There are few symbols from the 1990s that are able to invoke nostalgia as abiding as Lucky Ali does. Ask a 90s kid what this particular singer means to them, and the answer will almost always encapsulate the wistful emotion that he is, in totality, the personification of a simpler time. Ali’s songs, right from raving classics like O Sanam, to lesser-known gems like Pyar Ka Musafir, had this consistent soul that was exclusively only his, even across the vibrant spectrum of Indipop that made up our childhoods. Nobody could match it and nobody ever has; which is why, even today, his songs remain so special. Like warm, tight hugs on a cold day. And precisely what people needed this year.
Recently, an unplugged rendition of O Sanam by Ali went viral on social media. To those who still associate him with his ever-youthful, light-eyed, easygoing charisma from the 90s and new millennium, the manner of this now 62-year-old artist came as a surprise. Perhaps the video in black-and-white was bringing out the crevices of his aged face a bit more. But as we crooned the words in harmony with him on our screens, what hit harder was the bittersweet realisation of how desperately important it is that we hang on to the lost charms of childhood, even if by the last threads of it.
#LuckAli singing ‘o sanam’. What are your favourite Lucky Ali songs? pic.twitter.com/mBc4msHKuY
— Bollywoodirect (@Bollywoodirect) November 13, 2020
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Fans Treated To Lucky Ali Unplugged Songs This Year
Needless to say, this has provided oodles of comfort in an overall dreary year. A lot of us have braced through 2020 surviving on nothing but sweet reminiscences sustained entirely on nostalgia for the past. What else does one do, when a virulent pandemic puts a stopper on our ability to make new memories? How best to cope, but old songs that are time capsules to an age long forgotten, and yet somehow, so vivid? And what better way to travel through time than a Lucky Ali song?
It seems like the universe, or Ali himself, sensed the collective longing for his songs that are satiated only by playing and replaying of the playlists on our phones. And so, he has chosen this year – this dreadful year – to balm our yearnings with one unplugged version of his songs after the other.
Earlier this week, actor Nafisa Ali Sodhi, one of Ali’s close friends currently based in Goa where the singer is present, shared a clip of him serenading a crowd with yet another version of O Sanam. Expectedly, social media users, forever starved for Ali’s music, is lapping it up passionately.
Lucky Ali at Arambol in North Goa after listening to the musical evening was requested for a song and he sang impromptu for all present . Was a lovely setting . pic.twitter.com/Dt5KlWLSxv
— Nafisa Ali Sodhi (@nafisaaliindia) December 12, 2020
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The Lost Art Of Indipop In The Era Of Remixes
For music aficionados, one of the most distressing aspects of the industry today is the gross commercialisation of art, and the estimation of its worth by YouTube views. Most new songs are recycled trash, built from remixed classics in a bid to “revive” the old, gold days. But it is a practice entirely counterproductive to the cause. Because remixes are doing nothing more than severely botching up the sanctity of those Indipop songs that we hold so dear to us. This is precisely why, in this era of the Badshahs and Tanishk Bagchis, we have grown to hold even tighter onto Lucky Ali.
I remember watching him perform live in 2017, a breathtaking experience that had been followed by a pleasant exchange (at least for me) of words with him on Twitter. Even then, as in 2020, he looked like an ethereal contrast of worlds: with a form that had aged and a soul destined to be youthful forever. Or maybe it was all just me. Gauging what I wanted to be true, discerning only that which was comforting to me, a search for simpler times. Maybe that’s what we’re all doing. Maybe that’s the legacy Lucky Ali will always be remembered by.
Views expressed are the author’s own.