11 Year Old Boy Aspiring to Become an Astronaut Interviews India’s Iconic Singer Salim Merchant

 BY QAYL MAHERALI
Special to Simerg

Qayl interviews Salim

Qayl’s FaceTime interview with Salim

Not very long ago, Simerg had featured a photo piece about my interest in space and the dream I have to become an astronaut one day. The feature, Photo Essay: A 9 Year Old Ismaili Boy’s First Steps of Becoming an Astronaut, followed my momentous meetings with some of the world’s most renowned astronauts. Most recently, I had the rare privilege to interview Salim Merchant. He and his brother Sulaiman are two top Indian musicians who have written a whole bunch of songs for Indian movies. They recently toured numerous North American cities performing to full houses. I really wanted to interview them because music is one of the three things I love, which go along with space and soccer. I was fortunate to have a short but insightful conversation with Salim through FaceTime. Here is an edited transcript of my interview with Salim, and I hope to follow this in the near future with the actual audio/video of the interview.

Qayl:  Ya Ali Madad Salim, I am Qayl Maherali doing a CNN ireport. I am very privileged to be interviewing you today. I am 11 years old, in 5th grade and have taken a deep interest for space, music and soccer. The questions I have today cover 3 topics: Mawlana Hazar Imam, the FIFA World Cup and Music. Are you ready to get this interview started?

Salim: Yes!

Qayl: Ok! Coming to the topic of Hazar Imam [His Highness the Aga Khan], how did it feel performing for Mawla Bapa?

Salim: It was quite phenomenal! We never really experienced something like that before. The fact that we could be in his presence; it was quite something to perform in front of him and be in his presence. It was truly, truly magical. I think it was one of our most prestigious performances.

Qayl: How amazing! Now I am curious, why did you choose Bismillah and Shukranlillah to perform for Mawlana Hazar Imam?

Salim: Well, they are devotional songs and I think it was a perfect way to say thank you. It also has such a great devotional quality that it was quite a clear choice.

Salim performing in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam in 2013. Photo: The Ismaili/Nazim Lokhandwala. Copyright.

Salim performing in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam in 2013. Photo: The Ismaili/Nazim Lokhandwala. Copyright.

Qayl: Thank you for sharing! In my research about you, I found out that you wrote a song for the FIFA World Cup Soccer in South Africa. That song  “Africa you are the Star” became my favourite song after I watched the video. Can you tell me how you got a chance to go to South Africa?

Salim: Well, we did this song for a gentleman from Africa who is a businessman and he wanted to do a song for the FIFA World Cup just as a thank you to his country. And when we made this song, we never realized it was going to turn out so good. Fortunately, FIFA and Coke heard the song through some friends and they loved it, so they wanted us to play it at the opening ceremony of the World Cup. It was truly very fortunate for us to get to play it and I think it was the power of music that led us to the FIFA concert.

Qayl: Amazing! Have you written any other songs for any other sports?

Salim: Yes but indirectly. We wrote the song “Chak De India” (Go India!) for the movie Chak De India. That song is like the sports anthem of India and whenever India wins or is winning any game, everyone in the stadium and radio stations is always playing this song.

Qayl: Shakira also wrote songs for the FIFA World Cup like Waka Waka and La La La … Have you ever worked with Shakira?

Salim: No, not yet.

Qayl: Moving on to our next topic, music. Have you performed at the Taj Mahal, like Yanni?

Salim: No, I haven’t.

Qayl: If you could perform one last performance before you retire in front of anybody, and it could be anywhere, who would you choose? What song would you play? And where would you do it?

Salim: I think I have already accomplished that moment, performing our most prestigious performance for the Imam. It was amazing and I don’t think I could match that ever.

Mawlana Hazar Imam with performers at the Institutional Dinner in India in 2013. Seen in the photo are star performers Sulaiman Merchant (left, in white) with his brother Salim (at right of Hazar Imam), who was interviewed by Qayl during their recent North American tour. Photo: The Ismaili/Nazim Lokhandwala. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam with performers at the Institutional Dinner in India in 2013. Seen in the photo are star performers Sulaiman Merchant (left, in white) with his brother Salim (at right of Hazar Imam), who was interviewed by Qayl during their recent North American tour. Photo: The Ismaili/Nazim Lokhandwala. Copyright.

Qayl: How long have you been into music?

Salim: About 23 years.

Qayl: Wow, that explains your perfection. What made you choose music?

Salim: It was a very natural thing. My father was a composer and when I was growing up, I was surrounded by musical instruments. It wasn’t a question of choice. There was a very deep liking for music, instruments, piano and for singing. It was quite natural.

Qayl: Amazing … Thank you for your time Salim. I hope we stay in touch because you are an amazing inspiration to me and whole bunch of kids my age.

Salim: Thank you for researching about me and doing this incredible FaceTime interview.

Qayl: You are welcome

Salim: I hope I see you soon.

Qayl: Okay and I wish you much luck in your future.

Salim: Thank you. I wish you the same. Bye bye.

Qayl: Thik haye (sounds good), bye.

Date posted: Saturday, December 6, 2014.

Copyright: Simerg/Qayl Maherali, 2014.

____________________

Qayl dressed up as an astronautAbout the interviewer: Qayl Maherali, Canadian born and American resident, is a spirited 11-year-old 5th grade student. He loves math and science, reading, listening to music, watching movies, sports and playing computer games. An avid soccer player, he also enjoys numerous other sports, as well as enjoys “brain games” such as chess, sudoku and solving puzzles.

His love for travel has also led him to have a substantial collection of memorabilia related to  monumental buildings and architectural gems from around the world. His immense interest in space has so far taken him to the Kennedy Space Center (Florida, 3 times), the US Space & Rocket Center (Alabama, 4 times) and the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (Washington DC, 2 times). Qayl wants to be an astronaut and an international soccer player when he is all grown up.

Qayl invites readers of his interview to watch Salim and Sulaiman Merchant performing at Institutional Dinner.

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3 thoughts on “11 Year Old Boy Aspiring to Become an Astronaut Interviews India’s Iconic Singer Salim Merchant

  1. Thank you for this inspiring piece Qayl. My favourite memories are the “devotional” songs which arrive into our lives through popular film and music channels in the disguise of entertainment, edutainment or infotainment! The synthesis of inner messages and spiritual meanings with the sheer delight of musical sensation and lyrical poetry is a universal experience that transcends, but does not need, physical language. While one is forbidden to reflect on Allah’s self, I hope it is an acceptable courtesy, gustakhi maaf, to aspire to His divinity through His manifest self-disclosure of music, ecstatsy and beauty. Bohot shukriya bari maherbani, meri zindagi me huzur aap aaye.

  2. Ya Ali Madad Qayl, you are amazing! I always follow your articles, keep it up – you going to be so very successful in life.
    Naz Kanji,
    North York

  3. Congratulations Qayl! Very interesting interview, especially for a 12 year young man! Your parents must be very proud of you as are we. Where in the States do you live?

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