A musical bridge

in conversation

A musical bridge

Classical, Sufi and Bollywood playback singer and songwriter Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan (from Pakistan) is once again creating musical waves in India with his latest album, ‘Muh Dikhai’, his third solo after ‘Tabeer’ (2008) and ‘Kyun Dooriyan’ (2010).

Shafqat caught Bollywood’s attention in 2006 when musician Shankar Mahadevan of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy trio made him sing Mitwa (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna) and it became an instant hit. It was followed by an equally popular number, Yeh Hausla, from the Nagesh Kukunoor film Dor. Earlier, many had also heard him in Khamaj (Mora Sayyian) and Tere Bina, two tracks that Kukunoor had used in the film Hyderabad Blues 2.

In a career spanning around 10 years in Bollywood, Shafqat has had innumerable hits, which include Tere Naina (My Name Is Khan), Bin Tere (I Hate Luv Stories), Kyun Mein Jaagoon (Patiala House), Dildara (Ra One), Darmiyaan ( Jodi Breakers), Phir Le Aya Dil (Barfi), Teri Jhuki Nazar (Murder 3)  and, more recently, Main Nahi Jana Pardes (Tevar). About the several Bollywood playback assignments in the pipeline, he chooses not to reveal.

Experience counts

The playback-singing experience, Shafqat says, has taught him to work on different tones and sounds for different situations in a film. “Sometimes, new producers or composers are hesitant to convey what they have in mind. So you have to rely on your experience to read and interpret. This is something that only comes from the experience of working with music producers,” explains the singer, who has teamed up with some frontline music directors like Sajid-Wajid and Pritam.

Being the son of legendary Pakistani singer Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Shafqat is part of the nine-generation-old Patiala gharana, one of the famous gharanas of vocal Hindustani music. He started taking music lessons at the age of four, and although his first teacher was his grandfather Ustad Akhtar Hussain Khan, Shafqat has often spoken about his strict grandmother who ensured that the family’s children never missed a riyaz session. “The discipline she inculcated in me and the way in which she passed on anecdotes of ragas led me to an understanding of each bandish. She told us everything one needed to know to carry the legacy forward and become a torchbearer of such a great lineage,” he recalls.

The new album saw a five-year gap before its release because of his busy schedules and tour commitments, according to the artiste. “So the name ‘Muh Dikhai’ (Showing my face) seemed apt,” he says.

The album features pure Sufiana kalam, rock, pop, ghazal and semi-classical genres among others. “I have tried my best to keep the album different from the previous ones and I think I managed it to an extent. It also has quite a few Punjabi tracks,” Shafqat maintains. His favourite in the album is also a Punjabi track by Mohan Singh with an eponymous title. Except for two tracks, the rest of the seven have been composed by the singer himself. “There are two arrangers who have worked on the album and both are extremely talented,” he reveals, referring to Zeeshan Haider and Sanval, with the latter providing back-up vocals as well.

Once the front-man of the band Fuzon, which subsequently broke off, facilitating the take-off of his solo career, Shafqat has extensively used the social media to unveil ‘Muh Dikhai’. “Most albums are now released first on social media as sales in physical format are at an all-time low, but CDs will be available.” Since social media is all about establishing a direct contact with people and receiving feedback from fans, it only makes sense to promote the album through these platforms, he feels.

Ask him on his mental preparation before the process of creating a new album, he observes, “I know what my fans like as I constantly receive their feedback. So I create some tracks that I know are definitely going to be liked.” But every album also has some tracks that are his recommendations, in which he tries something new.

Clean consumption

Piracy is an area of concern and Shafqat emphasises the need for music labels to join hands to get illegal websites and platforms banned. “We encourage our fans to buy only legal music. If these steps are taken seriously, music business will be able to thrive,” he says.

Shafqat does not draw flak back home in Pakistan for being a frequent performer in India. In fact, he emphatically adds that many musicians and cultural ambassadors from both the countries are playing a vital role in bridging the gap through powerful music, ignoring political agendas. Acknowledging the adulation from his fans in India, Shafqat feels music is at a level much beyond boundaries.

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