Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, Pakistan
Last year, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, the voice behind Bollywood hits like Mitwa and Yeh Haunsla, had told us that he'd love to do a concert for Aman Ki Asha. And now he is! Delhi will see the Lahore-based scion of the Patiala gharana perform on February 13 with Shankar Mahadevan at the scenic Purana Qila, in support of Aman Ki Asha, a joint initiative of The Times of India and the Jang group of Pakistan.
"I've known the asha for aman since I was a kid," says Shafqat. "But as for the campaign, I'm always up for anything for the cause of Indo-Pak unity."
His association with Shankar, who straddles the worlds of classical and popular music with just as much ease as Shafqat, goes back a while. They've created magic together with Mitwa from Kabhi Alvida Ne Kehna, and have also performed together in the US last year. "He's one of those very confident and talented composers who know what they want from the singer," says Shafqat. Does it make a difference if the composer is also an accomplished singer? "Of course it does. Other composers who can't sing find it difficult to make singers understand how they want a particular song - the taans, etc. But if the composer himself can sing really well, then he can sing and tell you how he wants it," says Shafqat. "Plus, Shankar is a lovely person, very light-hearted, very welcoming. His presence exudes an energy that makes you really comfortable being around him."
With the warmth and success he's got in Bollywood, the noise that some people in the music industry have made over Pakistani artists doesn't faze Shafqat. "Everyone has the right to say what they want to, but these people are a minority. The people who want to bridge the gap, bring us closer, are stronger. And with neighbours, there's no language barrier, no cultural differences - hamari toh gaaliyan bhi ek si hain!"
"The people who were here for the India-Pakistan match in Lahore will tell you they had a fabulous time. When people in Lahore found out they're from India, the cabwallahs didn't charge them, everyone wanted them to come and have dinner... The kind of people who're trying to make Aman Ki Asha a success are more important than those who have a negative mindset."
Shafqat has performed in Delhi many times, and he says that only a city that "gives you your energy back" can tempt you to perform there again. "Delhi reminds me of Lahore, my home, they're like twin cities - whether it's the people or the roads. Performing in Delhi is always great fun," he says.
Shankar Mahadevan, India
Shankar Mahadevan has worked with Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan as a composer, and the association has produced some magical music. But it wasn't accidental - Shankar and his composer partners, Ehsaan and Loy, had heard Shafqat's voice on the radio and set out to find him. "We heard him on the radio a few years ago in a song called Aankhon Ke Saagar, and Ehsaan, Loy and I really loved his voice. So we decided to try him out, but we didn't have his number, so we called the RJ of the radio station we'd heard him on and found his number and contacted him," Shankar narrates.
These two virtuosos, one from India and one from Pakistan, inhabit similar spaces - they both do mainstream music as films and pop, but they're also both well-known as classical singers of a high calibre. "Plus, he's also a lovely person, very chilled out, has a good musicality," adds Shankar.
No surprise then, that, they've made music and also performed together. "We did a tour called Aman Ki Asha in the US, where we performed separately and did a song together," says Shankar. Like Shafqat, he says that it makes a difference if the singer you're working with is also a composer. "When we know that a guy is classically trained, and himself a composer, we give him freedom to contribute to the song, his voice, his inflections - Shafqat's contributed to the songs he's sung," he says.
But besides this effortless association, what change has Shankar seen Aman Ki Asha bring about, since he's been associated with it right from its inception (he's sung the title song for the campaign, Nazar Mein Rehte Ho)? He says, "Whenever we connect musically, on any platform where there are Indians and Pakistanis, we meet so many people who are locals in places like Dubai and the US, etc. And we realise how much the people love us and our music. We never think of the negative emotions that are normally associated with the mention of India and Pakistan in the same breath. I've grown up listening to Ghulam Ali Khan saab and Mehdi Hassan... It's difficult or us to see it like that. It's too big and complicated to comment on politics and the confusion that's created," he says.
It's the simple things that bring people together, he says - things like music. "From our side, that's what we can do, like doing music for Aman Ki Asha. Each one of us can do the simple things first," he emphasises. And which other Pakistani artists does he like to listen to? "Oh, so many, Abida Parveen, a fantastic singer called Javed Bashir, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat...."
The Shankar-Shafqat concert is going to be held at Purana Qila in Delhi on February 13, from 7 pm onwards.
Courtesy: The Times of India
Friday, February 11, 2011
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