From competing with six siblings and three cousins to be the standout singer in the family, to being a household name across the sub-continent and beyond, Pakistani singer/composer Shafqat Amanat Ali’s musical journey is laden with anecdotes.
Hailing from the well-known ‘Pataila Gharana’ of Lahore, Shafqat is a part of the family’s ninth generation. Getting inspired by his legendary father, Ustad Amanat Ali, he took up music at a young age. ‘Riyaz’ kept him busy while growing up. His classical music lineage meant that Shafqat’s exposure to other genres of music was restricted till the time he would enroll in Government College in Lahore. It was in college that he made acquaintances who had a broader spectrum of music interests. Shafqat was immediately drawn towards the sounds of pop, rock and other western genres of music.
“When I would hear these western songs, I would often do ‘alaap’ over the songs and incorporate classical improvisations to these songs. Even in college shows I started singing western songs once in a while” recalls Shafqat.
His renditions of these western songs struck a chord amongst the youth and buoyed him towards experimenting with different genres of music. This led to the formation of his first band, Fuzon which fused eastern classical with western music.
“Blending Eastern classical with western pop rock is what I love to do the most. I would love to collaborate with a guitarist like Carlos Santana someday” hopes Shafqat.Well that is one collaboration fans on either sides of the border would hope materialise.
Shafqat has always been popular with the youth in India and his independent music is widely followed. His big Bollywood moment came with his debut song ‘Mitva’ from the movie ‘Kabhi alvida na kehna’. This Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy song aided in growing his popularity in the country.
“The song expanded my fan base. I had reached people who used to only listen to Bollywood music through this song. Once they heard it and googled me, they started listening to a lot of my own music so it definitely changed things for me” says Shafqat.
The two countries have some rather striking similarities when it comes to the preferred choice of music. Bollywood and popular music still top the charts. The independent music space has a wider appeal in Pakistan. Although this scenario is witnessing a change in India. A number of artistes are now accessing the independent space and are guided by the established ones.
“There is a delightful fusion of technology with music. Melody is still strong and has once again gained prominence in songs. Good lyrics and melodies normally go hand in hand” feels Shafqat.
Ask him about the problems the independent artistes face in Pakistan and the answer is very similar to the one their Indian counterparts encounter. The mainstream channels still are ignorant about the independent music space. At one time Indus Music channel, in Pakistan, ran pure music and a lot of artistes got popular because of that channel. Coke Studio, in both the countries, is another example of the fact that pure and good music is loved by people.
“If the music is strong you don’t need superficial lyrics or raunchy videos to sell it. People are worried about producing great content because they find it hard to promote. This must change because it is important to keep good music alive. It’s the soul of a civilisation” opines Shafqat.
Professionally, the Ustad Rockstar, feels he is still learning and evolving. He intends to do more of Independent music as it provides him with the liberty to be creative, to experiment, to explore and to create, which is basically the whole idea behind music.
“Personally I would like to do more to serve people specially children who need a better life medically, emotionally or physically. This is something I have always wanted to do” hopes Shafqat.
And how does he want his fans to remember him?
“The guy who never sang an item number”, pat came his response.