At the recent Geetanjali; Voice of India event organised by Bhojpuri Pariwar Global Foundation and Assamese Cultural Association in Lagos, Sunday Ehigiator, who was in attendance, spoke with Bollywood legendary musician and actor, Zubeen Garg, who came all the way from India to entertain his Nigerian fans
For the non-initiated, what can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Zubeen Garg. I am a singer from North-east India, specially called Assam. Assam is famous for tea; it's called Assam-Tea. We produce the highest number of tea in the world after China. It is also famous for Rhinos. Two home Rhinos are in Africa and one home Rhino is in Assam. I sing, I make films, I act and do a lot of things. I am also a writer as well. I have been very active in the entertainment industry for a very long time; over 25 years.
I am the only one who has sang more than 16,000 songs there. So I am quite old, I am 46 years old now, but my mind is still young. So now, I'm more into making films. Most of my 25 years were into music, songs; many of which were adopted for Bollywood movies. Even in Bollywood I sang many songs in good films and all of that, then I travelled to Bombay. I stayed there for some time before I came back to Assam. Now I am back to Assam because of my film industry; I want to promote it more. So basically, I started with a musical journey, but now into films and a lot of social works.
What brought you to Nigeria?
I am here for so many different things. Assam community is very less here, so they were the pioneers to bring me here, and the Bhojpuri; another Indian community here, which is very close to Assam, are also helping us and I'm thankful to them. That's why I am singing in multiple languages so to carry all the India states present here along in their languages. Because in India we have different states and they have their peculiarities. It is my first time in Nigeria and I would be spending three days here. I have already spent a day, most of it on a 17-hours flight from India to Nigeria. So, this is my second day and I am really enjoying it. I wish I could spend more days to tour around Nigeria a bit, but hopefully there would be another opportunity to return here soon.
What genre of music is your speciality?
My genre is very different because I came out from a very non-musical place. My father was a Magistrate and he used to travel a lot to many places. Due to that, I know many people, many cultures, different tribes and we have more than 350 tribes there in India with different cultures, food habits and dialects. So I am lucky that I have travelled and worked with all of them. I am the only one in India that has worked with all dialects, their genre and ways of music. I don't speak their languages perfectly but I can sing in their languages. Now I can understand what they are saying having worked around them for 25 years. So I promote their culture and everything therein worth being put in the limelight about them.
Tell us about your educational background?
I left college. I am a college dropout. Many people don't believe I am due to my family background; they are all learned, and my exposure and attainment in life, but I am a college dropout and I don't regret dropping out a bit. I didn't do my graduation before I jumped into music. I did my first album while I was still in school and I never went back to college. When I was doing my exams for my graduation, I suddenly realised myself; that I was doing the wrong thing- I shouldn't be here, I should be in the studio, what should I do with my graduation? So after these thoughts, I abandoned my examinations and went to do my album, and from there, I didn't look back. Then I went to Bombay with Bollywood; and it was a long journey finally getting here. I was about 20 years old.
How about your parents, how did they take your decision to quit school at the verge of graduating?
They supported me. They have always supported me. Aside my dad being a Magistrate, he is also a Poet; he still writes. He always promoted me as a creative guy. He never ordered me on what to do with my future. He would always ask me what I want to do, and I told him I want to be a musician, a big musician and go famous. He did all the motivation but he never supported me with money; though I never asked. But I'm sure if I had back then, he was ready to give. But he was with his own ego waiting for me to ask, and I was also with my ego determined never to ask but sort myself out. Even My mother, she was a good singer, and an actress but not a professional one. She was also of big support to me, lifting me up and encouraging me to go ahead.
So would you say you inherited your talent from your mother?
Yes of course. I always say I am my mother's son. Even when I hear people say that I am gifted, I tell them that I am not gifted, but gifted from my mother and nature; trees. I draw inspiration from trees a lot. When I was growing up, I'll stand at the front of a big river and stare at trees around it. We used to live in front of the river Gramakputa. So when I wake up, I see the river surrounding the trees.
Is that where you draw your inspiration from?
Yes, from nature and a lot of animals. I keep a list of animals. And I think I am the only one who has an adopted Rhino. I derive a lot of inspiration from animals, trees, water, and nature in general.
Tell us about your immediate family life?
I am married to a beautiful wife, and I have no kids of my own yet; though I have a lot of adopted sons and daughters. I keep on adopting to help them out of hardship they know nothing about and show them fatherly love and care as they deserve so they can find balance in life. My wife is a fashion designer and also oversees my film industry and musical career. I have almost 200 guys working for me; drama, film, music, social activities, and she supervises all of them. And she doesn't break I must say. Thanks to her for also sticking by me and looking after me too.
How about your company or label?
I am an enabling producer. I work for the movies also; I worked for Sony music, when I was in Bombay, but not right now. But now I work for Zee music. Now, I am working alone with my label. It's called I-Creation. My last movie was one of the biggest hits; entitled 'Mission China'. It's about anti-Terrorism. You can get it on Netfix.com.
What are you currently working on and what should we expect from you in years to come?
I'm releasing my next movie called 'Captain Ganga'. Ganga is a peak. It's the second highest peak in this world after Everest. Captain Ganga is a film against the system, a revolution. I am releasing it on September 6, 2019. I released the first look of the film today. It's the rise of ambition. Aside this, I have a lot of shows coming up. After this particular one I am here for in Nigeria, there are other ones. I'll be releasing the promotional music of this film in August, it would be the background music too.
How is your Nigeria experience going; have you had some Jollof rice?
So far it has been really fine. I wish I can stay longer. The three days isn't enough for me to tour places I really wished I could tour in Nigeria but I am definitely looking up to returning here again. Yes and I tasted the popular Nigerian Jollof about two hours back, it is so delicious. I had Jollof rice, I had some big drum-sticks, with some vegetables and all that. It was so yummy. Looking forward to it again before leaving. I have a culture of always having delicacies peculiar to any place I visit whenever I am opportune to be there. I don't taste oriental food. If I go to Singapore, I eat their local delicacies, and same applies here in Africa. I give thumbs up to Nigerians, the Jollof rice really lived up to its expectation as spread globally.
What advice do you have for upcoming artists?
I always say that we should stick to our roots and then we should love our animals, trees, nature, people, culture. At least, 10 years of your life, you should give it to the people. I am a socialist guy and not a capitalist. Give 10 years of your life to the people and your cultural heritage. With that, I think you will be fine.