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'I can connect to God through Sufi'

Priya Rajendran catches up with Ustad Shafqat Amanat Ali, who is currently on a musical tour in India. Read on...

music Updated: Sep 25, 2008 18:48 IST
Priya Rajendran

Shafqat Amanat Ali, born in 1965, is the son of Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, making him part of the 9 generation old Patiala Gharana. He has been a student of Hindustani classical music since age four, his grandmother being his first teacher.

His main influences in music come from his father and his uncle Ustad Fateh Ali Khan sahab as well as Roshanara Begum, to name a few. He is younger brother of late singer Asad Amanat Ali Khan. He got his Bachelors degree in 1988 from Government College University, Lahore (now known as GC University). He received the role of honour from the Music Society of Government College University, Lahore.

Shafqat Amanat Ali was also the lead vocalist of a Pakistani band Fuzon. He belongs to the Patiala gharana of classical music. The gharana is famous for its concentration on intricate taan-patterns and sargams. With his family, he has been part of the Pakistani classical musical tradition for eight generations. <b1>

While he is one of the best current singers in Pakistan, Shafqat is also highly respected in India after performing the vocals for the song Mitwa from the film Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. The song was well received by the audience as well as the critics. He was also the voice behind the critically acclaimed song Yeh Honsla from the film Dor.

After leaving the band Fuzon in 2004, Shafqat has concentrated on his solo career working on two different albums - Tabeer (which has been already released) and other is his trademark fusion album for Pakistan.

Priya Rajendran chats up with Ustad Shafqat Amanat Ali...

A few excerpts:

When did your love for Sufi music begin...

I have been listening to this genre of music since childhood. I was mostly inspired by classical music.

Who was your inspiration or artistes...
I used to listen to artistes like Sai Akhtar and Zaheeda Parveen as I loved and admired their style of singing. They were really good classically trained singers who loved their singing and music.

Your Guru...
My grandfather Ustad Akhtar Hussain Khan. Otherwise the rest of my family - my brothers, uncles, dadi and aunties - father’s sisters - they all taught me music. They insisted that I listen to all genres of music. But I took to Sufi music.

Sufism for you...
My love for Sufi music is because I can connect to God through this. Since so much is happening in this world - disasters, blasts etc, Sufi also helps heal wounded souls and drives away one's blues. I feel that Sufi is all about humanity and human relations with God. You don’t need a priest, mullah or any other middle person to get in touch with God. It has no boundaries too.

Do you think Sufi has been a neglected genre of music?
No, I don't agree with this. Sufi has always been there. It originated from the interiors of Pakistan. People have always had a high regard for this genre, simply because it really transports them to another world. It is just that fundamentalists were against this form of music in its early years. Another reason was that other genres of music have dominated the scene.

So is it that Sufi has sort of made a comeback? Especially after NDTV Imagine's reality show Junoon...
Its not really a comeback. I had also been approached for the same show too, but had to turn it down due to some reasons. But yes it is definitely a great platform for the youth to perform. At the same time, there is a danger that this show must not mislead youth into thinking that Sufi is simply about enmeshing music on guitar tunes amalgamated with tabla. Sufi is beyond all that. One must have a deep passion for this music. Also the reality show must pick up the right people as sometimes, there is a danger of wrong public voting. Also Bulla ki jana whichwas sung in Junoon and Rabbi’s version is way different from the original. So there's a a problem with killing this music too.

How did your latest album Tabeer come about...
It was entirely Music Today’s idea. They approached me, asking me to compose tracks for a Sufi album. I sent them samples of music and they realized that Sufi is not what they had perceived as. But then this album was created and the rest as you know is history.

Your favourite track in Tabeer: Khairheyan de naal