Pakistani singer Atif Aslam talks all things music ahead of Dubai concert

He discussed his evergreen fan-favourite classic 'Aadat', and sharing the stage with A.R. Rahman


Husain Rizvi

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Photos: Shihab, Supplied
Photos: Shihab, Supplied

Published: Wed 1 Mar 2023, 6:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Mar 2023, 6:54 PM

If you're a desi music enthusiast, there's no denying the fact that Atif Aslam's voice must have been your companion during all your romances, even the ones that didn't turn out to be fruitful. It makes you feel a certain way, and interestingly, even when you are not going through that emotion in real life.

There's Tera Hone Laga Hoon, a Bollywood number by Atif that you just had to dedicate to your partner. Then there's Aadat, the reprised version in 2005's Kalyug, that has helped scores of 90s kids heal from their first heartbreak.

Forget heartbreak, the song with all its intense emotions is such a hit that to this day it garners an audience. So when we met Atif Aslam at Firdaus Studio by A.R. Rahman at Expo City, it was quite natural to quiz him on the topic.

Atif is currently in Dubai, preparing for his upcoming concert, a collaboration with the all-women Firdaus Orchestra at Coca-Cola Arena on Saturday, March 4.

"I am just surprised," he says, referencing the fact that some of his old time songs are still a rage with people. "I am blessed and fortunate enough that they love my music and still listen to it because at one point in time, music sort of gets obsolete, but a classic remains a classic. Having said that, Aadat has a cult following and hence my fans call themselves 'Aadeez.' It is very difficult for them to detach from that song and they don't want that name to be taken away from them and I love them."

We know we're made to feel a certain way listening to lyrics from Atif's numbers, but what inspires him to come up with these lyrics? “Well, mostly my stories," he says. "How I would perceive having a conversation with someone else, how people have affected me, and how my life and music has affected their lives. Or sometimes, if I am listening to someone's story, I would write about that as well."

That is the case with Atif's own compositions, but when it comes to Bollywood numbers, most of the songs are written by other lyricists according to the situation of the films. "I am blessed enough to sing the Bollywood numbers as well as my own compositions,” he says.

It is almost like the role of an actor, getting in and out of character when singing songs penned by other lyricists. "You have to be the actor when you're in the studio," agrees Atif, who has done many Bollywood projects as a playback singer. "I don't much enjoy singing in the studios because it feels very claustrophobic and you're just confined to a certain place. But yes, you have to be in the actor's shoes and relate to the situation; what would they be doing at this point of time in the film; is it a love song? Or a sad song? So you have to emote the emotion."

Atif has been in the music industry for around two decades now, from his initial days in the band Jal to becoming a playback singer for Bollywood films, being a part of Coke Studio, and getting back to releasing single tracks and his fans have loved him through it all. So how does he measure his success. "My definition of success is entirely different from what most people think it is," he says. "It is not materialistic at all. We've been to places, performed pretty much everywhere in the world, and have played in great venues, but it is never enough. It is how you improve yourself, how you offer more to the audience. And for me, the success is to sort of connect through my music to the one above everything, who has created us. There's one piece that made us feel that way when we performed it live, Tajdar-e-Haram. And the rest is not important."

Fans are in for a treat when Atif performs his most popular renditions live on stage on March 4. "They (fans) can expect some of the new arrangements to our old songs, and some of the old songs that we have never done on stage," he says. "We have included them heavily in the set list this time around."

During the concert, the singing sensation will also pay tribute to music maestro and Firdaus Orchestra mentor A.R. Rahman.

Atif has shared stage with orchestras, but not with one as big as the Firdaus Orchestra. "We're playing with 32 musicians and everyone is phenomenal," says Atif. "I am loving the Arabic section, the flute player, our engineers, and everyone is amazing and doing a fantastic job."

When asked about his thoughts on A.R. Rahman, Atif recalled the time when he was invited to a concert at the studio. Rahman wanted to show him the facility and Atif was nothing less than impressed. "He's phenomenal," says Atif of Rahman. "So much credit goes to him because he believes in live music and orchestral music, which is sort of becoming obsolete. Kudos to him, how he has formed this band and made all these musicians from different cultures and countries come together. They sound very tight and unique, and yet they can adjust to all sorts of scores. I've grown up listening to his music and to be able to come to his studio and perform his songs, share the stage with him, is just unbelievable and unmatchable."

Atif's upcoming concert is his first international outing this year and the Pakistani singer feels fantastic and is excited and energised for his upcoming performance.

The Woh Lamhe singer also feels that there's no better place than Dubai for this concert. "It is because you get to see a lot of different cultures and hear very different stories from people," he said. "Some have met me long ago, some tell me about the progress, and some try not to like my music. And I appreciate all of them."

Atif is thankful to his fans for making him a part of their special moments, be it their break-ups, their love relationships etc. "Thank you for loving my music," he says in a final note to his fans, "I can't tell you enough how blessed I am to feel that I am a part of your lives."

Tickets to Atif Aslam - Live in Concert with Firdaus Orchestra, at Coca-Cola Arena on March 4, are available on Platinumlist.

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