Bollywood has always welcomed music talent from Pakistan with open arms. Singers such as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shafqat Amanat Ali, Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar enjoy as much popularity here as in their homeland. Shafqat, who has earlier delivered hits like Mitwa (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, 2006) and Tere
naina (My Name Is Khan, 2010) among others, talks about his journey so far. The singer will also feature on tonight’s episode of Royal Stag MTV Unplugged Season 2.
How was the experience of performing acoustic versions of your songs on the show?
It was amazing! I like the idea of the show as it gives singers an opportunity to give a new dimension to their songs.
We’ve heard that you’ve written a song specially for the show?
The track is called Manmaniyan. Ranjit Barot composed the tune for the song when we were jamming together, but the words didn’t seem to work well. Since I really liked the tune, I borrowed the track from him and wrote the lyrics for it. Besides this song, I will also be presenting other film songs such as Yeh hausla (Dor, 2006), Kyun main jagoon (Patiala House, 2011) as well as songs from my albums — Aankhon ke sagar, Bulleh shah, Mora saiyaan, to list a few.
What projects are you working on currently?
I am singing for a few Bollywood films. There is a solo album that I am working on. Plus, touring and live shows keep me busy most of the time. With electronica-heavy music being the rage these days, do you feel that
Bollywood compositions are straying away from Indian classical music?
Not really. Composers like AR Rahman, Vishal Bhardwaj and Vishal-Shekhar have managed to keep the essence of classical music alive.
Critics often say that classical singers should stay away from contemporary playback singing as it reflects badly on the gharanas they represent. As a ninth generation singer from the Patiala gharana, do you buy this criticism?
Absolutely not. There’s a stereotype that classical singers must remain in their niche world and shouldn’t aspire to make money. I feel they too have the right to try different things. There are no set rules that music adheres to. It’s good to keep experimenting so that listeners do not get bored. Classical music is such a strong genre that it cannot be overshadowed by any other style.
From the Bollywood songs you have sung, which one has been the most special?
Mitwa and Tere naina are close to my heart as I got to be the playback voice for Shah Rukh Khan.
Catch Shafqat Amanat Ali on Royal Stag MTV Unplugged, tonight at 8pm on MTV.