He has one of the most soulful voices Bollywood flaunts today and is one of the few who decided to go single after a successful group stint.
Shafqat Amanat Ali was the vocal force behind Pakistani band Fuzon, and made it big in Bollywood with Mitwa — from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna — in 2006. And, there has been no looking back — Bin Tere (I Hate Luv Stories), Tu Hi Mera (Jannat 2), Phir Le Aya Dil (Barfi!), Zindagi Se (Raaz 3), Raske Bhare Tore Naina (Satyagraha).
In a recent interview, Shafqat narrates his journey. “It wasn’t an easy one; I have worked very hard, despite belonging to a family of musicians,” says Shafqat, son of Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, who belongs to the Patiala gharana.
“I got my big break in Bollywood through two songs — Mora Saiyaan and Tere Bina — from my album Khamaj. Both songs were included in Nagesh Kukunoor’s movie Hyderabad Blues 2. It was after this that Shankar Mahadevan got in touch with me for Mitwa,” recalls he.
Talking about his stint as a playback singer, after having performed with a band for years, Shafqat says, “It does satisfy me, but it also depends on the music director. If I get creative freedom, then it becomes an enriching experience. If not, things can get really mucky.”
With Indian cinema changing by leaps and bounds, and off-beat playback singers such as Arijit and Javed Ali being heard in almost every movie, Shafqat has come to believe that this change is for the good. “This era is definitely better than the one I grew up in. Bollywood is exploring a lot of new genres; there’s more space for talent now.”
About Punjabis having a rich musical and cultural heritage, he says, “I too am a Punjabi from Lahore. A majority of singers I have heard and followed are from Punjab, be it classical legends such as Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sahab or the entire Patiala gharana including my great grandfather General Ali Baksh. I’ve taken creative inspiration from the likes of Ghulam Ali, Farida Khanum, Noor Jahan, Zahida Parveen, Hans Raj Hans, Daler Mehndi and Wadali Brothers. There is an undeniable magic in Punjabis’ voice.”
Ask him what he is up to currently and he says, “I am working on my album right now, which I am hoping to finish by year-end. My plate is full with a few Bollywood songs, the recording for which has already begun. I am looking forward to the film, Yaariyan, by director Divya Khosla Kumar (wife of Bhushan Kumar); it comes out early next year. I have sung the title track of the film. I have also recorded a couple of songs for some Punjabi movies of late. This year has been productive. I have learnt a lot and used this learning in subsequent projects. My next gigs are in Dubai and the UK.”