Salim and Suleiman Merchant are musician brothers born in Bhuj, Kutch, Gujarat, India. They belong to an Ismaili Muslim family and are inspired by their father Sadruddin Merchant, who used to lead Ismaili Scouts Orchestra in India.
As the sons of composer and veteran of the film industry Sadruddin Merchant, Salim mastered the piano on at the Trinity College of Music in London while Sulaiman took up tabla training with such legends as Taufiq Qureshi and Ustad Zakir Hussain.
They emerged as popular music directors only in 2003, six years after their first music composition in a Bollywood film. They received recognition with their award-winning performance for their music in Bhoot, in which the music was a very influential and significant aspect of the movie. Their music in the award-winning movie Iqbal earned them rave accolades.
Salim and Sulaiman have been composing music for over a decade having scored for movies such as Neal 'n' Nikki, Chak De! India, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Fashion.
The duo had also composed for many Indi-pop performers including Viva, Aasmaan, Shweta Shetty, Jasmine and Style Bhai among others, composed and produced several TV commercials and collaborated with artistes such as Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ustad Sultan Khan.
They got their first break when Karan Johar asked them to compose the music for his movie Kaal. After that, they have gone to do movies with well-known producers and directors like Yash Chopra,Subhash Ghai and Ram Gopal Varma. Before composing music, they were composing the background scores for movies. Salim Merchant was one of the three judges for the Fifth season of Indian Idol on Sony Entertainment Television (India)
They have worked on a Bollywood remix for Lady Gaga's songs Born This Way and Judas. The duo are also composing music for the Hollywood film Sold, produced by Academy Award winner Jeffrey D. Brown. They were recently in Kenya and I got to chat with them. Here excerpts from the interview.
Salim Merchant…. Composer, Singer, Pianist, Indian Idol Judge, Emmy Award Nominee and Dreamer. Tell us more about this dreamer Salim. What dreams do you have and what are you doing to turn them into a reality?
Actually honestly my dreams are turning into a reality, I always wanted to perform and sing in front of our fans and lover of our music. I’m really overwhelmed with all the love we are getting, and all the dreams are turning into a reality and it’s a pleasure to perform all our songs that we work so hard on, live in front of the crowds. The response we are getting is fantastic.
I always wanted to perform in Nairobi in a big way because I know there is a huge crowd that loves music and they really appreciate. The quality of the crowd in Nairobi is fantastic. They appreciate good music and quality performances. I was really looking forward to it so yes, another dream that has turned into a reality.
You’ve worked with Lady Gaga on the soundtrack of the Hollywood film Sold. It’s very exciting for your fans to know that you’ve set foot in Hollywood with your compositions. Is this just a stepping-stone to more to come?
Inshallah! I would say we are really happy that God has been giving us all these opportunities and it’s a lot of progression because we started with advertising and have been doing background scores, film songs, to live singing, performances, to composing music for FIFA World Cup, to collaborating with Lady Gaga and now we are doing a Hollywood film so yeah, it’s honestly like working hard everyday and believing in yourself, following your passion. I keep telling people that I have been on a holiday for the past two decades because I really love what I do and God has been very kind.
What other projects have you got lined up that your fans can look forward to?
We have done the background score of a huge film called Krrish 3, which is the most awaited film of 2013. We have Kaanchi, which is a Subhash Ghai film. We have always wanted to work with this veteran filmmaker. Also Satyagarah which is releasing this weekend; so basically we have these three projects at the moment, also a couple unnamed projects in the pipeline that we are working on, to be released in 2014.
You’ve said that a Music director is as important as the main actor in the film because he plays a very pivotal role in the making of the film. Your fans want to know if you will ever act in a Bollywood film…
I will never say no. It depends actually. The film script should be right, really amazing, the director should be good; I should be able to feel I’m me. You know Sulaiman and I have always done music that we like and there’s obviously a guideline, a brief, but music is something we do for our taste. Similarly with the film, if the acting job comes through, which is something I like, something I want to do, I will definitely jump on it.
Krrish 3’s promo got millions of hits within hours of being uploaded. You’re doing the background score and effectively, that’s just your music that went out on the promo. We’ve seen rave reviews pouring in for that short clip where you contribution is concerned… What can we look forward to in the film?
The film is a very complete film and when I say complete it’s an action hero film, so it’s a super hero film. It has a lot of emotions, family oriented film, lots of drama, twist and turns, love, romance, and it is all in all a fantastic entertainer. Not for a second you’ll feel there’s a low or boring part, so it’s really an amazing film and I’m really delighted to be scoring that film. It’s been a lot of joy because a lot of hard work has gone into it.
We know it must be very difficult to get into music production. It’s very competitive. What advice would you give to someone who is determined to make it work and get his or her foot into the door?
The most important thing that I would say is to first learn. It is very important that before you start earning you start learning. Music is a fantastic career but more than that it is an art and it requires some kind of training. A lot of upcoming talent basically looking for shortcuts, pick up a laptop, some loops, beats, music and start mixing it all to start music is all great but learning music, the basics of classical music, learning chords, whether Western or Indian, it’s extremely important because in theory it goes a long way.
You play the keyboards really well and Suleiman handles the drums. Was this something you especially set out to do, marking your territory with each other?
Oh no! *laughs* We both started learning the drums as kids and I obviously could not cope up, so my brother, being older to me, he jumped on it and piano was always something that excited me so I stuck to that.
Let’s get your opinion on something VERY important – what do you think of our traffic?
*laughs* Traffic is just something you have to live with. I know it hassles and bothers a lot of people, I fortunately don’t have that problem because I live in the city of Bombay and I don’t want to say anything bad about it, so I’m kind of used to it and I usually have things to do in the car. I make phone calls, I listen to music, I connect with people and I have an iPad so sometimes I go online and check out things so there’s lots to do while stuck in traffic. With all these gadgets you can do a lot of things.
This is the quick-fire round and you can only choose one.
Samose or Pakore?
Rain or sunshine?
Ferrari or Lamborghini?
Keyboard or Harmonium?
Twitter or Facebook?
Coffee or tea?
Gym or jogging?
Free ticket for me or you’ll charge me?
Umm… I’ll charge you!
- Additional reporting Wikipedia