In the magazine we found Saby Singh through a contact in India, listened to his song “Saazishein” (2021) and were struck by the sheer power of the song. Music is universal, and at Rock the Joint Magazine we have looked to promote world music where we can. On his website, Saby says of “Saazishein,”
“It is the expression when your deepest darkest fears come true. It is the anticipation of the storm which will come to sabotage your identity and the foundations you stand on. I wrote this song in one of my darkest hours. I knew what was coming, and the preparation for the impending torrential downpour itself was exhausting. It took me a sufficient part of my 20s to get an understanding of what it was and how it defined me. This song should serve as a reminder – to be prepared, to live in the moment, to cease every pretty second of our lives. This musical expression should bring you closer to yourself; should remind you of how brutal broken expectations can be. All of my love and good vibes.”
Sometimes we go through bad times, believe me I’m old enough to know, but it is coming through these and not letting these times define us that matters. Saby Singh performs in Urdu, but one of our favourite artists Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan performed in Urdu, language of music is universal. It was therefore a real pleasure to chat to Saby Singh and find out more about the man and his music for you, our readers.
Saby- I have trained in Indian classical music and western classical music. Ever since I was little, my family was musical, and music was always around me. My grandfather was terrific at doing the Indian ragas, so when I was really little, he incubated within me the idea that music can express how you feel. It was less about the technicality of the scales and more about the emotion. So since I was little, I could feel the music. I was a bit different from my friends and family as I cared less about how it was made and more about how it felt. As I grew older, I felt that doing music as a career was the best thing I could imagine myself doing. I started playing a couple of instruments, but the guitar is my primary instrument. I began to write and perform in English, but then I shifted to writing in Urdu. I find the nuances in Urdu are better, you can get a bit more detail in the expressions and words. So I am concentrating on my music now. My debut album came out in 2020, almost before COVID. And that’s seven years of music professionally for me.
Saby is an accomplished guitar player, and we wondered how he came to the guitar and how it became an instrument of choice for this Kashmiri based musician.
Saby- I went to meet a friend of mine, I was still in school then and he played me this song by Mumford and Sons, “I Gave You All,” such a good song. I remember being blown away by this beautiful, organic song. There is a real humanity in the song, it is an essence of raw humanity, based in the moment. In Indian traditional music you have to be in the moment to express and you perform differently as you feel different. I was also super into Pink Floyd and British music at the moment. I was having a grunge phase.
We grow in tastes of course, do we still listen to the same as we did when we were 14 as adults?
Saby- We should listen to the interviews from our music heroes, what were they listening to? What influenced them? The more you try to figure that out the further back you go. For me it began with rocking out and the guitar, the distortion of sound, then tracking back into the blues and jazz. Now, what music do I like? I listen to everything!
Listening to Saby Singh in the office we felt he was more within the blues genre, he has soulful songs, mournful and full of emotion, try checking out “Asma” to see the beauty of the lyricism. We wondered where he did his songwriting.
Saby- When it comes to songwriting, I like to give myself the space to discover my feelings rather than know what I intend to do before I start. I let it flow out of me, and after a first draft, I will read it through and decide what I am trying to say. I will often discover something about myself that I previously did not know, and this is what excites me about music. It is a sense of discovery about who you are as an individual. Writing helps me discover more about who I am.
Saby had already touched on his musical roots from his grandparents, we wondered if his parents too were musical.
Saby- Not professionally. But my mother sings beautifully and my sister has a lovely voice. My maternal grandfather was a legend in a lot of ways, he knew a lot of exotic and extinct ragas that he taught to me and so I have always been around music. And also I am a Sikh, and in our faith the way to Nirvana and God is through music. If you go to a Gurdwara there will be music all the time…I used to play the Indian harmonium in the Gurdwara.
And future plans for 2022 into 2023.
Saby- I have just finished my tour, intimate settings. I prefer not to have the PA system, I prefer an intimate gathering in a close space. I have a lot of material in the computer right now that I would like to share with people. But the problem is as you progress as a human being you need to be sure that the recordings and performances are sorted. I am focussed right now on getting that right, but I am looking at maybe 6/7 songs released over the next year. I am also looking to move beyond the singer songwriter position and look at expanding into producing other artists too. As an artist it can be hard to have an objective position, but working with other artists can help you gain a wider perspective.
This interview was great and we thank our readers for connecting to World Music and World Blues with us.
By Benny (The Ball) Benson &
Mark C. Chambers.