Adnan Sami Biography
Adnan Sami Khan (Urdu: عدنان سمیع خان; born 15 August 1973), popularly known simply as Adnan Sami, is a British born singer, musician pianist, actor and composer of Pakistani origin from Canada. His style merges Asian and Western styles and instrumentation and ranges from classical to jazz to modern pop-rock.
Adnan Sami’s Early Life and Education
Adnan Sami was born in 1971 in London to parents from Pakistan.
He was raised and educated in the United Kingdom. His father, Arshad Sami Khan, was a Pashtun while his mother Naureen Khan hailed from Jammu. Adnan’s father served as a Pakistan Air Force pilot, before becoming a senior bureaucrat and serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to 14 countries. His paternal great-grandfather, general Ahmed Jan, was from Afghanistan and a military advisor to king Abdur Rahman Khan.
His paternal grandfather Agha Mehfooz Jan was the governor of four Afghan provinces under Amanullah Khan’s reign, and was assassinated during the Bacha Saqqa revolution. Following this, his father’s family migrated to Peshawar, then in British India. Adnan’s mother, Naureen, was a maternal niece of the socialite Akleem Akhtar. Pop star Fakhar-e-Alam is his second cousin.
Sami attended Rugby School in Rugby, West Midlands, UK. He went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of London. Adnan followed his bachelor’s degree with a law degree (LLB) from King’s College London. He went on to qualify as a barrister from Lincoln’s Inn, England
He had played the piano since the age of five and composed his first piece of music when he was nine years old. Sami began taking lessons in Indian classical music from the santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma when visiting India during his school vacations. Indian singing legend Asha Bhosle spotted talent in a ten-year-old Sami at an R. D. Burman concert in London, and encouraged him to take up music as a career.
He is an accomplished concert pianist, music composer and singer with a command of Indian and Western classical/semi-classical music, jazz, rock and pop music. As a teenager, Adnan, when performing on the piano on a TV program in Stockholm, was described by the US-based Keyboard magazine as the fastest man on keyboard in the world and the keyboard discovery of the nineties.
Sami went on to learn Indian classical music from Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, the Santoor maestro in India. At the age of sixteen, Sami was approached to write a song for famine-hit Ethiopia, for which he won a special award from UNICEF.
In his career of 32 years, Adnan Sami has won many international awards including the Nigar Award, Bolan Academy Award and Graduate Award. Adnan is the youngest recipient of the Naushad Music Award for Excellence in Music. Previous recipients of this award include Lata Mangeshkar and Music Maestro Khayam. Adnan was invited as a member of the jury of the prestigious music festival Voice of Asia competition held annually at Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Adnan Sami’s Career
Adnan’s first single was released in 1986 with an English hit single in the Middle East which went straight to the No. 1 position in its first week on the music charts of the region with a song he wrote and recorded in his voice for the United Nations and UNICEF called “Run for his life”. This was followed by three more No. 1s: “Talk To Me”, “Hot Summer Day” and “You’re My Best Kept Secret”.
His first formal album, The One & Only (1989), was a classical album on the piano accompanied by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. He released his first vocal solo album Raag Time in 1991. The song from his album Teri Yaad was the title track of his first album, which became a huge hit in Pakistan.
In 1994, he composed music for a film for the first time. The 1995 Pakistani film Sargam, in which Adnan was the lead actor and well-known Indian playback singer Asha Bhosle did the playback Sargam, was a blockbuster. It was also the first time that an Indian playback singer was featured in an album in Pakistan. However, the authorities banned Asha’s voice from the soundtrack in the actual film, which disappointed Adnan.
He then had to re-record the songs with Hadiqa Kiyani. Asha’s voice was retained however in the CDs and records. To date Sargam is the only film Adnan acted in and is the best selling album of all time in Pakistan. The film & its soundtrack continue to be a milestone in Pakistan’s film & musical history.
In 2000, Asha Bhosle teamed up again with Adnan to release a collection of love songs named Kabhi to Nazar Milao in India. The music was also composed by Adnan. The album became an instant blockbuster and had topped the Indipop charts for the most of 2001 & 2002. According to Business Week magazine, the album sold 4 million copies in India alone.
Two songs from the album Kabhi To Nazar Milao, whose music video featured model Aditi Gowitrikar, and Lift Karaa De, whose music video starred the popular Indian actor Govinda became immensely popular at that time. The videos were shot by Anil Mehta who had shot popular Hindi films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Lagaan. Looking at the album’s immense success, Magnasound and Adnan released an album named Always Yours which was a remix version of numbers from that album.
He soon became a sensation, which led Hindi filmmaker Boney Kapoor to invite him to provide music for his film. This was the beginning for him to compose and sing for Hindi films and even for the top Hindi film producers of the time like Yash Chopra and Subhash Ghai. Due to the popularity of his music videos and live performances, he started getting acting offers at the same time.
