“Pakistanis really know how to party,” exclaims singer Janice Miller who recently moved to Lahore for an indefinite period from America. California-born Miller is an artist extraordinaire, who managed to make a career in desi music without being able to speak Urdu or any other subcontinental language. She has already performed twice in Pakistan for the non-profit organisation Development in Literacy.
The singer says that she developed an infatuation with desi music at a very early stage and discovered this love when her parents, who were musicians in their own right, moved from Bay Area, San Francisco to Ghana, West Africa in 1989. Her ardour triggered when she caught a glimpse of the Indian film Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in a downtrodden theatre and from then onwards Miller would do whatever she had to get her hands on all the subcontinental music that she could find. “I would sit with some friends with Pakistani background and have them say Urdu words, which then I used to write down in English,” says Miller.
Later she moved back to America and became one of the most sought after cover artists, routinely covering the likes of Noor Jehan in 1992. Her first major concert was at a Pakistan Day Parade held in Manhattan, in which she performed alongside Muhammad Ali Shyhaki and The Benjamin Sisters. Over the years, she has performed duets with Sajjad Ali, Alamgir, Atif Aslam, Hadiqa Kiyani, Fakhre Alam, Abrarul Haq, Shehzad Roy and host of other local artists. In the past, Miller has also performed for Akshay Kumar, Juhi Chawla, Anu Malik, Shahrukh Khan as well.
Her close association with subcontinental music influenced her dogma and gradually, over the span of time, she became inclined towards Islam. Miller eventually converted to Islam in 1993. “I have always had extremely Islamic habits. The funny thing is that all religious texts are the same on some levels, I have never understood why people are fighting over religion,” says the singer. Her first visit to Pakistan dates back to 2005, when former president Pervez Musharraf invited Miller to Islamabad for an exclusive performance.
Filling the gaps and perceptual disparity between the East and West seems to be her purpose in life for now. At the PFDC L’ Oreal Bridal Couture Week held recently, she met with a producer who wants to work on an original Punjabi song.
Miller, who is known for traditional classical performances at concerts, will diverge from her signature style by adding a little bit of English in her album Sentimental Moments. The album could be categorised as an 80s RnB soul album. She intends to release this lyrical concoction of East and West internationally in 2012.
Currently she is in talks with the parties concerned for a performance in an event being held for the Prime Minister of Bangladesh next year.
Miller is hopeful that the transition to the Pakistani market will prove to be profitable for her career. “People don’t know what I bring to the table until they have attended my concerts, I have lived my dream for the last 10 years through my live performances,” says Miller. “I have always been afraid of the media and I’m a little camera shy and this was the only road block I had to overcome.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.