Although Shafqat Amanat Ali comes from a family of reputed classical musicians, he has carved a niche for himself through fusion music. In an interview, the artiste says that a breakthrough in Bollywood boosts an artiste’s career, but only if it happens with the right song. He also talks about how classical music will always be his base.
It’s been almost a decade since you sang your first Bollywood song. Do you feel a breakthrough in Bollywood gives an artiste better exposure?
It definitely does, but it depends on the song. Bollywood helps your number work, and talent, reach places where there is a huge following for Hindi and Urdu work. I always receive compliments for my songs like Yeh Honsla, Bin Tere, Tu Hi Mera and Teri Jhuki Nazar. People remember them.
Are there any composers or artistes that you are looking forward to collaborating with?
An artiste is always greedy. He or she wants the best work all the time. It is a good greed; it is the thirst for excellence.
You have sung for a Pakistani film that released in India on February 26.
The Pakistani movie is a collaborative project in which many talented artistes from both the countries (India and Pakistan) have worked together. The song that I have sung in the movie, Yaari, has been composed by an Indian and has been written by a Pakistani. The music is good. The best part is that it released on my birthday.
Many a times, Pakistani artistes often get embroiled in political controversies. What are your thoughts on politics interfering with creativity?
Peace talks between India and Pakistan have been taking place for many years. But every time there is a good development, certain incidents happen and it ruins the progress. It is about time we understand that such things happen because the people who cause disruption are paid [to do so]. Those who ruin the peace are nobody’s friends. We should ignore them, and keep promoting harmony.
You have been instrumental in drawing youngsters to classical music. Is that something you will always keep in mind for your future albums too?
Absolutely, I will make sure that each album includes classical instruments or is based on a classical raga. I even try to name my songs on the raga they are based on. When I recorded Mora Saiyaan, I wanted to name it Khamaj, the raga it is based on.
What kind of music did you listen to while growing up?
When I was a kid, I would listen to classical music, including songs sung by my father, uncles and brother. I also listened to popular Bollywood songs by Lataji (Mangeshkar) and Ashaji (Bhosle). In college, I was introduced to western music. I would listen to popular songs by Lionel Richie, George Michael, Boy George and The Bangles. Classical music will always be my base. I try to top it off with different genres, usually rock.
From being a gharana singer to now being a household name, how has your journey been?
I have learnt a lot. Popularity was always at close quarters. My father was very popular, so were my uncles. So, when it (fame) happened to me, I was happy. I wasdefinitely waiting for it to happen, but when it did, I made sure it did not go to my head.
As an artiste, you have been vocal about how production issues (like cutting down the number of songs in an album or reducing the duration of a song) interfere with creativity. Do you see any changes now?
I don’t think things have changed much in that area. But, with YouTube coming in, if you want to make a video of 10 minutes, you can put it up. However, channels still have those constraints. So, so you cannot air the same video on that medium.
Is an album in the pipeline?
We are not working on an album as of now, as our schedule won’t allow us to focus on it. But I am working on a few solos.
At 51, what are the goals that you have set for yourself on the personal and professional front?
Whenever I sing a song, post its release, I always feel that I could have done better. Similarly, even in life, when I look back, I feel I could have done several things in a better manner. But I have learnt from my regrets. The goal is to do better in the future.
You are one of the few celebs to support gender equality...
I don’t think any man would not support women’s rights. I will sound very brutal, but I strongly feel that the juvenile involved in the Delhi rape case should have been hanged. He is a free man now. A boy has grown up with the knowledge that “I committed the most heinous crime of raping someone, and I am walking free today.” The law shouldn’t be weak, or else, such things will never stop. If he had been hung in the first place, something like that would not have happened again.
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