Composer/Singer Wajid Khan passed away last night. He was talented and successful, but not super famous or popular or any of that. He was part of the building blocks that keep the industry going.
Wajid Khan and his brother Sajid were second generation musicians who went by the work name of “Sajid-Wajid”. There father was a tabla player who had earned the title “Ustad”. That’s really all I need to know to understand where they are coming from. Tabla, Indian unique instrument, means their father had an Indian unique training and career. And the second thing I know about them is that Sajid-Wajid got their first composing job in 1998 when Wajid was only 20. That tells me they had an old-fashioned lifelong training in music from their Ustad father, so that at age 20 they had the equivalent of a PhD in music from an academic based system.
Sajid-Wajid were hired to do one song for a Salman Khan movie. And then 4 more songs for his next film. They had other older composers co-listed with them, which tells me they were there to add new sounds and a fresh take on the songs, with the other composers there to help guide them. It’s a very old-fashioned sort of career beginning, in line with their very old-fashioned training in childhood.
Not surprising, Salman Khan was their sponsor. He likes those old-fashioned kind of people, the folks who are used to sessions in living rooms and working 24 hour days, picking up the phone whenever he calls. So he gave these two nice young man whose father was dead a chance in his movies.
Sajid-Wajid have had a fair number of hits, and some really lovely songs as the years go by. They aren’t like AR Rahman, or even Pritam, they aren’t the top of the list when you look for a composer. But they aren’t at the bottom of the list either. They are good, really good, and they can write good songs. The industry needs people like that, the ones who aren’t famous, who aren’t going to be the big selling point for a film, but who make you go “oh yeah, they do good work”.
Sajid-Wajid were known mostly by their work, so let’s look at that work.
Here is their first break, a little bonus song for the hit movie Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya, “Teri Jawani”
From 1998 to 2002, they were mostly Salman’s in house composers under the supervision of more experienced well-known composers, but, with him giving them a leg up, they started to get noticed in general. By 2002 they were composing all on their own, no supervision, for movies outside of Salman’s production company, like Shararat. Here’s one song, “Ek Ladki Mujhe”
They slowly started to be known for a particular sort of sound, rhythmic and lyrical, a little bit of a funky beat, if you wanted one super catchy sing-along-able song, they could do it. Like the title song from “Welcome”, the only song they wrote for the film.
They still stayed close to Salman, as his star rose and changed so did theirs. Wanted, Salman’s big action hero starrer, had an all Sajid-Wajid soundtrack. “Love Me Love Me Love Me”
And then there was Dabangg. Sajid-Wajid started out so very young, they were growing as we watched them, and from the kings of the catchy beat they became all around high quality composers. The title song from Dabangg is a standard Sajid-Wajid song, but the love song “Tere Mast Mast” is something I would not have expected from them.
From there, their career grew and grew. They had the irrepressibly joyful catchy songs, but also the lovely lyrical songs. For instance, the whole album for Teri Meri Kahaani, from love song to dance song, is all good. From “Jabse Mere Dil Ko Uff”
To “Allah Jaane”
To “Humse Pyaar Kar Le tu”
To “That’s All I Wanna Do”
Teri Meri Kahaani is just one of many movies where they were now the primary composer, doing the love song and the sad song and the fun song. Just to pick some examples at random, there’s Daawat-E-Ishq and the “Shayarana” song I love.
Tevar, which included their little tribute to their mentor Salman, “Superman”
And their final hit soundtrack, Dabangg 3, where they remixed again the biggest hit of their career and made it new again, “Udd Udd Dabangg”
That’s Wajid Khan. A young man raised and trained by his traditional musician father, adopted by Salman Khan along with his brother and given a leg up to help them get started, slowly and steadily growing as an artist for the past 22 years of his career.
Sajid-Wajid were brothers, and also creative collaborators. Their father invested a lifetime of musical training in them, Salman Khan invested years of support, the industry as a whole invested decades of mentoring them and teaching them, and now all of that is cut short. We can’t see how that investment would have kept paying off, we can’t see how they might have kept growing. And we don’t know if Sajid will be able to find his way without his lifelong partner. If you take away one of these solid building blocks of the industry, the whole structure is weakened.