A few months ago, a video showing a girl belting out a tune while in what seemed to be a sculpting class, went viral owing to her exquisite singing.
The incredible talent is Iqra Arif, a student of Fine Art at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore and a very passionate vocalist in her very own band Sawal.
Iqra’s incredible talent has landed her into Pakistan’s music industry as she recently recorded an OST for a Pakistani drama Main Hoon Mehru. After her video went viral, Iqra is considering a career in music. “I was very shocked when three hours after the video was uploaded it had attracted so many viewers. Soon after my seniors and juniors at NCA approached me telling me I was an internet sensation. It was a lot of fun, but more importantly it gave me encouragement to continue and not stop,” she told The Express Tribune.
Her newfound fame, however, came at a price. Apart from gender discrimination, she also has to face criticism for wearing a scarf. She, however, continues to be an example of empowerment. “There were a lot of mean comments on my video. But you have to remember to satisfy yourself first and if you are satisfied, you are good to go.”
Iqra developed an interest for music at an early age, and without any professional training, she exercised her vocals as a recreational activity. In ninth grade, she won the first prize in a Kalam contest, which led her to recognise her true potential.
It was not until last year that she became the main vocalist in her own band, “It was a funny story. I was a first year student at NCA and as you know freshmen students are always ragged (bullied). Faraz bhai, my senior, had come to bully me and asked me to sing in front of everyone. I sang Chap Te Lak and my voice impressed him to the extent that he asked me to become a part of his band.”
“I had an idea and Faraz Siddiqui had a platform,” she adds. Taking inspiration from legendary Sufi singers, such as Abida Parveen, the band bases their performances along those lines. The name Sawaal was thus coined. Iqra further elaborated, “Kiyu ke log Sufi zaat se sawal karte hain.” Sawaal has so far successfully performed across Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
In a message to all young artists and musicians out there Iqra says, “Utilize your talent and do not let it go to waste. Believe in God and give everything your best. Also, if what you’re doing is different – it’s great, it’s never too late to give anything a shot in life.”
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