‘We are way ahead of Bollywood when it comes to vocal texture’

Composer Waqar Ali moots local film music and why the Indian playback model doesn’t work for us

Hasan Ansari October 10, 2015
Waqar feels the quality of films is essential for raising the bar of film music. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: Waqar Ali is an innovator in his own right. The composer-turned-singer-turned-composer is the Pakistani music industry’s man with the plan and there is ample reason to validate the title of ‘Baba-e-OST’ that has been bestowed upon him by those who have seen his rise and shine over the years.

Until the turn of the century, the concept of singles accompanying opening and closing credits was still alien to the Pakistani drama industry. Things were no longer the same once Ali Azmat’s Ansoo aired on screens. The song allowed Azmat to put his signature falsetto singing to full use and spin magic into the TV serial of the same name as the track. The composition was pieced together by our very own Waqar.

Read: Elia Waqar: part of a legacy, not a gharana

Almost 15 years on, the model has evolved into a full-scale industry of its own, allowing singers into a parallel playing field. Waqar however feels we are yet to produce a proper playback singer. “The playback singing model never worked with our singers. With the amount of diversity in their tones and styles, there are no singers whose voices fit the male or female lead models,” he tells The Express Tribune.

Talking about what works well and what doesn’t when it comes to film OSTs, “Most of the film songs that gained popularity are mainly qawwali and ghazals. Similarly, rock and pop also go down well with the audiences,” he says. Waqar feels Pakistan can never emulate the Bollywood style of music and he makes his point quite aptly. “Bollywood songs focus heavily on film situations and romance. Meanwhile it is quite unnatural seeing the hero sing in an extremely melodious and different voice. The two just don’t go together,” he adds.

Sharing more from his stream of thought, Waqar goes on to say that not a single Pakistani singer can be termed a playback singer. “No female singer’s voice fit appropriately with the heroine. Nor Madam Noor Jehan, neither Naheed Akhtar nor Mehnaz. Us Pakistanis have very strong vocal chords and unlike our neighbours, we talk very loudly,” he quips in a rather loud voice. Waqar maintains we are way ahead when it comes to textured voices. “We need to stay within our particularities and produce music accordingly.”

He feels the quality of films is essential for raising the bar of film music. “It thrives on the make-believe format of film. As it evolves, so does the music accompanying it.”

Having worked on the soundtrack of comedy film Wrong No. with his daughter and understudy Elia Waqar, he quickly turned his attention towards his next project, Khalid Khan’s film Zehr-e-Ishq. Spilling the beans over the job, Waqar says it set to feature leading vocalists like Sunidhi Chauhan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Sajjad Ali. “Sajjad bhai has recorded a very different rock song for the film.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.

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Kishan | 5 years ago | Reply The sooner everyone realises that we are two nations and its best to move on and live like neighbours, the better. Let them do their thing, while we do ours. All this Aman ka Tamasha is pointless. They worship cows, we eat them. Enough said!
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