Bilal Khan’s rise in the music industry has provided a refreshing boost to the music scene in Pakistan. Last week, his song “To Kia Hua” was one of the few original compositions showcased on “Coke Studio” and with the upcoming release of his album Umeed this summer, Khan will continue to make waves.
“For Pakistan, nothing is bigger in the music industry than to be on “Coke Studio”. It’s like winning the Grammys in the US,” beamed Khan speaking about his recent debut on the TV show. “For any aspiring musician in Pakistan, being on CS provides several benefits in terms of promotion.”
Giving an insight into the experience, he said that the opportunity was amazing. On his first day in the studio, Khan spent six hours jamming and recording his own songs.
At first glance, Khan seems to be a complex figure. He has developed the reputation of a cult-poet whose exploration of the human heart has struck a direct chord with young people. His popularity has continued to increase and his Facebook page has over 80,000 fans. His new album, which is expected to have around nine songs, has been produced by Sarmad Ghafoor of the S and M productions.
In some ways, Khan has quickly turned into Pakistan’s own John Mayer with his bluesy acoustic guitaring and his emphasis on songwriting. He uses his daily experiences and observations to carefully construct songs, which many can relate to.
“I have faced criticism in the past that my songs are sad but I like to say they are hopeful,” said Khan. “Generally it’s about not getting something – that could be a girl or a dream. It’s really not specific to me but you see your friends going through that. It’s universal.”
His manager and close friend Ahmed Husnain explains that Khan has a uniquely deep sense of thinking because he is able to touch upon very close and relevant issues. People can easily relate to the experiences that Khan mentions in songs like “Lamha”.
“Everybody wants to be ‘cool’ but only a few people can be ‘cool’,” he says. “The youth is troubled by the things that they must have. Whether its girlfriends or clothes, there is this constant pressure to have something.”
Khan started playing guitar at the age of 16, but first came into the public spotlight when he recorded the song “Bachana” at home and then circulated it among his batch mates at university. It was during his performances on campus that his videos started being released on YouTube. His videos and songs spread like wild fire.
“Lums had a good music scene but I avoided it because I really just wanted to play my own songs not covers,” he says. “It was only in my last year that I started doing concerts and stuff with them.”
Khan, himself is pretty sure about his calling in music. He said that he had been influenced by both Indian and Pakistani music. The singer attributed his parents for introducing him to Indian music. As a teenager he was into Junoon and Noori. The Pakistani music improved his rhyme schemes for his songwriting.
“I am pretty certain about what type of music I am trying to do. I want to touch as many people as I can.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2011.