Saturday, March 8, 2014
Saturday, March 8, 2014

Meeting Master Saleem

Bohemia decribes his meet with Master Saleem at PTC Punjabi Music awards 2012, in his own words:

In the picture, from left to right: Master Saleem, Ustad Puran Shah Koti, and Paji
It was the day after PTC Punjabi Music awards 2012 in Jalandhar India. I was getting ready to head back to Delhi from Punjab, and decided to stop at this place called Haveli restaurant. As I came out of the SUV, some of the people that recognized me asked for pictures so as we stood in front, we ended up crowding the entrance to Haveli. It’s around that time when, out of nowhere, I see Master Saleem walking towards me with a big smile and open arms saying; ‘haan bai Raje..!’

At the PTC awards, I got a chance to hangout backstage and meet some of the greatest Punjabi musicians and singers of our era. It was great to meet so many Punjabi superstars all at the same place for the same cause. It was my honor to sit and chat with one of my heroes Sir Gurdas Maan. And this was where I first saw Master Saleem perform live, and I was simply amazed by his vocal presence.

At the same time, I knew very little about the Master. By now I had figured out that this was the very Master Saleem who sang some of the toughest compositions attempted by man. He had also given hit songs to Bollywood since 2006. He has received numerous awards for many songs that I loved. And before being greeted by him at the restaurant personally with so much love, that’s all I really knew about him. And for him to show me the kind of love he did, I was really feeling out of place. But this was just the beginning. It was what I would find out later that night about this great man that would really shock the heck out of me.

What I was about to find out later was that, Master Saleem is son of the famous Sufi legend Ustad Puran Shah Koti, who is also the Guru of Punjabi folk legends like Hans Raj Hans. And since the age of six Master Saleem himself became a disciple to Ustad Puran, his father, and started learning the art of singing. Just the thought that Master Saleem is a son of a legend who has students that are Gurus to many was unfathomable.

‘I would be pretty scared to be in the presence of your Guru’ I told Master Saleem. Little did I know, Master had stopped at the restaurant that day to pick me up and take me to meet his Guru.

Once they were able to convince me to meet him, I had only one request, ‘I don’t want to meet the Guru as a Rapper or even a musician’ I said. I wanted to meet him just as a fan of him and music. I remember the smile that Master Saleem and his little brother Peji had on their faces. Perhaps they knew it was a little too late for them to grant me my wish.

We left Master Saleem’s house and reached his Guru’s place. I remember the silence as we all hunched over to remove our shoes. As we walked into the house, we were pointed towards the door of the room in which the Guru spent most of his time nowadays. Master walked into the room followed by me and some of the guys which included a German exchange student doing research on Punjabi culture. The German guy was well versed in Punjabi, and had somehow tagged along with us from Master Saleem’s house. He had reading glasses on and a beard that made him look Punjabi. He held a note book with a pen, and often took notes as we all talked. Although it was fascinating to see a German guy speaking in Punjabi, somehow it was all normal for Master to be looked at thru a microscope by knowledge seekers of all sorts. Just like he did with me, Master Saleem never stopped the German student from following him and always tried to answer all his questions with a sense of duty and responsibility.

As we all walked into the bedroom, we saw this graceful man sitting cross legged on one side of his bed. Behind him was a wall full of pictures of singers that to us were legendary artists, and to him, students. We all one by one reached for his feet and showed our respect. And before we knew it, just as his son, he started talking, explaining and sharing the knowledge of music with a sense of duty and responsibility. He had a sense of readiness, as if he was expecting us. We all sat gathered around his bed and waiting for our turn to ask questions.

There was no way my wish to stay anonymous couldn’t have been granted. The Guru sat on his bed straight across from a Sony Television. It was obvious from his demeanor he was well verse with what was going on in the industry. And as he talked, out of nowhere, he pointed towards the TV and said ‘I saw you on TV last night’. I remember sitting still looking at Master Saleem and Peji, as they repeated the smile they had given me once before. You see, I had thought it would be too hard to explain my angle on the art of music to the Guru. I thought that the Punjabi Hip Hop poetry evolution would hold no weight in the eyes of the Ustaad. I felt as if I was bringing a change to his constant that he will reject. But I was wrong. He explained to me, that what I saw as constant was always changing. And what I saw as the change is the only constant.

It was a humbling one of a kind experience to sit with and talk to the legend Ustad Puran Shah Koti. I especially enjoyed the chemistry between Ustad ji and his son Master Saleem. Master Saleem himself is an out of this world personality, just for the fact that he has learned overtime to sacrifice his relationship with his father as a son, and sit amongst the rest in front of his own father, as just another disciple. I will never forget meeting Usad Puran Shah Koti. - Bohemia.



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