Musician Amir Azhar, who has played the wingman in the music industry for artists such as Ali Zafar and Mekaal Hasan, has finally burst onto the music scene with his first single “Sacha Naam Rab”.
The song, which also features Sanam Marvi, is a soulful Sufi number that combines eastern traditionalism with western melodies and instruments. “It relates to us as human beings and promotes the idea that to tell the truth you must have a pure heart,” says Azhar who wrote the first stanza of the song while he was staying with Mekaal Hasan Band (MHB) in India. The rest of the song is written by Mubashir Hasan.
“When I was in India for a tour, these words kept spinning in my head ‘Sacha Naam Rab Da’,” he further explains. “I capitalised on my spiritual mood and recorded everything that came in my head in my mobile phone.”
Azhar’s journey into mainstream music can be categorised in three major stages. During stage one he was an underappreciated session player, making music for Punjabi films such as Chooriyan. His luck however took a sharp turn when he scored session gigs with Ali Zafar and Abrarul Haq. Finally, it was Mekaal Hasan, who permanently introduced him to the Pakistani music industry as the leading bassist of MHB. His time with the band polished Azhar as an artist, so much so that he has now become a musical powerhouse who can produce, compose and sing as well.
Azhar produces and composes at his A and A studios during his free time especially when he is not travelling with MHB. The musician-cum-composer, who has worked with big shots like Ali Azmat and Ali Haider, is currently producing Ali Abbas’ album. When asked if he enjoys singing more than producing for other artists, Azhar says, “I enjoy making music but this time around a friend heard my voice and told me to sing the song myself.”
Coupled with Azhar’s high pitched notes are Sanam Marvi’s traditional Seraiki Sufi verses that add to the density of the track. “The thing about Sanam is that she has a pure Sufi voice and she provides this almost alap (slow, rhythmless exposition of the raag) feel to the song,” adds Azhar, who has known Marvi for quite some time. Musically, Azhar says he stuck to westernised melodies such as guitar rifts, drums and the simple bass because of his personal preferences.
The video of “Sacha Naam Rab” is directed by Adeel PK, who is the son of famed film writer Pervaiz Kaleem. The video speaks about the old concept that human beings are defined by the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. “Human beings can fly like the wind or burn like fire, but the video shows that in the end we all have to go back to earth,” says Azhar.
Azhar, belonging to one of the gharanas who have played music for generations in Lahore, shares that gharana music is dying which is why such musicians have started to come into the spotlight in recent times through fusion music. “I have said this before as well, people from the gharanas can’t leave music,” Azhar explains. This is the reason why after facing a low demand for gharana music, these musicians have started evolving themselves to suit modern day music standards.
He believes that the media has played a positive role in highlighting their talent but also attributes a certain inherent perseverance amongst the old families to keep on trying to find their mark in the music industry. He also highlighted how artists such as Mekaal Hasan have restored flutists such as Muhammed Ahsan Pappu.
Azhar says that he will keep trying to find his place in the modern music industry. The positive response his first single has garnered has given him the encouragement to release another track titled “Behtahb Dil Koi” which, according to him, will be reminiscent of the sweetness people found in the music of ‘70s and ‘80s.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.