Shafqat Amanat Ali – the Rockstar Ustad is the biggest singing sensation to hit the subcontinent in recent times. The singer, writer, composer; son of the legendary Pakistani singer Ustad Amanat Ali Khan spoke to us in an exclusive interview.
How does it feel to be sharing the space with the legendary Mr. Bachchan, especially as it is an INDvsPAK match?
It feels great for four reasons. It's a very prestigious occasion where India-Pakistan are having a match in India and it's a crucial match. I am thrilled to be representing Pakistan and singing the national anthem of my country on this occasion and I am on a high about it. I am one of those people who has always fantasised about peace between these two countries and I think matches like the one on 19th March in Eden Garden are steps towards that objective and will go a long way hopefully in creating the much needed peace in this region. I am elated to be part of such an event. Thirdly, to be singing this while sharing the stage with one of the greatest living legends of India Mr Amitabh Bachchan while he sings the national anthem for his country is one of the greatest honours for me. I couldn't ask for more. The fourth reason is to be doing this in Kolkata, a city which I feel is synonymous with music. Every time I am in Kolkata I feel music is in the air and it feels great to once again sing in Kolkata.
What are your thoughts on Fawad Khan, Maira Khan etc. getting opportunities in Bollywood?
I have been saying right from the beginning that Bollywood has room for everyone from across the globe. The industry is really a melting pot for cultures from across the world and till now I felt this with music but now one can see this happening in acting as well and I think it's a great sign. Fawad is a very promising actor and both Fawad and Mahira Khan are great talented people. It's nice to see voices and now faces from Pakistan in Indian movies and I do feel that Bollywood being such a huge platform does play a role in bringing the two countries closer with this exchange of talent. It is purely about entertainment, culture and talent. Not just Fawad and Maira but Ali Zafar, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam and me among others who have been in the past part of the industry too are constant reminders that Bollywood has always been a platform which blurs boundaries and embraces talent from across the world.
Have you as a Pakistani ever felt any kind of hostility in Bollywood?
I have never felt hostility or anything negative from Bollywood or even while performing in India. In fact, India is like second home to me. Like I said Bollywood has always embraced talent from across the world. I have friends from the industry and they are friends irrespective of anything that happens politically between the two countries.
Your songs have this quality that they appeal directly to one’s heart and stays for a very long time. What is your approach when you make music?
I would call it pure blessing. I create whatever, I feel, touches the heart and what I feel will touch the listeners' hearts and I just do it sincerely. It's a great blessing that my thoughts reach my listeners through my music and lyrics. When I compose a melody and write lyrics for my songs I make them high on emotion. And it feels great that people like what they hear and accept them and give the response to make these songs popular.
Do you consciously choose to sing softer, melodious song?
Actually softer and melodious songs come to me naturally. I would love to work on upbeat numbers or even item numbers if I am ever offered those. My albums do feature a good mix of upbeat and soft songs.
Would you ever consider doing party, dance songs?
Well, honestly speaking, I appreciate good music in every genre. I really am not rigid about the genre and kind of music I sing or even hear. As long as a song is good I would do it. Be it a great melody, great rhythm, great chord patterns, great lyrics, if it sounds good I would love to do it. I believe in being versatile
Who is your favourite amongst your contemporaries?
I am not being diplomatic here, but I appreciate a good song from any singer. Bollywood is full of some extremely good talent and I have loved some of the work done by people like Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan, Sonu Nigam and more recently Arijit Singh.
Which is the one song that you wish that you had an opportunity to sing?
I always say that as a singer I am a greedy person and overtime I hear a really good song I wish I had sung it. But a song which has been my all-time favourite and which I always wish I had sung is ‘Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shiqwa Toh Nahi’ from the movie Aandhi.
Are you excited about the upcoming US tour with Rekha Bhardwaj?
Yes I am excited. I am going after a long gap to USA. I am excited that I will be going with Rekha ji. I have high regard for both Rekha ji as well as Vishal Bhardwaj. I have always liked her singing. And I really admire Vishal Bhardwaj's music and I think they are a very talented couple. Rekha ji has always done justice to the melodies she has sung.
Any upcoming projects?
Lots of things in the pipeline. The USA tour is now round the corner but I am working on a lot of singles which will be released in the coming months. I am also giving some songs in movies now as a composer. So that is something that is exciting for me as I have always been a composer but it's only now that I am composing some music for Bollywood. Other than that, I am working on a couple of collaborations which I will talk about when they are closer to release. With the Pakistan film industry reviving now, I am singing songs for Pakistani movies too and that feels really nice as I do believe there is a lot of good fresh talent in Pakistan and it's great to see their creative work coming out and being part of these projects. My recent song "Yaari" for a recently released movie in Pakistan has done very well and it feels good.
One parting message for fans
I just want to give my love to all my fans and just want to tell them to buy music from genuine platforms and help putting a stop to piracy of music illegally.