For more than two decades, Abrar Ul Haq has reigned over the Punjabi bhangra scene of Pakistan, giving hits like Nach Punjaban, Preeto and Kudiyan Lahore Diyan. These songs not only became anthems of their time, but also made waves across the border. Following a hiatus of nine years, the singer-turned-politician has come full circle with the release of his latest album, Ithe Rakh. Abrar’s eighth studio album will be launched at a ceremony in Lahore on Saturday (today).
Abrar formally stepped into the limelight in 1995 with the release of his first album, Billo De Gar, which sold over 16 million copies nationwide. From that point on, the singer started releasing one single after another, treating fans with his colloquial take on Punjabi culture and catchy melodies. The albums that followed included Majajani, Bay Ja Cycle Tay, Nach Punjaban, Assan Jana Mall-o-Mall, Nachan Main Audhay Naal, and Nara Sada Isqh Aey.
His latest album however is slightly different from the rest and has more to offer to his loyal fans. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Abrar opens up about why he decided to release another album after nearly a decade.
“My songs are my identity and I am proud of the fact that they reflect my love for my country,” says Abrar. “Pakistan has a rich culture but it is indeed a tragedy to see other languages slowly replace our own. There is a strong influence of Hindi on our people — I’ve come across common people frequently using Hindi words in their conversation without realising it.” He considers his latest album a service to the plethora of languages spoken in the country and hopes that people will acknowledge his effort.
Side by side, Abrar is also an advocate of highlighting and preserving the folklore of the region and that’s why he also included a few folk songs in the album “There is something for everyone in my new album.” With Ithe Rakh, Abrar continues the trend of featuring one sufi song in his album and this time around it is Uth Sangiyan Tay Booti Pi, a track that he also performed in Coke Studio.
Among all the songs that Abrar has composed to date, Billo undoubtedly gained the most popularity. The new album even features a number titled Aaj Bhi Billo Zinda Hai, especially for die-hard Billo fans. “Billo was such an iconic song that it had to be resurrected in some form or the other,” says Abrar.
Apart from being an exceptional singer, Abrar also happens to run his own social welfare organisation, Sahara Trust, something that had his attention all this time. “I understand that my fans have been waiting for me to release a new album but I’ve been quite busy. I established a welfare hospital and a medical college in Narowal. Both projects are entirely meant for the welfare of the locals as the city did not have a single hospital.” He shares that certain people attempted to put obstacles in way of these welfare projects, but because his heart was in the right place, both projects were completed successfully.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2016.