Always fantastic to perform in Dubai, says Shaan of upcoming concert

Shaan’s excitement at being able to once more helm a live gig in the UAE is palpable, as is his love for his local audience.

DUBAI, TGO: He’s one of India’s most loved singers, who has had a memorable relationship with the UAE and is therefore thrilled to be heading back after a long break, for a live concert. Shaan, who has charmed us over the years with hits like Woh Pehli Baar, Chand Sifarish, It’s The Time To Disco and many more, will perform at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on March 5, joined by Moh Moh Ke Dhaage singer Papon in the first live collaboration between the two.

In a Zoom conversation, Shaan’s excitement at being able to once more helm a live gig in the UAE is palpable, as is his love for his local audience.

Praising the venue at which he has performed earlier a couple of times with singer KK, Shaan said fans could expect an amazing show on Saturday.

“I’ve been performing in Dubai and the UAE for many years. Not as consistently as I would want to and my wife would want to – she absolutely loves Dubai because she can do all the shopping there (laughs)!

“For the last two years we haven’t been performing for the obvious reasons and this is something I am really looking forward to. This time it’s with Papon who is a very dear friend; I am a huge fan of his voice and style of singing so I’m really excited about the collaboration. We’re also planning a beautiful tribute segment which will be something very refreshing and very exciting.”

He added, “I know a lot of concerts where on the ticket you have two names but they never really do a thing together. But it’s always been my endeavour with various artists that the highlight should be to create something unique that has not been seen or heard before.”

He was all praise for his Dubai audience, recalling their enthusiasm from years earlier when he hosted the reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in the city.

“I really got to know what the Dubai audience is (then) at Media City – it was in December, really cold and we would shoot sometimes till four in the morning but not one person would leave the premises! They were fully charged, cheering, clapping, so it’s next to no other audience in the world. I don’t know Dubai ke hawa mein kya hai, there’s such enthusiasm, respect and adulation for performers and live music, that it’s always been fantastic performing there.”

Shaan has always been energetic and pleasing on stage, drawing crowds with both his vocal talent and his charm. He admitted he was extremely grateful to be able to return to live shows after the pandemic hit the entertainment industry.

“There was a time when we were performing pretty consistently – once or twice a week – and travelling. I think there was a bit of a repetitiveness to it. We had lost that passion and excitement. But suddenly something that you take for granted just stops, and you realise that is all you want to do. For an artist or a performer to not have that stage, not have that audience… of course I quickly switched to doing a lot of online shows (because I’ve done a lot of television that also came pretty naturally to me) but obviously you cannot compare the energy of a real audience to singing in front of a camera.”

Shaan is excited to be heading back to the city for a highly anticipated collaborative performance with Papon.

“Now when I get an opportunity to sing live in front of an audience I realise the kind of fervour, the energy, the passion that I feel performing – there’s a renewed excitement, like (that of) a little child. Like a ‘bull in a china shop’ I go crazy and they have to hold me back (laughs). So the positive is that after this break, I value performing live a lot more; I find it so much more exciting and I want to really give my audience everything that I possibly can.”

Not only is Shaan electric on stage but he’s constantly trying to expand his repertoire. His first attempt at a Sufi Rock song, Rang Le, an energetic, intense track released in January has racked up almost two million views so far.

“Since the last few years I’ve started dabbling as a composer and creating my own music. I felt there are a lot of genres or styles that I’ve not exploited as a singer, (it’s been) mostly romantic songs or club songs. So I’ve been trying to explore other avenues and the composer in me helped the singer in me discover this.”

He shared how Sufi Rock is something he always enjoyed listening to. “Bands like Junoon, Euphoria – we used to perform together and the audience had a completely different energy going around because of that whole indie rock sound. And I always thought ‘I can do this’ but no one gets me to sing these songs (laughs)! And then of course Bollywood came up and all that happened, so I just felt that that’s one genre I had to revisit!”

Saying it was important to “create good karma”, he commented on how the philosophy of Sufism was what attracted him to creating this track as well. “It is something that I so believe in, that finally it is about how decent a human being you are, how decent you are to a fellow human being – that is what your God is looking to you for.”

Shaan who kicked off his career with popular remixes in the 90s and is now an integral part of India’s music industry, said he feels “very blessed, very grateful” to have reached where he is today.

Growing up in a house full of talented musicians and singers including his sister Sagarika, Shaan admitted that while singing came naturally to him he never thought of pursuing it as a career initially.

“I guess there was some connection there (points upwards) and once things started happening I felt that I didn’t want to let this go. I didn’t want this to be a fluke that happened and I just messed it up. I’m happy to confess that the first four or five years – during the whole Indipop phase – I was just enjoying myself and had no clue what I was doing. But then, especially when I started hosting the show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, I realized to be a consistent talent you have to start your ‘riyaaz’, you have to start practicing, you have to start thinking about music and not just keep it as a fun and light experience.”

After finding his guruji, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan saab, he said “things went a little more serious”.

And yet, despite taking his music seriously, he never took himself seriously – a move that worked greatly in his favour.

“I could keep dabbling in different things; I could host television shows, I could dance and sing on a live show, I was not like – oh mein singer hoon, aur mein khud ko is tarah pesh karna chahta hoon. So I had a lot of fun along the way, which I think is why I’ve been able to stay relatable.

“Someone would know me as a host, someone would know me as the guy who sings all those fun songs … so I think that’s what kept me going. If I was just doing this one-dimensional thing, I would have been dated by now, I would have been one of those serious guys, coming and blessing people at shows. But I’m glad I’m still very relevant… and in my head I’m still as young as I ever was!”

Today people are looking at music as genres; Bollywood otherwise was one big chunky genre where nothing was fixed. You could have a song that had a blend of rock and roll but it also had jazz element going. The amazing thing is that you’re prepared to sing in any genre, if you can pull off those songs. Luckily for me I got an on-ground training of 15 years of singing – sometimes it was a rock song, sometimes it was a jazz song – in a Bollywood context only.

Today if you a see a ballad in a minor scale, it is a ballad in a minor scale! If you see a party number, it will be a typical party number … there wouldn’t be that much artistry – so they are very much fixed in their genres. It’s become very difficult to find a versatile voice because each one is finding their selected space and creating magic in it.

It is more sensible because no one is faking it! Honestly, because I’m the last of the fakers (laughs) – in Bollywood we were singing all kinds of songs; hip hop, Mein Aisa Kyun Hoon; Jab Se Tere Naina… now I’m singing completely in an Indian way…Chanda Mama So Gaye… on the same day that I recorded this I landed at another studio and did Ladki Kyun Na Jane Kyun! So yeah, that was a different time and now I’m sure there are a lot of amazing artists but they have to really fight their way to prove their versatility because people have started saying ‘for this song you can sing this only’. But the hotchpotch of genres that used to happen earlier was also quite exciting. So I miss that in today’s music.


Shaan & Papon Live In Concert, Saturday, March 5, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium

Tickets: BookMyShow, Platinumlist