from our YouTube channel. We also do a fair amount of music at our live shows which is very high energy. So, people who haven't seen us before, they don't usually expect us to play music with energy that high. So, it is going to be a mix of those things. And, maybe we will add something that is a bit of a local treat. Let's see, we have done that in the past. Let's see what we do this time.

You mentioned the connection that you expect from an audience. Do you find that the audiences are the same all over? Or is there something special about the Dubai audience?

Venky: I think audiences are the same everywhere. It is just the way you reach out to them, that's the artist's job. Dubai audiences are very receptive and they are waiting to be impressed. I can tell that for a fact because I witnessed the football fans here celebrating their teams winning. It was fantastic. It is like people are waiting to have a great time and Dubai provides that without doubt.

Keshav: The other important factor would be the fact that people have been locked down for so long and now everybody is looking to go and listen to live shows and experience something different. And, this is also our first time in Dubai after lockdown so it is going to be super fun.


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