Comments (0)
Interviews |  20 Feb 2010 15:18 |  By chiragsutar

Mahmood Khan - 'I think Michael Jackson is a good example of talent completely manipulated by the Industry'

Among the few musicians who have worked with legendary singers like Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan, is Pakistan based singer/songwriter Mahmood Khan. An upcoming songwriter, who struck it gold by scoring 'Like a River' on Australian Pop charts (ARIA), Mahmood Khan is known for his unique sound. The singer-composer has also had his brush with Bollywood when he accused the makers of the Sanjay Dutt- Jackie Shroff starrer Kartoos (1999) for lifting his composition 'Teri Yaad' sung by Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan. Mahmood Khan is now back into the music scene with his own brand of music, and his 12 member Mahmood Khan Funk called ( MKF). An independent artiste of his own right, Khan has also started his independent label 'Songs Are People' that encourages independent musicians.'s Chirag Sutar in conversation with Mahmood Khan on his music, independent label and forthcoming projects.

I read that you have a 12 member band? That's huge! Are all the musicians from Australia? What is the kind of sound you are trying to create?

Yes, I think perhaps it's the biggest contemporary band in Australia. This is because of the fact that I am a studio artist and like to make everything sound big, so in live settings, it has to sound big for me as well. Plus, it is more fun for me to play with tons of musicians. Musicians are amazing spiritual people from different parts of the world. We have Chinese, Indian, Australian and British players. A true fusion of cultures and understandings. As for the sound - since I worked in the Black music industry in the US producing Rap and R&B records, it has to be bass driven, funky feel, layered with gypsy guitars mixed like a Pop record. Since my voice is an Indian instrument it makes it all very â€?new sounding'. We got original songs that I have taken years to write -  both in English and Urdu and some are half Urdu and English.

Your song, Like a River, topped the charts - Can you please share how did the song happen?

Like the River is about self development. The lyrics portray the story of a man who wants to re invent himself and find solace and comfort by the natural progression of things meaning being one with nature and letting yourself flow Like the River amidst all challenges. I had written the song in Sydney and it touched me at a personal level. I knew it was a very special song right from its birth. When we rehearsed it with the girls' voices and arrangement, it sounded mind blowing and the mix came out pretty clean. It's a very basic two chord progression with a complex phrasing technique and I can sing it several different ways keeping the same overall feel. It is a fun song to sing LIVE.

Apparently, you have also received appreciation from Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan. Which song was it? And did you also meet him?

I spent a few months living with Nusrat in Los Angeles in 1997. I was blessed to have experienced him on a daily basis and he appreciated my desire for growth and my skills in writing, producing and sound engineering. I had put together a studio in the house we were sharing and we developed a few songs together. It was the most beautiful place on the ocean and brought tons of inspiration to both of us. We recorded songs called �Teri yaad' and �Janeman' and they became a part of my second album called �Only One' which was released by Magnasound in India and by Solid Records in the US and is currently available on iTUNES.

Your first solo album was released under your own label, I recently read that Pt Ravi Shankar too has started his own music label - and of course, there are countless other musicians who have started their own label... what is the reason behind starting yours? Are mainstream music labels turning a blind eye?

Yes, I had to self release my music initially because Los Angeles is crowded with artists trying for record deals. You have to please too many people to get your songs released and more than often, even if you do get signed, you may never see a release. I have always been independent in my ways so it was a good road for me. Plus there are tons of examples of artists who went this route and made it happen for them. I have never cared for the ways the music industry is run and what they make out of their artists. I think Michael Jackson is a good example of talent completely manipulated by the Industry.

On the website of SongsArePeople, it was mentioned that opportunities for Indian, Pakistani, and US artistes in Australia are more since the music market is not that crowded. Don't you feel, music has reduced to a side dish amidst focus on marketing / target audience and other such things? Also, is Australia much more open to Asian artistes?

Sure, marketing and promotions is a crucial element but it all starts from a good artist and good songs. One must never forget the value of good songs. Rest comes but has to be based on a solid foundation which is the song. I spent seven years locked up in a studio just to develop my songs because I understand the value of a good repertoire. There are no short cuts for this. You must work and work hard and be consistent. Australia is very open indeed. My success here is a good example of its openness. And I think there is tons of room for new artists. This is why I have made a new music label SongsArePeople which provides a platform for International artists to release their work in Australia. SongsArePeople facilitated my performance at the Sydney Opera House and music festivals like Holi festival in Sydney and more recently Australia Day @ the Hyde Park in Sydney.

I also read that a Bollywood film had stripped you of all royalties and credits from the album. Can you tell us which Bollywood film was it? Which song? And did you take any action against it?

The film was �Kartoos' and song was �Teri yaad'. For me this chapter is closed now.

As a musician and songwriter... who have influenced you the most?

As a sound engineer, I am influenced by Mutt Lange, Karl Richardson, and Jon Gass. As a producer by Arif Mardin, Albhy Galuten, Barry Gibb, Michael Omartian, David Foster and John Farrar. As a musician I have been inspired by Black music and Gypsy music. I love brilliant songwriters namely Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Aziz Mian Qawal, Barry Gibb and John Denver. As a vocalist I love Lata Ji, Kishore Kumar, Robin Gibb, Barry Gibb and Cliff Richard.

What are the projects that you are presently working on?

Currently I am involved in mixing and finalizing the album MKF Live @ Sydney Opera House and writing and developing new songs for a �Mahmood Khan' album. The documentary �Journey of a new sound' which I have been shooting around my musical journey for the past 10 years is also being edited. Most exciting is the development of a Broadway musical called �Triumph of the Spirit'. I have written the story and songs for this and I am thrilled about this project which will take off Late this year from Los Angeles. Another project underway is �MKF with Symphonies of the World' and we are conversant with London Philharmonic Orchestra and United Arab Emirates Philharmonic Orchestra for concert/DvD recording. It would be beautiful to see my work played by an 80 piece orchestra. Like I said, I love the big sound.