Even at a concert rehearsal, Atif Aslam is in full stage-mode. He addresses the crew on the mic, introducing his friends (Lanny Cordola and Todd Shea) who he is working with on the Pakistan America Peace through Music project – and gets Shea to sing “Aadat” with him.
It makes perfect sense. Aslam, whose debut single with Goher Mumtaz – “Aadat” – made him an overnight star, instantly jumped onto doing concerts (and began reportedly charging prices that shocked concert promoters).
Aslam is now a huge star in India and in Pakistan, and is full of optimism that things will get back to normal. His work with Cordola is the talk of the music industry and the blogosphere. “It just kind of happened,” Aslam tells The Express Tribune. “We recorded a couple of songs and Lanny has supported us all the way. The idea to collaborate with a lot of musicians is because abroad people just see trash and terrorism (about Pakistan) and he wanted to make a documentary and tell people why Pakistan is a lot more than what we see. We went to Charsadda and Swat as well. Lanny also wanted to see how musicians work here so he could work with them. I know there’s been a lot of talk about what we’re doing and everyone thinks ‘Oh Atif gets the big picture’, but that’s not true. He’s here now so people should work with him … they should forget about kaun bada hai aur kaun chota.”
Aslam, who is also involved in flood relief work, says Shea had to convince him to post images of himself distributing relief goods to flood victims on Facebook. “I’ve never thought of doing something like this … but Shea said maybe if I posted images my fans would be inspired and want to follow my example and I could create awareness.”
Aslam is planning to register a non-governmental organisation (NGO). What is it, I ask, about musicians and NGOs? “I want this to be transparent. If I have finances in my pocket, I don’t want people to be dubious about where the money is going. I pay my taxes.”
The musician also shot for his debut film last year, Shoaib Mansoor’s second feature film, titled Bol. It stars Umaima Abbasai and Mahira Khan along with Aslam, who plays a doctor in the film.
“I don’t know when the film is releasing, maybe October or November. I have done two songs for the soundtrack. It’s been a great experience working with Shoaib Mansoor, he is an amazing person and very dedicated. The film is about Sunnis and Shias.”
Mansoor’s last project, Khuda Kay Liye, was fairly controversial. Is Atif Aslam scared of attracting a similar reaction?
“Not at all. My role isn’t controversial and we discussed it beforehand. It’s a film that is being made for a good cause.”
Aslam is working on a new album, but rubbishes rumours circulating online that it is titled Shabnam. “Right now, my entire focus is on this project. I may be singing with Chris Martin or John Mayer… we’re trying to bring a lot of people together.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2010.