Kailash recalls a special moment from his childhood. "When I was a child, these travelling saints used to come to my house in Meerut, I would sit with them and observe them. I never understood what they talked about but I absorbed what they were saying and their vibrations affected my growth in a very positive way. There was this one baba who was very highly educated, he even had a PhD. He told my mother he wanted to adopt me and bring me up in his own way because he thought I was very special but my mother got upset and asked him to leave the house," smiles Kailash.
"But even from childhood I have never thought of myself as anything out of this world. My emotions are never excited. I have studied a lot of people's psychology and I always point out to people not to get carried away by emotions. Upbringing and atmosphere are very important. The kind of life you have seen growing up shapes you, I live in a very practical world. At the age of 12 I lived alone, left home. I was studying and learning music as well as doing a diploma course in the Urdu language. When you choose a path to live, your choices teach you a lot. There are always two paths one is easy and the other is one where you have to make hard choices, which will ultimately shape you."
In spite of possessing enormous talent, Kailash took a different path before he embarked upon his musical journey, which would ultimately become his voyage for life. He tried his luck at business but success eluded him; perhaps fate had a different plan for him. Cajoled by loved ones into singing full-time, he decided to move to Mumbai.
And therein began his career as a musician. He did jingles for commercials of several big brands and his voice was noticed for being distinctive.
"Singing jingles are fun, I do it all the time. You do a small job in a short time and it pays well, it's creatively challenging, you have to create magic, a miracle for the common man to sit and notice the product because of your voice. I once visited a school and they demanded that I sing for them a rendition of the Dermicool jingle. I couldn't believe they recognised my voice in a jingle and remembered me because of it!" he laughs.
Nevertheless, after he set foot in the realm of fantasy, better known as the Indian Hindi film industry or more popularly, Bollywood that Kailash came into his own. The track 'Rabba Ishq Na Hove' from the movie Andaaz was well received but 'Allah ke Bande' made him a household name in 2002.
His first album Awaargi also met with success, which established him as a bankable performer and a much sought after vocalist. Now, after the release of his album Kailasa, Kailash is as calm as ever, practical soul that he is. "I am a normal person, just as I don't get scared of anything, I don't get excited about anything either. I never thought I would make it as big as I have. I'm from a simple background; where I come from, being seen on TV is a huge thing. Now I have reached a place where I accept the good with the bad; with fame comes not just popularity but also times when I have to sacrifice my privacy or my personal comfort. I am totally prepared for the eventuality that one day, it might all go away and then, one should not be bitter. In fact I think God has prepared me for it always," he adds.
He talks about the music in this album describing its various tracks, from Teri Deewani, which is intense and completely immersed in love to Jaan Jogi Di Naal, which is a Buleh Shah Kaifi, composed in a Sufi style. He mentions Albela but dwells more on Tauba Tauba, which is very fast paced and pop-ish in style.
"The kind of music I compose is ultimately about romance and love, you feel very pure after listening to it. The origins of Sufi music are in deep emotions, some people don't believe in god but they do believe in love. At the same time, everyone's definition of love is different so I don't want to define the song, I just sing it with emotion and everyone can identify with that," Kailash Kher. "When I compose, I don't keep in mind the material world, I just am true to myself and these vibrations help me be myself when I am writing and singing. I simply tap into the purity that comes from within."
In fact Kailash displays a rare glimpse of pride when he recalls that the track he sang 'Tu Mera Jaan Hai Tu Mera Armaan Hain' for the television series Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, he received feedback from listeners who said that he had taken romance to a different level.
"Everyone's perceptions are different and they may perceive or react to my music differently; at a live performance I always feel the crowd and I can read the crowd. Sometimes I even change the repertoire according to what I think they're in a mood to listen to. I am an out and out live performer and besides changing the repertoire, I talk to the crowd; that makes them feel special. They can accept me as one of their own, not as someone sitting up there on a stage separate from them."
Kailash admits that he cannot tolerate the notion of people yawning at a concert. "Having studied classical, this is a phenomenon I have seen happen often during classical concerts. So I decided to make such music that people would not be able to move, they would think twice about even going to the loo, I wanted to capture them and their imaginations and emotions. Luckily I have great listeners, not the faltu types whose tastes change with every single minute," he beams.
When asked about his style the one that drives his fans crazy and has spawned a long line of imitators, he dismisses the praise and explains, "The style is called khuli gayaki yes, the internal mechanism one sings with is hidden and is something you are born with, but the way you nurture it and help it grow is what makes you a good or bad performer. Also, perhaps growing up I never listened to any nonsense, so I never was inspired by superficial, facetious singing. I grew up listening to intense classical music that educated me. Deep roots make you strong!"
A paragon of humility in the world of showmanship and star attitudes, Kailash claims that in spite of his star fees, his humility comes from within. "When you live in your own world, you have your own aura and things from the outside don't affect you. But unfortunately, there exists this mentality in this world where if you have a name or are a brand by yourself, only then people take you seriously. This is sad but true but if you want a Mercedes then you pay the price of the Mercedes, because you want exclusivity."
What Kailash is not comfortable talking about is the exceedingly high amounts of charity he does; he has performed for several free at shows that are associated with good causes.
In April he will be travelling to the US to do yet another charity show with A R Rahman.
Doing charity shows comes with high risk as well, because it means utilising time that could have been spent doing commercial work. But Kailash believes that his voice is a gift from God and he doesn't have to hoard it. As he puts it so eloquently, "Even our bodies are a gift and a loan from God. The remote is in someone else's hand, any time the channel can be changed or the set can be switched off."
A great exponent of fusion music, Kailash articulates the reason behind his passion, "Synergy is joy there is no limit to the sky, mountains, fire and sea there is no limit to nature and similarly there is no limit to the creative sharing that happens. Now that I have reached where I have, I only choose the best to perform with and it gives me great joy when I see that the audience enjoys it too."
Not just enjoyment, several awards of recognition of his contribution as a performer have been bestowed on Kailash but that's just one more thing he takes in his stride, his head firmly on his shoulders and his heart very much in the right place.