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The song “Tu Sirf Mera Mehboob” from the Hindi film Ajnabee, sung by Adnan, had become a rage and was declared a superhit by Screen Magazine, who called him the pop personality of the year in 2001.
In 2002, Pepsi Foods made Adnan its brand ambassador in India, a contract which involved hosting a series of live music concerts across cities as well as featuring in ads for Pepsi products. He is the only artist in all of Asia and Europe to have endorsed Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola together.
According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, no Pakistani artist has ever managed to gain as much popularity in India as Adnan has. According to an article in The Times of India, Adnan is the most successful face in non-film music in India.
His second studio album, Tera Chehra, was released in October 2002 to critical acclaim even as his first album was still selling. The music videos for this album were shot by Binod Pradhan, who had shot the popular 2002 Hindi film Devdas. The album features Bollywood stars Rani Mukerji in the title track and Amitabh Bachchan in the track “Kabhi Nahi”, who also sang the duet with Adnan. Actress Mahima Chaudhry was also seen in another song. The title track was written by well-known Hindi movie lyricist Sameer. According to Screen Magazine, it was the only successful pop album of the year.
Saathiya (2002) brought him the opportunity to work with maestro A. R. Rahman in the form of “Aye Udi Udi”. According to Screen Magazine, the song was the highlight of the album. Rediff.com called him the “Reigning King of Indipop” in early 2003 based on the sales of his albums in the previous two years.
His most successful albums have been Kabhi To Nazar Milao (with Asha Bhosle) and Tera Chehra, and his music videos usually have had a host of Bollywood stars in them, including Namrata Shirodkar (“Bheegi Bheegi Raat”), Mahima Chaudhry, Raveena Tandon, Rani Mukerji (“Tera Chehra”), Govinda, Fardeen Khan, Amisha Patel (“O Meri Jaan”), Bhumika Chawla (“Maahiya”), Dia Mirza (“Pal Do Pal”) and the most famous, Amitabh Bachchan (Kabhi Nahi).
Since 2003, he has sung for a few Tamil movies like Boys, Aaytha Ezhuthu composed by A.R. Rahman. The songs, “Boom Boom” from Boys and “Nenjamellam Kadhal” from Aayitha Ezhuthu, were hits. He also sang for the Tamil and Telugu versions besides the Hindi version of songs from the movie Yuva (2004) whose music was also composed by A. R. Rahman. Besides Rahman, he also worked together with composer Yuvan Shankar Raja, and sung Tamil songs “Oh Intha Kadhal” from Satham Podathey and “OruKal” from Siva Manasula Sakthi, which got very popular and widely noticed.
He sang the song “Chanchadi Adi Urang Nee” in the Malayalam movie called Makalkku. He has also sung for a Kannada film. His first Kannada song, “Don’t Worry Madabeda” for the film Super Star starring Upendra. He has also worked with music composers Devi Sri Prasad and M. M. Keeravani and sang songs in Telugu films Varsham, Chatrapathi, Shankar Dada MBBS and 100% Love.
In 2005, Adnan suffered from lymphoedema and developed an abscess in the knee, which interrupted his career.
In 2006, he took a sabbatical and reportedly lost over 160 kg. He came back in April 2007 with the album Kisi Din. In 2007, he sang the soundtrack “Dil Kya Kare” from the Hindi film Salaam-e-Ishq: A Tribute to Love and “Noor-e-Khuda” from My Name Is Khan.
He has composed film music for several other Hindi films, including Lucky: No Time for Love, Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke, Dhamaal, 1920, Chance Pe Dance, Mumbai Salsa, Khubsoorat, Sadiyaan, Shaurya and several others.
As a classical concert pianist, Adnan Sami has had the honor of giving solo performances before such royalty as the King of Sweden and King Hussein of Jordan. He has performed before heads of state and governments such as President Mitterrand of France, the President of the United Arab Emirates, the President and Prime Minister of India, the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, the President and Prime Minister of Khazakhstan, the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, the Prime Minister of Sweden and Princess Christina of Sweden. Adnan has performed for prestigious music festivals to sold-out stadiums of his solo concert tours all over the world in over forty countries.
Adnan Sami wrote a song for India to cheer the Indian cricket team during the 2003 Cricket World Cup. The video of this song captures the nationalistic spirit of competition, depicting Adnan performing with the Indian cricket team with guest appearances from Indian film stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Fardeen Khan and Kareena Kapoor.
His work has associated him with the greatest names from the Indian film and music industry.
On 15 December 2002, BBC World Service celebrated 70 years of broadcasting by organizing a worldwide live concert with artists representing different parts of the world who performed before a global audience via satellite. Adnan Sami was chosen to represent India. TRP feedback reflected that the maximum response globally was given to his performance.
In the summer of 2003, Adnan achieved the distinction of becoming the only musical artist from the entire Asian region to have sold out Wembley Stadium in London for two nights in a row—a feat which has won him a place in the Limca Book of World Records (Asia’s equivalent to the West’s Guinness Book of World Records). In 2005, 2008 and 2012, he went on to repeat the same achievement by playing two sold-out concerts, every time, each of these respective years at Wembley Stadium, London, yet again.
