The film was Hridayam, which released in 2022 – a love story filmed in Malayalam that caught the imagination not just audiences in Kerala, but became an anthem for the entire country that discovered the magic of Malayalam films through the OTT. The song Darshana continues to haunt the hearts of music lovers. The film has 15 songs composed by singer and music director Hesham Abdul Wahab, which sum up the many musical influences and training in the Western and classical Hindustani and Carnatic music he has had.

Darshana with its western notes, Nagumomu – a Thyagaraya Kriti that gets a Wahab treatment to give it an endearing new-age vibe, the peppy Pottu Thottu, which too has distinct classical undertones, and Onakka Munthiri that is distinctly keralam – each song is a revelation making it a timeless classic in the young music director’s repertoire. Hesham grew up in Saudi, was surrounded by music from a young age, learned music, attended music college, worked with musicians from across the world, and came down to India where he began to work for films.

Along the way, he has not just created a distinct space for himself, he has also worked around his own style of working with the filmmakers, where he makes them part of his music-making and works with the director and the lyricist closely in order to make films that are now proudly proclaiming Hesham Abdul Wahab musicals.

His latest film Kushi with Vijay Devarakonda and Samantha Ruth Prabhu in the lead releases in multiple languages, and has music tracks that are topping the charts. His debut in Telugu film world with haunting melodies like ‘Na Roja Nuvve’, ‘Aaradhya’ ‘Kushi’ – the title song – have all Hesham musical written on them with their multi musical influences.

In an exclusive interview the young musician explains the various aspects of his singing and composing film music.

Musical Influences while composing Kushi’s songs and background score:
The audience will have to experience what we have done apart from songs after watching the film. The music for Kushi is an amalgamation of Western and Indian sounds, which is also what the story is also about – two different worlds clashing.

Working with director and lyric writer Shiva Nirvana:
All along the making of the film I sat along with Shiva garu. He played a key role in creating all the songs, and what he has contributed is irreplaceable. He had to be there. We have worked together for two years. My music is what the story demanded.

I have been fortunate to be part of Kushi. This is one of Shiva Nirvana’s finest and I have been witness to the kind of work he has put in – It crosses borders. After Kushi comes out, things will change for families for whom it will be a light-hearted celebration of movies.

Melody versus other genres:
I think it is the story that makes us do the songs. Anirudh composed a melody for Dhanush in “Thiruchitrambalam” and he was the same director who gave Kolavari. Rajini sir had haunting melodies in Kabali and the audience is equally celebrating his recent film “Jailer”.

Any project that I am doing totally depends on the story that decides the genre. I cannot restrict myself to one genre, and I enjoy all kinds of songs. Hridayam was my 10th film. People started recognising my work recently – in the last two years. In fact, I have had fewer love stories. Hridayam was more a journey of a man. Kushi is in that sense an absolute romantic film. Yet, the story has more to offer. On the other hand, the next film I am doing Nani’s ‘Hi Nanna’ is an emotional story. I am also doing Sharwanand sir’s film. It will be the stories of these films that will decide my music. People will be able to listen to different kinds of music from me.

Music & Musicians:
My assistant, manager, sound engineers, all the instrument players – veena, Shehnai, Nadaswaram, violin included – at least 10 -15 of us were there working for Kushi. For Hrudayam we have done music out of love. For Darshana we recorded a musical instrument called Duduk and went all the way to Turkey to do this. That opened a huge world for us. For Kushi we recorded a Persian instrument, Rabab. For the story, we went to Kashmir and it gave me the opportunity to mix Asian, and Arabic sounds into the music. We recorded Rabab in Mumbai for ‘Na Roja Nuvve’ song.

My learnings have surely helped. I still continue to learn Hindustani and Carnatic music from Kollam Balamurali sir. I learned music from British and Middle Eastern Arabic musicians. Knowing music as a technical personal and studying sound engineering as a musician helps both ways in balancing out and since I am a singer too – psychologically I know how to place the mike etc., and aspects like reverb and the chain the vocals should go through. I can speak with more authority and it helps.

I grew up in Riyadh, did my Diploma in music in Chennai, and participated in a reality show that gave me recognition, and I went back and did Bachelors in Sound engineering. I worked as a sound engineer, recordist, and programmer for 3 years in Dubai. I recorded my first Sufi album there.

Hrudayam has proved that songs have universal power – and music crosses borders without language barrier. Music catapults the audience to theatres. Kushi’s music has the same power.