Singing happened accidentally to me at the age of six: Runa Laila
Runa Laila, the lady with the earthy voice who is till date known for her cult song Duma Dum Mast Qalandar, is counted among the best Sufi singers
The Bangladeshi singer is one of the three judges in the music reality show Sur Kshetra on Colors. CS caught up with Runa for a light-hearted chat
Singer by accident
Singing happened accidentally to me at the young age of six. My elder sister got her break first at a stage show, but on the day of her performance, she developed a sore throat and I had to fill in. And then I started getting more offers. But initially, I was a lot into dance. I trained in Bharatnatyam, Kathakali and Kathak for four years. Of course, I don’t pursue it anymore. But when I sing, the facial expressions do come in.
Portrayal of Sufi music
The Sufi singing that my kind of singers do is a conversation with God. It’s completely different from what is being used in Bollywood today. But even the filmy Sufi music is good too. This way, at least this genre of music is getting publicised. Apart from that, Abidaji (Abida Parveen) has been doing a great job in promoting Sufi music. Such dedicated Sufi singers are hard to find.
Beginning of an era
I think Sufi music has become quite popular in India. Even today, when I sing Duma Dum Mast Qalandar, it gets cheers as it’s a cult song. It is not exactly a Sufi song, but it has been sung for Pir Shahbaz Qalandar, who is the pioneer of Sufi music. I can safely call that as the beginning of Sufism in films.
Put off by laws
In the 60s, 70s and 80s, it was not that easy for a Bangladeshi artist to work in India. There were many laws and restrictions. One had to take several permissions before performing at different places because of which many artists got put off. Following the same lengthy procedure of permissions before recording every song was tiresome. But I am happy with my work. I did my first song in Bollywood with Kalyanji Anandji. Then I worked with Lakshmikant Pyarelalji, Bappi Lahiri, Jaidevji, and the songs I got from them were exceptional.
Of the 70s and of now
Music is always made according to the storyline of a film. In my time, more of social films were made, so the songs were of a different style. There was a time when there was disco music in every other film. Then there were pop songs, then ghazals and so on. Today, there is a trend of item songs. But I think it’s a phase. It will pass and come back a full circle. If I am offered an item song, and if it is composed well with good lyrics, I will definitely do it. Item numbers are not bad at all.