With Love From Lahore
Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, ex-vocalist of Karachi alt-rock band Fuzon, releases second ballad-heavy album
In the early noughties, when a rash of classic Bollywood remixes had released in India, there were bands across the border that were breaking new ground. Alt rock band Fuzon from Karachi, formed in 2001, was one such band. Fuzon was perhaps the only band that could reach the bar that Strings, the immensely popular rock group also from Karachi, had set. At the core of Fuzon’s sound were the powerful, classically trained vocals of Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan. Khan, who belongs to the ninth generation of the Patiala gharana, embraced rock and yet, retained the purity of his classical roots, nailing the perfect balance for Fuzon. The singer quit Fuzon in 2006, and went on to release his debut solo album Tabeer, two years after.
Last month, he released Muhdikhai”¦Unveiling The Songs Of Eternal Love, his second album, a meditation on love, and from the sound of it, Khan has not let go of his rock leanings. The track “Sun Lo” from the new nine-track album, with feisty distortion guitar riffs and angst-filled vocals, is perhaps the biggest nod to the now defunct Fuzon.
In India, Khan also shot to fame as the voice behind hugely successful Bollywood film songs including “Mitwa” (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna; 2006). Says Khan over the phone from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, “I come to Mumbai very often. I have a lot of friends here ”“ Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Sajid-Wajid. Even when I’m not recording with them, whenever I come to the city, I give them a call.”
Khan’s own music shows is filled with luxurious, orchestral sounds. “Dil Dhadak Ne,” from the new album, is all strings and piano, “Ratiyaan” is like a majestic background score to a mystery thriller. “Tere Liye” and “Dil Kookey” break the rock-ballad-meets symphony-
“Rang,” a soothing celebratory number shows off his classical chops. But it’s the title song that Khan is closest to. “It is a hardcore Punjabi song. A lot of people that speak the language might have a tough time understanding it. No film would ever include a song like this in the soundtrack. But I have taken risks as an independent artist,” he says.
When I randomly pick “Tum Nahi Aaye” from the preview tracks that I’m emailed of Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan’s new album, and push play, the intro of a classic Viennese waltz begins with a soaring string section. I recheck whether the song is indeed from his album. It is. While it is not uncommon for ghazal/classical singers to marry their gayaki with contemporary music that a layperson can relate to ”“ Pankaj Udhas and Asha Bhosle have been doing an excellent job of it for decades now ”“ this composition and the ones that I subsequently listen to, may cause the boundaries that you might have built in your mind to help you make sense of all things musical, come crashing down.
Even a cool adjective such as genre-bending doesn’t explain the fuzziness of it all. Says Khan, “When you think of ghazals, a certain idea comes to your mind; the conventional pattern usually, which involves tabla and harmonium. I wanted to change that. I wanted to do things differently.”