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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Review: Salim Sulaiman underwhelm at Abu Dhabi debut

The duo, along with their troupe did put on a good show, but a better playlist, that included more of their songs, would have definitely taken it up a notch

From left, Sulaiman Merchant, Aditi Singh Sharma and Salim Merchant performed in Abu Dhabi on Friday. Courtesy Aarti Jhurani
From left, Sulaiman Merchant, Aditi Singh Sharma and Salim Merchant performed in Abu Dhabi on Friday. Courtesy Aarti Jhurani

Music composer duo Salim and Sulaiman Merchant made their debut in the capital at the Emirates Palace on Friday night as part of their show Namaste Abu Dhabi for Abu Dhabi Summer Season. The show started right on time, which is rare when it comes to Bollywood-related events.

Salim Merchant took the stage first, opening with Aye Khuda and Aashayein, before welcoming his brother Sulaiman on stage with a little jugalbandi with the percussionists.

They tried to engage with the audience encouraging them to join in on their chartbusters Ishq Wala Love and Shukranallah, but the crowd at this show seemed rather mellow, preferring to listen than join in.

Salim Merchant, who was previously one of the judges for Indian Idol, picked the winner of the 2012 edition, Vipul Mehta, to perform with the duo at the Abu Dhabi show. He got off to a rather screechy start with Bulleya, but showcased his range first with the soulful Yeh Hosla, peppy Haule Haule and the high-on-energy Aadat Se Majboor.

And then there was Raj Pandit, a singer with the composer duo’s band for the show, who may have been on the sidelines, but stood out with his amazing energy, stage presence, the ability to hit high notes and mellifluous voice.

Bollywood playback singer Aditi Singh Sharma, who seemed as comfortable with the mellow Mar Jawaan as she was with the high energy Suraj Dooba Hai, provided the female vocals.

As with most Bollywood concerts, there was a segment dedicated to retro hits, in this case RD Burman’s hits from the 70s, featuring songs like Bachne Ae Haseeno, Piya Tu and Om Shanti Om, among others, which are always crowd pleasers.

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Read more:

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After a short break, the duo returned with a couple of their devotional songs – they have been releasing one every five years over Ramadan – Bismillah and Noor E-Illahi, for which they collaborated with the iconic Pakistani sufi singer Abida Parveen.

They turned up the tempo again first with a medley of love songs, including Khudaya Ve and Kuch Khaas, following it up with more upbeat songs, such as Tauba Tauba and Jugni, before rounding off the night with one of their biggest hits, Ainvayi Ainvayi.

Despite excellent performances by the duo, the band and the singers, I walked out feeling a little shortchanged.

Firstly, quite a few of the songs that were performed in the second half of the show, such as Kawa Kawa, Chaiyya Chaiyya, Channa Mereya and Dua, were not a part of the duo’s repertoire, and seemed to have been put in to please the crowds. The addition of the dhol and mixing the popular hits with pop songs like Bruno Mars’s 24K, Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You and Justin Beiber’s Let Me Love You, were nice touches though.

Second, this event was touted as a celebration of the 70th anniversary of India’s independence day, but they did not sing a single patriotic song.

Previous Indian independence day celebration concerts, Shreya Ghoshal last year, and Sunidhi Chauhan the year before last, saw an entire segment dedicated to patriotic songs. This, despite the fact that the composer duo worked on the hugely popular film Chak De! India, the title track of which would have surely had the crowds cheering.

They also released a single Mera Desh Hi Dharam, composed on the request of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to mark independence day this year, but it did not make it to the show.

The duo, along with their troupe did put on a good show, but a better playlist, that included more of their songs, would have definitely taken it up a notch.