With the genesis of his Coke Studio hit Rockstar playing out as a possible trigger, singer-turned-actor Ali Zafar has once again decided to plug the guitar and test the microphone. The past few years have seen Ali rise to the Indian film industry’s top tier and emerge as an entertainer whose appeal has overpowered the region’s entertainment consumption.
Where his career is soaring to new heights with every passing project, he tells The Express Tribune, “Why should I make myself inaccessible to those who made me what I am today? Our people are entertainment starved, especially in the smaller cities.” Perhaps this is the very reason that Ali is proceeding with a target that is nearing completion – around 50 live shows in 60 days.
This may sound like an ambitious New Year resolution but there is more to it. He is almost through with the tour and upon that, he is also ready with two to three new songs. “In the same period I also worked on 4 TV commercials. Music had recently taken the back seat for me but that’s not the case anymore. I am working on my next album which will be out this year.” 2016 will also see Ali’s appearance in two major film projects – one in Pakistan, one in India. Elaborating on the tour experience, he says it comprises gigs in all major cities and also in stations like Rahim Yar Khan and Sialkot. “The response we get from people there is unbelievable.”
To Ali, the decline in live shows had a direct relationship with the security situation. “You have to realise political instability and security concerns impact everything. Now that state of affairs is improving, it has given us hope.” When asked whether increased corporate involvement has narrowed down opportunities and stifled prospects for the Pakistani musician, he maintains, “Unfortunately, we live in a world where the media structure requires a lot of money pumping in order to put one’s creation out there. There was a time when you had Indus Music, Channel V, MTV. That’s not the case anymore.” He says in today’s time, the challenge is the same for both upcoming and established artists.
Ali feels this is part of a global concern and is not just restricted to Pakistan. “Musicians are facing this dilemma the world over. I think if it [corporate backing] is done tastefully, it does benefit.” Mentioning the humdrum speculation surrounding the comeback of the iconic Guns N’ Roses, he says today’s infrastructure has changed entirely.
Talking of reunions, in the past few months there have been instances where rumours were rife that Pakistani bands of the yore are planning on coming back together. Pictures of Atif Aslam and Goher Mumtaz jamming together generated quite a buzz. Similarly, Karavan fans seeing Asad Ahmed and Tanseer Dar perform together was quite an affair. Interestingly, Ali has been at the heart of all this development. Before we could put this in a question, he states, “I want people to get together. Back in the day it was always like that. Musicians, artists and writers would sit together, discuss their work. That culture has sort of waned. I built a state-of-the-art studio in my basement for the sole reason. I call everybody to come, jam and have fun,” he says.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2016.