How Allama Iqbal and Manto inspired Riz Ahmed’s latest album

The singer's latest record 'The Long Goodbye' is about his breakup with his country

Entertainment Desk April 24, 2020

Riz Ahmed's latest album, The Long Goodbye, explores the aftermath of a break-up but it isn't your everyday collection of melancholic songs.

“The record is a breakup album – but with your country,” Dazed quoted Riz saying. “So many of us feel like we’re being dumped by the place we call home, a home that we built. This album takes you on the journey of this breakup; through the stages of denial, anger, acceptance, and finally self-love to counter the hate.”

Riz is popularly known for his roles in VenomGirlsStar Wars: Rogue One and Four Lions among others. But, the British-Asian artist has been releasing rap music since the mid-2000's. His latest album is accompanied by a short film that bridges Riz’s worlds as an actor and as a musician.

Following The Long Goodbye’s release, Riz revealed his inspirations behind making the album to the outlet. Among the six including  his parents, Yasiin Bey, Hassan Hajjaj and UK garage, Riz also included a story by Saadat Hasan Manto and a poem by Allama Muhammad Iqbal.

Toba Tek Singh, a short story by Saadat Hasan Manto

As for the inspiration he drew from Manto, Riz talked about the late poets popular short story called Toba Tek Singh, which is also the name of a song on his new album.

He said, "Toba Tek Singh is a place in Pakistan. The short story is about an asylum for the mentally ill, set in the year in which the Partition of India and Pakistan has taken place. The people who run the asylum are trying to work out whether the inmates go to India or Pakistan. It’s a metaphor for the lunacy, violence and the absurdity of Partition. One particular inmate refuses to choose sides between India and Pakistan and stands his ground in a no man’s land."

He added, "This ‘No man’s land’ is an important concept for me, one that I keep returning to in my work. I’m trying to take this no man’s land that people like me and so many more occupy in the world right now – people who can’t easily label their identities in one clear way, people who maybe don’t belong to either east or west, left or right – and make it habitable."

"That short story is really inspiring, because there’s this one person who says that the easy option is to pick a side, but has refused. It’s important to consider that maybe no man’s land isn’t no man’s land. Maybe it’s ours, because there are so many of us there. The second track on the album is called Toba Tek Singh."

He added that the the story of this break-up album is between him and the country he calls home. "On the track, I’m being cast out of my country and out of this relationship that forced me to make my home a no man’s land."

Shikwa, a poem by Allama Muhammad Iqbal

Riz added that the renowned national poet of Pakistan famour poem Shikwa, inspires his song The Breakup. Where Shikwa is a complaint to God, The Break up is his complaint to his homeland, Britain.

He said, "It’s really me, lodging my complaints and pleading with her not to end this relationship, or to conduct it differently than the toxic way it’s being conducted today."

As for Shikwa, Riz summarised, “The poem goes on to say, 'Hey God, look at the state of your people right now. Muslims everywhere in the world are being oppressed and in a really tough situation. What did we do to deserve this?' And God says, 'Well, you know what, you lost your way, man. You lost connection with who you really are, the core heart of yourself.'

He added, "It’s a very famous poem, and I guess, now, in the current context of world events, it’s a timeless one, even though it was written a very specific time and place (it was first recited in 1909 at a poetry gathering in Lahore)."

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