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Considered by many to be a virtuoso musician in both Indian and Western styles of playing, Adnan Sami is a composer, performer, singer and multi-instrumentalist. In fact, Sami is able to play in the region of three dozen classical and traditional instruments to a professional standard. However, it is for his piano playing that he is mostly known. The musician has made a name for himself playing santoor music – a type of hammered dulcimer from India and Persia – on the piano. Sami’s style is one that is associated with high dexterity and tremendous finger strength. Among pianists, Sami is often said to be the fastest in the world in terms of the rate at which he can churn out notes that are distinct from one another. In addition to traditional Indian music, Sami plays classical pieces as well as jazz, pop, rock and fusion.
Adnan Sami's early career
Born in 1971 in London, Sami is the son of a Pakistani diplomat and a mother of north Indian extraction. Educated at Rugby school in Warwickshire, Sami studied journalism at the University of London before going on to obtain a law degree. Despite qualifying as a barrister, Sami preferred to follow a career in music. He had been learning the piano since the age of 5 and was composing his own works from 9 years of age. After a childhood meeting with RD Burman, the Indian film score composer, where Sami had been encouraged to pursue music, he continued to harbour ambitions as a performer.
Adnan Sami's breakthrough in music
Sami’s first success with recordings came in 1986, when a song he made for UNICEF became a smash hit in many countries in the Middle East. Further hit records, recorded with English lyrics, soon followed. These included “Talk to Me”, “You’re My Best Kept Secret” and the vibrant “Hot Summer Day”. Although some demos had been put together as mini albums, Sami’s first fully-fledged LP came out in 1989. This was called The One And Only and featured the superb tabla playing of Zakir Hussain. By the mid-1990s, the musician was writing scores, not just popular songs. Many of them were used for soundtracks by the Pakistani film industry at this stage of his career.
In later years, tracks recorded by Sami had a habit of being remixed and turned into underground hits. Partly as a result of his successes, the composer began being invited by Bollywood filmmakers to contribute to their movies, just as he had in Pakistan. In 2002, Sami struck a deal with the soft drinks company Pepsi to become their brand ambassador in India. That year, he released, to much critical acclaim, Tera Chera, a studio album that featured a number of Bollywood film stars.
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