I remember seeing Waqar Ali for the first time on Pakistan Television (PTV) channel when he dominated the Top of the Pops charts for seven consecutive weeks with his song ‘Paisay Anay Day’. With his quintessential sideburns and curly hair, he ruled the charts back then. However, little did we know, two decades later, the same musician will give us the original soundtrack (OST) to the celebrated Pakistani television serial ‘Humsafar’.
The journey between the two songs seems very simple now but the evolution of Ali into one of the finest composers in the country was not an easy task. “I had to struggle very hard to make my own identity in the music industry,” Ali tells The Express Tribune. Initially recognised only as Sajjad Ali’s brother, Ali had to create his own identity in the music industry. Interestingly enough, his real ticket to success turned out to be the ‘Humsafar’ soundtrack. “I love storytelling — television and films fascinate me,” says Ali. “I would have loved making music for Pakistani films but due to the conditions of the local film industry, music composers have to make do with dramas. Nonetheless, I have tried setting a new standard in this category.”
In 1999, when Ali composed the first drama OST for ‘Aansoo’, which was sung by veteran musician Ali Azmat, it became an instant hit. “Ali Azmat says that ‘Aansoo’ is only song of his that his father likes,” adds Ali laughingly. ‘Aansoo’ proved to be a major confidence booster for Ali as the private media boom of the 2000s led to a number of television serials being made, resulting in an equally large number of soundtracks being released.“Soundtracks were present in dramas like ‘Dhoop Kinare’ but they were never really a necessity,” says Ali. “However, after the success of ‘Aansoo’s’ soundtrack, it almost became a necessity. I am proud to be that trendsetter,” exclaims Ali.
‘Aansoo’ was followed by some major hits by Ali amongst which was the very popular “Mera Naam Hai Mohabbat” — a song that was copied in a Bollywood film called Life in a Metro and won a few awards in India. Surprisingly, this doesn’t bother Ali much and instead makes him rather happy.“I am glad that we have come to a level where Bollywood has started copying our music but we have copied their music more than they have copied ours,” confesses Ali.
Despite the fan following he has across the border and the number of friends he has in the Bollywood music industry, Ali has no plans of going to India or music for their films. “Whenever I have visited India, I have realised that they don’t know any of our artists as our music is not aired on their TV channels,” says Ali. Stressing the importance of new talent, he reveals, “It is time for us to start sending talented people from Pakistan to the rest of the world so that we get our due recognition. Quratulain Baloch (QB) is a great example.” It is QB’s voice and Ali’s composition accompanied by phenomenal poetry that has made the soundtrack of “Humsafar” one of the most popular soundtracks of 2011.
Interestingly enough, Ali has not restricted himself to composing drama serial soundtracks, he has composed many jingles for different programmes and advertisement. From the catchy tune of “Good Morning Pakistan” to a number of other morning shows, Ali has composed music for all.
While Ali has his fingers crossed for the music of some upcoming Pakistani feature films, he tells us that he has his own wish as a musician as well, “once in my lifetime, I want to make music with a Philharmonic orchestra — this is one of my ultimate goals”.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2011.