"Khan saab was there, I became an overnight star in the school, that was where music started off."
Raja Kaasheff (also known as Raja Kashif) is a British Pakistani singer and music director born in Isleworth. A true singing talent, Kaasheff is no new face to the music industry, having already made his mark in both British Asian and Bollywood music.
Over the last decade, Kaasheff has had the privilege of performing in front of some of the world’s biggest icons as well as working alongside some of today’s leading names in the Bollywood music industry.
Kaasheff’s earliest live performance was during his school days when he sang his first ever song in front of world famous cricketer, Imran Khan.
He performed the Bollywood classic, ‘Chaudhvin Ka Chand’, which was originally by Indian singing legend Mohammed Rafi.
It was notably Imran Khan’s favourite song of all time, and Kaasheff certainly did it justice with his smooth, melodious voice.
In an exclusive Gupshup with DESIblitz, Raja recalls: “Khan saab was there, I became an overnight star in the school. So that was my first performance, and that was where music started off.”
Growing older, Kaasheff’s passion and knowledge of classical sounds and musical greats led him to becoming a key commentator of music. He began presenting a show during 2001 where he interviewed classical singers. Through this job, Kaasheff learned more of his trade by directly interviewing artists that he looked up to.
Some of the guests he interviewed on the show ranged from different Hindi/Urdu classical genres, such as Patiala Gharana, of which Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and Ustad Hamid Ali Khan were notable members.
Kaasheff took a close interest in listening carefully and learning about the music he loved. By asking questions regarding specific musical techniques he was fond of but unsure about, he was able to take guidance directly from the legends themselves. It allowed him to engage in the company of musicians that inspired him:
“So if they were talking about a certain raag for instance, I could see how the different gharanas would perform it. I think that was a very good learning curve for me,” Kaasheff tells us.
Being a musician in South Asia is not an easy task, and Kaasheff admits:
“Musicians in our culture don’t get much respect, because it is something which is never going to be stable, unless you make it to a certain level in which everything becomes easy.”
Following his presenting days, Kaasheff fully evolved into a musical artist and has a number of diverse songs to add to his growing discography. These include collaborations with some of Indian music’s noted musicians such as Alka Yagnik.
His songs include ‘Maa’, which is dedicated to all mothers around the world and also features the notable legends, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Pran and Dhramendra, offering personal and thoughtful voice overs.
Significantly, the song is personal to Kaasheff, and stems from his own life experiences and feelings. Other songs of Kaasheff include working alongside Bollywood actor Govinda, and a number of film directors:
“All directors do a great job. Vishal Bhardwaj, I would love to work with as a director. Even have Mahesh Bhatt, Vikram Bhatt, because I like horror movies and I like suspense, murder mysteries. Because I do background scoring and that Vikram Bhatt camp all do something a bit horror, suspense, murder, mystery. I really like all that.”
Kaasheff was notably a music director on Dev Ananad’s Chargesheet (2011). Sadly, this was veteran director Dev Anand’s final film before passing away the same year. Kaasheff’s musical contribution to the film included songs such as ‘Mera Ishq Bhi Tu’. Along with playback singing, he also helped compose the music for the film.
Bollywood is not the only place Raja Kaasheff has been experimenting his music and working with interesting people. Catering to his British connection, Kaasheff has also been travelling across the UK, working with different artists and creating new and exciting music.
He has notably helped popularise UK based singer, Rubayyat Jahan, who’s voice he is fond of, and she has collaborated on a new project created by him. Their latest single is called ‘Akhiyon Se Door’, which releases from June 12.
The new project is called 9 Matre which Kaasheff emphasises ‘is made for the classical singers’: “Matre means ‘beats’. There’s a bit of history why we have done this. 9 Matre is a very difficult taal to work in,” Kaasheff explains.
He has worked with a range of artists on this album, and the project consists of various known names such as Sukhvinder Singh and Shafqat Salamat. Kaasheff is very keen to pay homage to the greats, and it is clear that he is very passionate about bringing old songs to life in a new, yet respectful way.
We can expect to see more of Raja Kaasheff whether it be making music in the UK or Bollywood. He is fully involved in his work and is determined to continue making music that he loves.
Kaasheff has certainly found his niche in that he can create music for any industry, offering a unique sound each time. Wherever he chooses to work next, we are certain that there will be lots more to come from the British Pakistani talent that is Raja Kaasheff.