Azaan Sami Khan
The teenage son of singer Adnan Sami Khan talks about his forthcoming album and his relationship with his long-estranged father.
Even at the young age of 15, Azaan Sami Khan has a discerning, motivated look about him. He has unruly hair and baby fat that hasn't yet shed off, but his bespectacled, intelligent eyes speak volumes for his maturity as an individual. As the son of actress Zeba Bakhtiar and musician Adnan Sami Khan, Azaan is, of course, not your average teenager. During his childhood, he weathered his parents' tumultuous divorce and subsequent prolonged custody battle - experiences that must have left long-lasting scars. Still, he seems to be none the worse for wear as he has recently been signed by Sony Music India for his debut album, an album that will mark him as the world's youngest composer and singer.
It has become quite the order of the day for children to want to follow in their celebrity parents' footsteps. In Bollywood, star kids have taken over almost completely with every big banner movie boasting the name of a Ranbir Kapoor or an Abhishek Bachchan or even a desperately-floundering-for-a-hit Fardeen Khan. Closer to home, we have Neelo's son Shaan, Amanat Ali Khan's son Shafqat Amanat Ali and Abid Ali's daughter Iman Ali amongst the glitterati. Since he has spent his entire childhood estranged from his musician father, it is surprising though that Azaan opted for a career in music rather than one in acting, a la his actress mother.
"I've met my father for the first time in 10 years," admits Azaan. "During these years, I had no contact with him whatsoever. Still, his musical influence was there. My mother saw that I was interested in music and always encouraged it. I have been receiving vocal training from a very young age and composed my first song when I was seven. At age 13, I directed and composed the music for a short film called Meri Kahani, a movie that was screened at the South East Asian festival in Goa. This was when I realized that music was truly my calling and this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My mother's influence is also there - I eventually want to delve into acting, directing and dancing as well!"
Now that he has reunited with his father in Mumbai, Azaan is not only getting to know Adnan Sami better but also feels that he is learning a lot from the talented musician. "Living with my father is a learning experience," he says. "I couldn't meet him earlier because of court cases but from now on, I am going to be shuffling back and forth between Pakistan and India. He has taught me a lot and feels that I am now ready to go public. My album will be launched in India and hopefully, simultaneously in Pakistan, by Sony Music. People who have heard it so far have more or less liked it. They have also been surprised that my sound is so different from my father's."
He may sound different but Azaan admits that the opportunities granted to him have mainly been due to his celebrity father. "But that also puts the burden on me of living up to people's expectations," he reasons. "The audience may listen to the album once because they are curious to hear Adnan Sami's son but they will only hear it again and again if they like it. I hope that people realize that my father started his career when he was 24 while I am just 15. I can't possibly sound as mature or sing as romantically as him!"
Azaan, it seems, is, understandably, in awe of his multi-talented father. "My father is a well-respected musician in India and everybody I have met through him over here has been very friendly and genuine. Despite this, if I could, I would have wanted my first album to debut in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I didn't get a very enthusiastic response from Pakistani music companies whereas I was welcomed in India. My father encountered the same attitude years ago when he wanted to release Kabhi Toh Nazar Milao in Pakistan. The album was then eventually released in India and became a huge success. As musicians, sometimes we just don't have any option but to launch our music in India, where people are more appreciative and receptive to new ideas. It doesn't mean that we have forsaken our loyalty to our nation. I am a Pakistani and I am proud of it. A lot of the songs in my album have been recorded in Pakistan and have been written by Pakistani lyricists.
Similarly, my father isn't an Indian national - he still has a green passport and he says that every time he goes on stage, Pakistan goes on stage with him." Quite the besotted son, Azaan fails to mention that his father did apply for Indian citizenship in 2001 but failed to acquire it.
Nevertheless, in the words of Lata Mangeshkar, "Music knows no boundaries" and if Azaan's first album is a success, it will be a proud moment for Pakistan. Following the footsteps of Adnan Sami, Azaan says that he has a sense of how different instruments work, even though the keyboard is the main instrument he plays. He has been signed up as music director for a few Indian movies, one of them directed by Priyadarshan and due to be released this December. His album debut is planned for January 2010.