In 2010, Adnan received the prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Prime Minister of Pakistan at a ceremony by Pakistan Television.
In 2011, Adnan was bestowed with the distinguished “Glory of India Award” by the Government of India. Recently the world-famous ‘Wonder of the World’ the Taj Mahal completed its 350 years of existence. In order to mark this historic occasion, the Government of India organised year-long festivities which culminated with a once-in-a-lifetime solo concert performance by Adnan on the final night in front of the Taj Mahal. After this performance, the Indian media dubbed Adnan the “Sultan of Music”.
Adnan hosted the Indian version of the American music game show Don’t Forget the Lyrics! called Bol Baby Bol on the Star TV network in 2008. Prior to that in 2005, Adnan was the sole jury for the singing competition program on Channel [V] called Super Singer. In 2011, Adnan returned as a judge on the singing reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs, which became popular worldwide.
Adnan’s performance of a qawwali called “Bhar Do Jholi Meri” from the blockbuster film Bajrangi Bhaijaan, released in July 2015, became a worldwide hit; Adnan appeared in the movie as well. This was the first time Adnan attempted to sing a qawwali at the insistence of actor Salman Khan, who starred in the film.
Adnan Sami’s Personal Life
Adnan Sami was first married to actress Zeba Bakhtiar (her third marriage) in 1993, with whom he had a son named Azaan Sami Khan. They divorced after three years.
Adnan Sami began living in India on March 13, 2001, on a visitor’s visa which was extended from time to time.
In 2001, Sami married Dubai-based Arab Sabah Galadari. This was his second marriage and Sabah’s second marriage as well; she had a son from her previous marriage. This relationship also ended in divorce, a year-and-a-half later.
In June 2006, Adnan weighed 230 kilograms (506 lb); he claimed his doctor had given him just six months to live. By diet and exercise, Adnan lost 167 kg (319 lb) weight in 16 months.
In 2008, Adnan’s wife Sabah returned to Mumbai, remarried and began staying with Adnan, but the marriage only lasted one year, after which Sabah filed for divorce again.
In 2009, Adnan suffered the biggest blow of his life when he lost his father to pancreatic cancer. He was very close to him. His father was an extremely supportive and influential force in his life in shaping him as a musician.
Sami married for the third time on 29 January 2010, with Roya Sami Khan, the daughter of a retired diplomat and army general. According to the media, Adnan first met Roya in India during her visit in 2010 and proposed to her after some time. In 10 May 2017, he became a father.
On May 26, 2015, he submitted a request for Indian citizenship to the Home Ministry, when his Pakistani passport expired and was not renewed by Pakistan’s government. In late December 2015, the Indian Home Ministry approved his request for legal status as a citizen of India, effective as of 1 January 2016.
Adnan Sami’s Awards and Accolades
Sami has won a number of international awards, including the Nigar Award, the Bolan Academy Award, and the Graduate Award. He was given a special award by UNICEF for the song he wrote for famine-hit Ethiopia as a teenager and a United Nations Peace Medal for a song he wrote and performed for Africa.
A review of his piano solo performance on Channel 4, UK, in Keyboard magazine acknowledged him as the Keyboard Discovery of The 90s.
In 2001, he was awarded the Breakthrough Artist of the Year by MTV.
Swedish and British radio and television have often referred to him as the fastest keyboard player in the world. Adnan has performed for prestigious music festivals to sold-out stadiums of his solo concert tours all over the world in over forty countries. In summer 2003, he became the only Asian artist to have sold out Wembley Stadium, London, for two consecutive nights, which won him a place in the Limca Book of Records.
As a classical concert pianist, Sami has had the honour of giving ‘Royal Command’ performances before the King of Sweden and King Hussein of Jordan.
In 2007, Sami was honoured with a Special Award from the U.K. Parliament (House of Commons) for his ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sub-Continental Music’.
In 2008, he was presented the “Naushad Music Award” by Andhra Pradesh Department of Culture, in Hyderabad.
In 2008 he also won “Best International Act” at the UK Asian Music Awards.
In 2013, Adnan was honoured with the BrandLaureate International Brand Personality award by the President of The BrandLaureate, Dr KK Johan, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Later in 2013, Sami was honoured with a Special Award by the Canadian Parliament for his ‘Exceptional Services to Indian Music’.
In 2015, on his recent North America Tour, Adnan was the first Asian to become the ‘Honorary Deputy Sheriff of Texas’ at a ceremony held in Houston, where he was presented with a ‘Badge’, ‘Sheriff Hat’ and Appointment Certificate.
In April 2017, Sami created history by becoming the first South Asian to have sold out London’s iconic Wembley Stadium for a record 8 times. The Mayor of London, Mr. Sadiq Khan honoured Adnan & attended the concert.