“The point of teaming up with American musicians is that there is no better way than music to let people from both sides know what each thinks about the other.” – Atif Aslam jams with Guns N’ Roses
Shahzeb Shaikh Karachi INSTEP TODAY, Karachi
As if being a huge success in Pakistan, India and desi communities across the world weren’t enough, Atif recently touched another milestone by collaborating with popular American rock band, Guns N’ Roses, a gig he landed through Todd Shea, who has been a fan since he heard Atif sing while driving up North a few years back. Instep Today considered it essential to get in touch with the pop icon regarding the project details. And that’s not all; Atif shared with us his candid thoughts on various music related subjects such as his collaborative video with Strings, the new season of Coke Studio, singers getting into acting, his most memorable recent gigs and his highly anticipated movie debut, #Bol.
Instep Today: Enlighten us about your collaboration with Guns N’ Roses? How did it happen?
Atif Aslam: I got a call from Todd Shea and he was telling me about how he had heard my song while driving up North a long time ago when he was helping the earthquake victims and shared his experiences of what he thinks about the beautiful people of Pakistan. I was amazed at his dedication for work and love for Pakistan as an American. When he spoke to me about this project where the Americans can see the real Pakistan by peace through music, I didn’t even give it a second thought. He introduced me to the great musician/producer, Mr Lanny Cordola and while I was on the tour, I recorded a song with the respected Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke (ex-members of Guns n’ Roses) and my band mates #Sarmad-Ghafoor and #Sameer-Shami.
IT: Please share with us the basic details of the project.
Atif Aslam: It’s about how the Americans should see a brighter side of Pakistan which they haven’t seen. This is why it’s called peace through music. The point of teaming up with American musicians was that there was no better way than music to let people from both the sides know what each thinks about the other. It’s not just going to be single song; it will be a documentary, a DVD that’ll include the backstage footage of the performances, studio shoots, etc. We will come up with new seasons every year.
IT: How many songs do you plan to make?
Atif Aslam: I have recorded a couple of them. One is in Punjabi and the other one is titled ‘Pakistan’. Then there is a beautiful melody #The-Dreamer-Awakes by #Lanny-Cordola that I’m going to be singing with different famous musicians and artists. In short, you never know, we might come up with 15 songs, 10 on the CD and the rest in the DVD.
IT: What’s the basic feel and genre of the album?
Atif Aslam: We can’t categorize a particular genre. Only the other day, I referred Musarrat Nazir’s classics, #Nusrat-Fateh-Ali-Khan Sahib’s qawwalis, Mehdi Hasan Khan Sahib’s music and some of the famous late ‘80’s music directors to Lanny.
IT: Why do you think you were chosen for this collaboration?
Atif Aslam: When I asked Todd as to why he chose me as the face of this project, he mentioned my voice being the main reason. After listening to me, he became a fan and then he started researching on me and found out that this guy is famous.
IT: Which were the songs that urged him to take you on board?
Atif Aslam: He didn’t clearly mention any particular song but I think he was leaning towards ‘Doorie’ & ‘Aadat’.
IT: Did your Indian ventures help you in obtaining this collaboration?
Atif Aslam: I think singing playback and coming out with two international albums has helped as they are released all over the world. Hence, you get the maximum exposure and you get calls from places like Suriname and Trinidad to perform where they hardly can speak Urdu or Hindi.
IT: What is the basic aim of the project?
Atif Aslam: The basic aim of the project is projecting a positive image of Pakistan globally. Also, a kid artiste Zille Huma, a student of Ustad Fateh Ali, sings amazingly well and has been made a part of this project. She can’t walk and Shea has been kind enough to bear expenses for her listening and learning music. We should motivate talented artistes like her. She will also feature in the DVD.
IT: On one hand you’re talking about capturing a positive image of Pakistan and on the other, you have included traumatic and shocking realities in collaborative video ‘Ab Khud Hi Kuch Karna Parega’ with #Strings. Isn’t that a paradox?
Atif Aslam: I just think that it is a wake-up call for the people of Pakistan that enough is enough ‘Ab Khud Kuch Kerna Paray Ga’. They should at least be positive themselves and stop criticizing others. About the video, I think this is what has been happening in Pakistan and is the reality.
IT: How was the experience of working with #Strings?
Atif Aslam: I had a great time working with the two most senior and professional Pakistani artists .
IT: You’ve been touring all over the place… tell us about your recent memorable gigs?
Atif Aslam: I had an amazing unplugged gig in New York. It was me, Sarmad and Sameer performing on acoustic, electric and the bass respectively. After having almost nine gigs in the US, we were knackered, but still ready to go to Colombo, Sri Lanka followed by Dhaka.
IT: Which one of your gigs has had the largest attendance to date?
Atif Aslam: There was a concert in Oslo, Norway which was attended by 75000 people including the Europeans.
IT: Meri Kahani was released a couple of years back. When are you planning to launch your new album?
Atif Aslam: To be very honest, I have no idea when I will start working on my new album. I have made rough sketches of my songs but right now all my attention is towards the peace through music project and its keeping me very busy. One of the reasons that I didn’t play in Coke Studio was this project, my debut film, four Bollywood songs, song with Strings and trust me, I didn’t want to over expose myself (smiles).
IT: What are your views on Coke Studio’s new season?
Atif Aslam: Except for the first episode which featured #Arif-Lohar & #Meesha-Shafi ‘s ‘Alif Allah’ and #Abida-Parveen ’s ‘Nigah-e-Darwaishaan’, I was disappointed. I am not criticizing all this because I was not a part of the season but the material was not up to the mark. Also, I think the collaborations need to be supervised. The musicians shouldn’t just be coming and playing for the sake of it. But credit goes to #Rohail-Hyatt for at least bringing these new bands and newcomers on board and creating the awareness of their existence.
IT: What is the difference between the present #Coke-Studio season and the one in which you appeared?
Atif Aslam: The collaborations could have been better. I think we should have different musicians in the next season. But, I am going to cover these mistakes in the project I’m working on by being a major part of the production as I am going to introduce new musicians and bands.
IT: What is the latest on #Bol?
Atif Aslam: The movie is in the process of editing but I don’t know exact release dates. I am playing a middle class person who is a doctor. It is a very controversial film and I hope people will react in a positive manner.
IT: Singers like #Ali-Zafar, #Fawad-Afzal-Khan (#Khuda-Kay-Liye) and yourself are turning to acting. What are your views on it?
Atif Aslam: My thought of coming into film is not to gain more fame. I have done the movie just because it carries a very strong message. I don’t consider myself an actor but if I can connect with the youth through a movie, then why not!
IT: Are you working on any new projects in Bollywood ?
Atif Aslam: I am not working on any of them right now. My concentration is on how to take out time for myself so I’m not working on anything.