Abbas Ali Khan needs no introduction. Although he disappears from the music scene quite frequently, whenever he returns he makes sure the wait for his fans was worth it by delivering a completely unique spin to his music.
His style stands out — a little unorthodox yet simple and easy to interpret. Khan speaks to The Express Tribune about his latest track, a pop-rock rendition of Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s mesmerising kalam “Man Kunto Maula” from his unreleased album, the “Sufi Synthesis Project.”
“This is a very contemporary version of ‘Man Kunto Maula’. I used the original tune but added some new parts as well which I composed myself,” said Khan. “But I request people to not compare it with Abida jee and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s renditions as their versions are different. This kalam has been sung in various styles [mostly qawali] over the past 800 years.”
Many artists have sung their versions of this qawali, including maestros such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen , the Sabri brothers , Munshi Raziuddin and even Atif Aslam who tried his luck in “Coke Studio” by altering some parts. While Khan admits that it is a challenge to tackle a song which has been done by many great names, he manages to pull it off smoothly by working within his limits as a singer and thinking as a well-organised composer.
Speaking of his album the “Sufi Synthesis Project”, Khan explains that he will be releasing it in a rather unconventional manner. “This [Man Kunto Maula] is my first track out of a total of eight which I will be releasing every month — not just an audio but a music video.”
“The dynamics of our music industry don’t encourage an album release — unfortunately only those songs in an album are noticed that have a video,” said Khan in a disappointed tone. “Therefore, I have decided that I will only release singles from this album and later compile them into a CD and release it as a complete album with possible additional tracks.”
He then elaborates on the video of his track, which he successfully directed himself. “I had a clear vision of what needed to be done, so I decided to direct the video myself,” he said, proud of his accomplishment. “The video depicts symbolic imagery as I think no side story would have done justice to this kalam — as a result we decided on a performance-based video with motion graphics.” His rendition also features the great Alan Smith (who has worked with bands such as Junoon and Karavan) on the drums, who adds value to the well-composed track by monitoring every minute detail with Khan.
Although the video received a decent response on YouTube, it would’ve done much better if it were released during Ramazan as compared to Eid. Regardless, Khan has done a fantastic job with the video with regards to its concept and quality, highlighting his skill as a director.
At the end, Khan wanted to especially thank his management team LUSH for supporting him throughout the project and says that he will be treating his fans to another video of the “Sufi Synthesis Project” very soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2012.