It only stands to reason that Bewajah singer Nabeel Shaukat Ali raised the curtain on this year’s Coke Studio. Having risen through the ranks over the years, his debut song on the show reverberates with his untiring passion for music. It’s a twist of fate that Nabeel, winner of Indo-Pak singing talent show Sur Kshetra in 2012, took centre stage on Coke Studio in the same episode as his Sur Kshetra team captain Atif Aslam.
“I’ve won three talent competitions so far but Sur Kshetra made me the man I am and Coke Studio gave my career a further boost,” said Nabeel. “Where Sur Kshetra made me prove myself, Coke Studio gave me the break to show my originality and identity to the world,” he added. He landed a spot on this season’s Coke Studio after he shared a few songs with the show’s producers Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia (Strings), and his ghazal Bewajah resonated with them the most. Of the creative freedom he was given for the song, he shared, “The final recorded version of Bewajah is not the one I presented to Strings when I pitched it to them. They allowed me to fully experiment with it along the way,” added the 25-year-old.
Displaying Nabeel’s soulful intonation, the quintessential Pakistani pop-rock song fuses classical instruments, such as the flute, striking a chord with those acquainted with the concept of unrequited love. One of the most striking components of the song is its lyrics, written by Babar Shakeel Hashmi, who Nabeel approached in Dubai. “Babar is a good friend of my father’s and he gave a few [poetry] options to me, out of which I liked Bewajah. He’s very happy with the song and has been receiving appreciation for it from across the world,” he revealed.
Nabeel shared that he’s planning on working with Babar in the future and currently experimenting with songs written by him. He further said, “I’m working on a song titled Kooch, which is a Punjabi love song that I might release in India.” He also intends on working on a few more singles and releasing an album by year-end.
Speaking of other projects, Nabeel is gearing up for his next stint on Coke Studio, the song Chan Chan, for which he’ll collaborate with Ali Sethi. The singer, who also has OSTs for drama serials such as Shukk to his credit, hopes to lend his support to the fledgling local film industry and establish himself as a playback singer.
“I’ve done two songs, Dheeray Dheeray and Nachay Mann, for the film Wrong No. and will record one for Humayun Saeed’s film Jawani Phir Nahi Aani,” stated Nabeel. His music mantra is simple and speaks volumes of his humility as a performer. “One should strive to become an artist and not a star because fame accompanies hard work. Only true artists become legends,” he said.
Nabeel began singing in 1997 when he entered and won in the child artist category in a show in Dubai. He continued doing live shows until 2011 when he auditioned for season two of song competition Azme Alishan, which he won and where he got the chance to perform in front of Strings, among others. Following this, he honed his singing skills by being trained from Ustad Ghulam Ali Shan. “I believe versatility and being able to sing every song are my strong suits because I have a wide palette in music,” he explained.
His inspirations include the likes of Bryan Adams, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Madam Noor Jahan, Sonu Nigam, Ali Azmat and Atif Aslam. “I listen to my seniors as well as juniors because there’s something to learn from everybody.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2015.