Saturday, February 25, 2006

Conquering the world - Atif Aslam


After the massive success of his debut album Jal Pari, and after his music was included in the soundtracks of Bollywood movies, Atif Aslam's songs have now been featured in the international production 'Man Push Cart', the film that was recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and also won the 'FIPRESCI Critics Award'. We caught up with Atif to ask him about his latest ventures...

Us: How does it feel to hear your songs in Indian movies and be recognized on the other side of the border?
Atif Aslam: Alhumd-o-lillah, it feels great. People call me from across the border and say that when they are sad my music relaxes them and helps wipe off their tears, and it's a blessing if you can make people happy and make them forget their sorrows. Secondly, it makes me feel that I have done something for my nation; beside your own recognition, people also recognize your country, and this has proved that our pop industry has the potential to create waves in Bollywood. I also feel that music has no boundaries and the more music markets you explore the more you learn, so it was a wonderful experience. According to their local channel Zoom, my song Woh Lamhay, is among the 'ten most evergreen songs of Indian film industry', which is an honour for me. The remix version is being played all over the world in all the clubs, discos, and theatres, which makes me feel very satisfied.

Us: How did the 'Man Push Cart' project come about?
Atif: We were approached by Ramin Behrani, the director of the movie 'Man Push Cart', from Hollywood. He got hold of my album through the hero of the film, and listened and understood my songs. The movie is basically the story of a singer, so I thought we must go for it. The story basically revolves around a Pakistani guy trying to settle in USA, who gives a positive turn to his life by exploring his talent of singing and that's where my songs come into the movie. The film got a tremendous response at the Venice film festival and was greatly appreciated by the president of the festival. Almost all the Hollywood celebrities attended the film festival which gave an extended exposure to my voice, and of course it's a matter of great pride for our nation as well that after Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Strings, God gave me this opportunity to show my talents there.

Us: New album: progress? When will it be released?
Atif: I'm working on it ... don't have a precise release date yet.

Us: Your videos have received a lot of criticism. Is there anything you want to say in response to that?
Atif: Well, I admit that the quality of my videos was not that good. Some people were stealing my songs, so I had to make the videos in a rush in order to save and register my other songs. But Insha Allah you will see some good videos now.

Us: Any particular directors you'd like to work with?
Atif: I think everyone is doing a great job. I don't have any priorities; anyone who can handle the subject of the song artistically would be a good choice for me.

Us: Looking at the music industry right now, where do you think it stands?
Atif: I think everyone is doing great right now. Our industry is just flourishing. It will take another five years or so for it to have a proper professional shape. Channels are helping newcomers in establishing their careers. But I would like to say to the newcomers that don't come in the industry just for fame and other benefits; try to satisfy your inner passion for music if you really have it.

Us: Are you interested in acting? Any chance we'll see you in a film or TV drama/play anytime soon?
Atif: Right now I'm concentrating only on singing. No ideas about acting yet, but I guess if I receive a good role, I may try it.

Us: Rumour has it that you've sold the rights of some of your songs. Is there any truth behind this whatsoever?
Atif: Rumours are rumours. Just don't trust them. My songs are mine.

Us: You've won the award for 'Best Upcoming Singer' at the Sahara Sangeet Awards, and the Indus Music Awards for 'Best Song', 'Best Composition', and 'Best Lyrics'. How much importance do awards and award shows hold for you?
Atif: It feels great to have won these awards. But I guess the biggest award and reward is your personal satisfaction and the love of the people you get in response to your music. Awards are a great tool to encourage artists, but I guess awards should have some merits and authenticity to some level through some experienced and honest judges.

Us: Any message for your fans?
Atif: Love you all! Keep praying and continue supporting me like this. We have to go a long way together. Your prayers have led me to this height and place. And I would like to express my profound wishes to my parents, brothers, friends, and fans.

Us: And our readers have chosen you as their favourite artist of 2005 in a poll that we conducted a few weeks ago...
Atif: Thanks a lot! Thank you all for your consistent support. Young people are the most energetic in their response in any concert at any performance. I love performing for the kids - they scream a lot, and that's the real enjoyment of a concert. Most of my audience is related to the age group that read this magazine. Just follow your passion till you master it!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 24th February, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

Atif goes international

After making his mark in Bollywood, Atif is all set to show his talent across the globe as his songs become part of the soundtrack of an international production

No matter what anyone says, the fact remains that the inclusion of his songs in Zeher and Kalyug soundtracks gave Atif Aslam substantial recognition in India. Ultimately, they ended up playing those remixes so loud that one could easily hear them from across the border. But now things are about to enter a whole new level and his voice is going to reach an even wider audience, as Atif's tunes have been featured in the movie that won last year's 'FIPRESCI (La Federation International de la Presse Cinematographique) International Critics Award'.

Atif's songs ended up in Man Push Cart after his album landed in the hands of the film's director. "The actor who plays the lead role in the movie (Ahmad Razvi) gave my CD to the director. Man Push Cart is an art movie on a Pakistani immigrant trying to settle in USA and how he rebuilds his life through his talent of singing. That's where my part comes in. The director, Ramin Bahrani, thought my music would be appropriate for the film, so he sent me an invitation and after the negotiations, three of my songs were included in the film."

The film depicts the life of a Pakistani immigrant who now sells coffee from his pushcart on the streets of Manhattan. The former rock star struggles for survival, eventually returning to music to get his life back on track. "The film was scheduled to be premiered at Rafi Peer Theater and Film Festival," Atif explained, "but due to some time scheduling issues, it wasn't. But it will be available here on DVD after some time." Man Push Cart is among the sixty movies (chosen out of some three thousand) selected for premier at the Venice Film festival.

When asked if he'd gone through the script of the movie before accepting this offer, Atif's very candid reply was that he hadn't. "As it was a matter of more exposure for Pakistan and for me, I signed it at a decent cost." But then, would he allow his music to be used in a film that he didn't like? He says he's at an early stage of his career, too young to be choosy when it comes to Hollywood movies. "I decided on this film keeping in view the story, but I guess if the production team is sound, then I won't have any objections to it, as they are more professional than we are."

The film uses the songs 'Aadat' as well as portions of 'Ehsaas' and 'Yaqeen', and for all the songs, Atif has been given credit. "They have mentioned my name along with all others who have been a part of the film's music in one way or another." And how does he feel about this project? "I feel very thankful to God and at the same time, I also feel a kind of responsibility and added pressure for my second album". His sophomore set is currently a work in progress and "raw version of some songs have been recorded."

And Man Push Cart isn't the only addition to his already impressive resume. "Recently, BBC sent me a letter, asking for permission to use my music in one of their programs about South Asia. It's a documentary of some kind on South Asian music and is scheduled for February–March 2006. I have allowed them to use my music."

So after success in the Pakistani music scene, Bollywood, and now even a touch of Hollywood, what's next? "To be very honest, I have never set targets. It's all just a blessing of God coming my way but I will be extremely happy if I can do something good for my country in terms of fame. I would like to do some projects with international artists, to learn more music and expand my horizons. I would like to add," he continued, "that people should learn to accept new things. Experiments will craft the shape of music in Pakistan. Encouragement will help artists to do their best and be in their best form."

As for those who think 'Aadat' has already been overused, redone and remixed to death, Atif doesn't agree. "I guess music doesn't have any boundaries. Only the audience in Bollywood has heard it so far. It should be spread more, as it is a 'generic' song." And at this rate, one wouldn't be surprised if they're playing 'Aadat' on the moon in a couple of years. Alert NASA, should we?

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News - 5th February, 2006