Tell us about your new album Back 2 Love.
It’s an easy listen with 10 romantic songs. Shreya Ghoshal has sung one and Salim-Sulaiman have arranged a few of the tracks. We have reworked some old bandishes and I have composed a few songs. Sahir Ali Bagga and Mian Yousaf Sallahuddin are the other producers on the album.
You have recorded very few songs in India over the past two years. Have you become selective?
I was getting too many song offers and I had to start being selective. All through my career I have consistently released one good song a year — Mann ki lagan (2004), Jiya dhadak (2005), Naina thag lenge (2006), Main jahaan rahoon (2007) and now this year’s Dil ka mizaaj from Dedh Ishqiya. You can’t produce a Dil toh bachcha hai jee every time, so there have been a few average compositions I have done. But the kind of music I was doing was being repeated. Also, I give a lot of importance to the lafhz (words) and the quality of lyrics was deteriorating. The moment that struck me in 2012, I decided to become selective.
You haven’t visited India in a long time. Is it because of issues with the Enforcement Directorate in 2011, where they charged you for violating foreign exchange rules?
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There are absolutely no problems with the Enforcement Directorate. You can ask them. It was a misunderstanding. We artistes are sensitive, and people of integrity. I have not come to India in a while because I have been busy travelling for shows across the world. Hopefully, I will be there by the end of this year. We are expecting good things from the Narendra Modi government —
love, friendship and brotherhood between the two nations. That’s what Pakistan wants.
Pakistani actor Shaan Shahid recently called Pakistani artistes who work in India as “unpatriotic sell-outs”.
The comment is absolutely ridiculous. Artistes should think and speak. There is so much hard work and soul that goes into our work. We are trying to be peacemakers through our art and such comments are undesirable. And music anyway doesn’t have to be confined to a geographical boundary.
Do you think there is an overkill of Sufi in popular music in the subcontinent?
Yes, having maula in your song lyrics doesn’t make it Sufi. Half the creators don’t even have a proper idea of what Sufi is. Junoon (the band) started this trend. They call themselves Sufis but they have no clue about its spiritual depth. Sufi is devotional, and the malang that the fakirs possess, is not a hot-selling trend.
What are you working on next?
I have sung for Sajid Wajid for Arbaaz Khan’s next production, Dolly Ki Doli. Last year, Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj both came to meet me in Lahore when we recorded the Dedh Ishqiya song.
You famously gave voice to the score of Apocalypto by Oscar-winning composer James Horner in 2006. Any more projects in the West?
I just recorded for the Sonic Peacemakers, a global peace movement that aims to spread peace in Pakistan through music and creativity.
Other artistes such as Roger Waters, Eddie Vedder and Peter Gabriel are also a part of it. The track should be out around September.