Ali Zafar says singing for fans is his passion
The singer, actor and producer talks about a musician's life during Covid, and why he'll never stop learning.
What sets Ali Zafar apart is the fact that he knows the rules of the game a tad better than his contemporaries. He stays current. Whether it is an OST of a hit serial, a cricket tournament, a humble tribute to a national hero, or a recital of an iconic qawwali during Ramadan, there is an Ali Zafar song for every occasion; and chances are that you will end up bumping into his melodious voice more than once if you are on the go. Making hits is the easiest thing he does!
With 20 years in the business, Ali, who recently turned 41, made some interesting revelations about why his musical creations manage to strike the right chords each time he dishes out a song. He looks back at his illustrious music career which is going stronger than ever.
In this time of the pandemic, since most of the entertainment mediums like cinemas and concerts have taken a backseat, don’t you miss singing live?
I miss singing live. Singing for my fans is my passion and the high you get on a live stage is the best moment for an artist. But the current situation demands that we must prioritise our health and everyone’s safety over everything. Having said that, the arts industry has suffered immensely as it’s dependent upon artists having to perform in public, which is why through the Ali Zafar Foundation we are helping deserving musicians who had no means to make it through these times.
While the world today measures success numerically through indicators like TRPs, number of downloads or likes and so on, do you think that it’s the right way to gauge an artist’s work?
Any expression of art, be it a song, a film or a painting has also a subjective value to it. It is not necessary that a painting that fetches millions of dollars is the best painting out there. In an ideal world, I feel commerce should not be the right barometer to judge art. However, in the modern world and with social media turning out to be stronger than ever, numbers are seen as the barometer for success. For any artist, having his work appreciated by large number of people is always heart-warming. So, if a song is seen and enjoyed by large number of people, I won’t lie by saying that it doesn’t feel good.
As a top musician, we are sure that by now you could make a tune almost instantly. How do you decide that a particular tune is perhaps the best one?
I do make my tunes very fast. Sometimes they just come like a stroke of lightening and sometimes it takes a little longer. Making a tune or a melody is largely based on your intuition. If you ask me, over time, musicians develop this sense which indicates or guides them that this is the melody which is hitting the right chords and hence you decide on that one.
They say that turning forty is a major milestone for anyone. How do you feel now that you are in your forties?
I think we are always growing or changing and it’s a part of our individual and collective evolution. I hope that I have changed for the better. I feel that I have! It has been a splendid journey with few bumps on the road but all I can say is that I have never felt happier.
Have your idols or inspirations changed over time?
The more music you listen to, the more singers and composers you discover, you keep learning more and more. You get inspired through their art and creativity and it reflects in your own work. Lately I have ventured into the musical form of Qawwali and the response has been extremely humbling. So the trick is to keep broadening your skills and never stop learning, else you will become stagnant.
A lot of artists including yourself have moved to releasing singles. Is there an album on the cards?
While I have been releasing singles, I have been working on my album called Husn. I am quite excited about this album and I’ll be releasing it soon.
How did the idea of the Naat (Islamic poetry) ‘Balaghal Ula Bi Kamaalihi’ come into your mind. Would it be correct to say that you have never been as emotionally attached to any of your other creations as this one?
So this Qawwali was shared with me by my mother. She used to listen to it a lot but I hadn’t really gone much into it until one day when my mother was fighting Covid. I was lying down next to her and I put this Qawwali on. Then I understood it at a much deeper level, I felt an instant spiritual connection with the wordings and I decided to work on it for my mother. Some magical things also happened while we recorded this song, like how the rain cleared the sky just before the shoot. While researching the context of this Surah (chapter), I got so many moments of enlightenment that this work has become extremely special.
Lastly, like Elton John sang Candle in the Wind in tribute to the late Princess Diana, which song would you want to be sung for you, and by who?
I think that Jhoom is the song that defines my journey and also Chal Dil Mere but it really depends on that time and what people remember me as and by in that moment; hopefully as a good human being.
Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai based entertainment writer. His Instagram handle is @sadiqidas.