Pakistani singer Shafqat Amanat Ali on Bollywood,performing live and being a virtual star.
My name is Shafqat Amanat Ali,and Im not a terrorist, announced the Pakistani singer,stumping the audience with his tweak on the famous dialogue from My Name is Khan. At the Pewter Rooms Blue Blazer for MTV Unplugged Season 2 on Sunday,Ali had a high-spirited crowd dancing,cheering and singing along with every number he churned out till past midnight.
The crowd,Ali had said before the gig,determines his performances. They set the mood and I pick up the vibe. Of course,the bigger the crowd,the better the gig,but it also depends on the energy of the audience, says Ali.
For many years,Ali was best known for Baatein,one of his first independent songs before the soft and haunting Khamaaj took over. In Chandigarh,the singer chose to strike up a conversation with Baatein. Once in the groove,he belted out songs such as Akhiyan De Ole Ole,Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Na Karo and Tere Naina.
A soft-spoken person off stage,Ali is a livewire during performances,livening up his acts with witty anecdotes on Pakistan,Patiala pegs and cricket. He interacts freely with the audience,honours requests and peps up performances with different kinds of music. For instance,he performed a lost folk song from Pakistan and a couple of lines from his fathers ghazal. It comes as no surprise that the men in the audience whistled and clapped and the women sang in chorus.
In an interview that preceded the gig at his hotel room in Park Plaza,Ali spoke of his dismay over the lack of public performances in Pakistan,and how Bollywood is a great pull professionally. When it comes to the arts and music,Pakistan still has its restrictions and security issues,and its the smaller artistes and music groups that suffer the most, he says.
Nonetheless,he mentions how there are events such as Virasat that takes place in a 300-year-old Haveli in Pakistan and channels such as Hum TV that are attempting to revive Pakistani plays and music.
About Bollywood,he says that he entered at the right time. Tinsel town,too,has had a phase,a musical vacuum post RD Burman with its share of predictable music till game changers such as AR Rahman,Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Vishal Shekhar came in, he says.
Ali has also experimented with a Bangla song,is performing a song titled Kadi Aa Mil for a Punjabi film and has sung a Marathi song called Vedna,apart from working on two albums with music directors in Pakistan.
While he seldom collaborates because of time constraints,his song,Let go,with music director duo Salim-Suleiman and Britain-based musician Fin Greenall,went viral as did his performance in MTV Coke Studio and Unplugged.