Mumbai's banker-turned-singer Ameya Dabli performs for Indian Army jawans

Aug 12, 2018, 07:34 IST | Anju Maskeri

When not performing chants at the weddings of India's rich and famous, banker-turned singer Ameya Dabli spurs jawans to action with his concerts

Mumbai's banker-turned-singer Ameya Dabli performs for Indian Army jawans
Mulund-based Ameya Dabli singing at the Hisar Military Station in Haryana. Dabli has performed over 21 Ekam Satt concerts for the Indian Armed Forces in the last one year

Earlier this year, while performing at a military training centre in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, singer Ameya Dabli recalls receiving a disturbing piece of news from the army chief Lt Ranbir Singh. Four terror attacks had taken place at a nearby hillock on the same day. The hill, as he soon learnt, was located less than a kilometre away from the centre.

"The chief said to me, 'Don't worry. We will protect you'. This one reassuring line was enough to allay our fears in that high tension zone," he says. Dabli and his team of musicians went on to deliver a power-packed two-hour performance regaling the audience with musical compositions of poems penned by Kabirdas, Guru Nanak, Amir Khusro and Tulsidas. "We didn't realise how those two hours flew by. You see, that's the power of music," he says. Since then, Dabli has performed at several other conflict regions of the country, including eight districts of Jammu and Kashmir, and four in the Northeast.

Singing for peace
It was three years ago that Dabli, a Bhandup resident, conceptualised Ekam Satt, which are essentially pro bono concerts curated for the Indian Armed Forces and civilians, in order to not just motivate jawans, but also bring peace. Born in a family of music lovers - his mother Anuradha Dabli is a trained classical and light music exponent - the 38-year-old was inducted into singing from the age of seven. "But, the idea to use music as a peace building tool was something that took shape during my last stint as the marketing head of Ronny and Zarina Screvwala's Swades Foundation. Here, I got the opportunity to interact with a lot of non-profits," he says.

Dabli, who holds a robust 15 years of corporate experience as marketing head with the Tata Group, HSBC and Citibank, now straddles a music career along with a venture where he mentors start-ups and NGOs to start their businesses. Till date, he has performed over 1,500 concerts across 15 countries. "Initially, it took us a good six months to curate the songs for Ekam Satt, because we wanted it to be a good blend of sufi, folk and contemporary music. We even got RS Mani, the music arranger of Veer Zaara to help us. But now, it's seamless," he says.

While Dable's pieces comprise the works of legendary poets such as Mirabai, Narsinh Mehta, Khwaja Garib Nawab and Tukaram, the songs are infused with peppy global music styles like hip hop, reggae and opera to make it livelier. "When we approached the Army headquarters in New Delhi with the concept, they loved it and immediately asked us to come on board," he says.

On the shaadi front
Interestingly, Dabli is also a sought-after name when it comes to weddings and sangeet and has performed at the glitzy wedding of Sasha Rawal - sister of Bollywood's leading fashion designer Kunal Rawal - and Samarth Bajaj, and very recently, the engagement of Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal. He has also organised gigs for Kumar Mangalam Birla, David and Lali Dhawan, Aditya Birla and Adi Godrej. "It's not the typical shaadi scene. My forte is the pheras, something that most people don't pay much attention to," he laughs. "I perform something called the signature wedding chants, where I don't just recite mantras, but also provide explanation of the vidhis or rituals," adds Dabli, who perfected his Sanskrit under the tutelage of his father, Professor PV Dabli, a scholar in the language.

Dabli says juggling his entrepreneurial venture with his musical endeavours does test his ability to multi-task. "Sometimes, I don't know which one to focus on more. But that's what happens when you love whatever you do equally," he smiles.

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