LAHORE: It took more than a decade for Ali Ashraf, a singer and musician, to record his debut album Paheli after he released his debut single Sitam in 2004. The long road to his musical journey finally reached its destination when he collaborated with American producer Jonah Brockman for his upcoming album, which is a mix of progressive rock with a little bit of eastern influence. Although, a revised version of Sitam is also included in the track list, Ashraf doesn’t count its music video, made some nine years ago, as official because he feels it is “amateur and not one of his best works”. The singer further shared his experience of working on Paheli while speaking to The Express Tribune.
Ashraf pursued a degree in filmmaking from the UK and, soon after returning to Pakistan, started making documentaries for foreign channels on various social issues including Polio, education, IDPs. This experience helped him make the conceptual music video for his second track Zara Sa, that he released in April. “Normally, people want their first video to be commercially viable but I wanted to make something abstract, something that represents me. I thought of developing four characters that embody vanity, pain, desire and loss,” said Ashraf.
Revealing the reason behind a wide gap between his single and album, Ashraf said that he was waiting for all the right elements to come together. His quest concluded as he teamed up with Brockman, who is also a Michigan-based mixing engineer. “I heard some of Brockman’s music and his sound was very similar to what I wanted myself,” said Ashraf.
However it was the track Zara Sa that became a driving force behind his album. “When I sent an unplugged version of the song to Brockman, we started working on it back and forth.”
Following Zara Sa, Ashraf released two more tracks, Sahil in May and Chotay Qadam in June. All three of these songs are available on Patari: a music streaming platform dedicated to Pakistani artistes. The latter also marked the release of his second music video that was shot entirely in Kalash and Chitral.
Sharing his opinion on the current status of the music industry in Pakistan, Ashraf said, “From 2004-2010, music was on its boom but now there is a paradigm shift towards fashion.” He also lamented the death of royalties paid to the artists saying, “The social behavior towards music is inherently wrong. People aren’t willing to pay the artist. You need to make money out of your music to make more music and if you collaborate with a brand, you can’t maintain your artistic integrity as the brand has its own say.”
Ashraf also expressed his wish to collaborate with Amir Zaki and Salman Ahmed for his next album. He will be releasing his next single Tambaako Noshi Sehat Kay Liye Muzir Hay on August 5.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.
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