Interview: Moazzam Abbasi
Hair and Makeup: KR Crew
Photography: Khawar Riaz
You are not only the queen of the local music industry, but happen to be the only big female pop star. Why aren’t there more female singers from good families out there? How have you managed to retain this monopoly?
This is something that has always confused me. I fail to understand why here is no influx of good girls into this field especially since I have already paved the way for them. Girls from solid family background can take up singing as a full-time career. Nevertheless, I have seen some really nice girls performing on the various local channels – such as Indus Music – ever since I came back from the states recently as I’d gone there for while to take a break. I am sure that with the passage of time, they’ll reach where I am today. I did not reach this position in one day: it took years of hard work and perseverance. And as far as having a monopoly is concerned. I don’t think I have a monopoly in this field. There is no such thing from my end. At the end of the day talent can’t be hidden.
People claim that you blindly do whatever your brother Irfan tells you. Don’t you have a mind of your own to decide what’s good and what’s bad for you?
It’s that wrong perception that I don’t use my head and that Irfan makes all my decisions for me. Yes Irfan decides certain professional matters on my behalf. I have given him the authority to make decisions regarding my music career. I feel I am blessed to have a brother like him. This job is difficult and I don’t wish to take the extra burden.
So did he warn you before you entered into the wrong relationship with Hammad, your ex-husband?
I remember when I was getting engaged. Irfan took me aside and told me that he wasn’t getting the right vibes from Hammad’s family. It was I who took the final decision and Irfan stood by me. I have no regrets I feel any girl would have taken the same decision at that point.
When did the first cracks appear?
On the very day of our marriage, his family never accepted me as a singer. It was all right if the family was against my singing but I need the support of my Husband. All I wanted him to do was to tell his family to give me due respect as a human. Over the years things never improved and there eventually came a time when the relationship went completely numb.
Did the breaking of the relationship change you as a person?
It did. It has matured me as person. Now I realize that it is better to have a broken relationship than to have a disturbed one. If a couple is unhappy together then they must get themselves out of that painful situation. My divorce has made me a stronger person than I was. I feel I can face any difficult situation now. During my married days I always wanted to settle down, had the hope and confidence that things would work out, but they did not. I have understood that life has its own mysteries, which fail to understand.
So hope and confidence both took a beating?
That’s true, but I have no regrets because I made a sincere effort . Such things happen with people, I am not the only one. I remember I used to wait for hours for him to come and talk to me on a one-to-one basis. I wanted a transparent relationship. I was a human who could feel joy and sorrow like every other human being and yet he did not open up and share his feelings. There was always a shield around him, which made me feel as if I was being deprived of the attention that I deserved. I think he knew I wanted his time but he simply ignored me for some reason that I still don’t know. I had no choice left but to walk out of his life forever. I remember it was a bleak period but it is over now. Yes, I have walked out of the relationship with my heart bruised and battered, but with my head held high.
Are you bitter about your relationship going sour?
I am not bitter. It’s just that I didn’t expect it to end this way. I loved him a lot and I don’t change my affections, certainly not after years of a relationship that was warm and intense. Hammad is a wonderful person and I still maintain this. Few have the capacity to give like he has and I am sure he feels the same for me. Today if we are no longer together, it’s fine. I think we were struck by the destiny of things that turned events so completely.
Do you think there might have been somebody else is the scene?
Let me say this clearly: ours was a tight, close and sincere bond. Any third party would never have been able to break it off of even endanger our relationship. We drifted apart for our own reasons. There is no point in searching for a triangle to explain our breakup. It’s just that the love we shared could not stand the travesties of circumstances.
So where do you stand now?
I would like to wipe out the said memories of my life but since one can not. I have to move on from there – admit to myself it was a weakness and then move towards strength. I refused to let anyone condemn me for it. At the same time I will not carry the burden of guilt or shame for the rest of my life. It’s a part of existence and I don’t feel that least bit tainted.
Maybe if he was famous like you thing might have been different. Or did he not believe in the equality of genders?
I don’t agree with that. Relationships grow , prosper and remain stable when they have a foundation of reality; and when the plain fact is accepted that there is no such thing as an ideal relationship it’s better to know that before it is too late. You see, the highest form of love comes from wisdom – wisdom that society passes from one generation to another, that remains unwritten but never broken. This is because the whole development of civilization is based on moral values. To have a successful wife is no crime but to have no respect for her profession is breaking the law.
What is love then?
Love is not live if it is self-seeking, vainglorious, adulterous and proud. Love is patient, kind, preserving, and above all a commitment, somewhere someone has written. “If I have all the genius and talent in the world yet have not in my heart the true concept of undefiled love, then I am nothing but a loud and empty cymbal deafening the world by with my noise.” very well said!
So have you discovered the formula of love now?
I am sure Beethoven must be smiling at me because the Zen of the magic box still remains a mystery to me.
Let’s move on the work front. Most Pakistani Singers – Like Abrar , Shehzad Roy , and Jawad Ahmed – are doing noble deeds – serving the nation one way or the other. Do you have any plan in that direction?
I think there are no hard and fast rules. I don’t want to go with the flow and do what others are doing just for the heck of it, or that person is doing it so I should do it too. Not my style. I think social work is a very personal issue and it is the intention that counts and not the gravity and magnitude. In my own personal way I may be doing it but i don’t like to publicize it. However, I truly appreciate and acknowledge what the others are doing. Right now I have no such plans. I will do whatever God holds for me.
Music today has become too commercial. Isn’t this really alarming?
I personally don’t like it, as it tends to make the songs look more like glorified ads. But there are no two ways about it. How long can we make videos with our own money? And when a multinational is putting its 20 lakhs in a video , they like their product being highlighted. But I think there is a proper way to commercialize. Like in my song ‘Inteha-e-Shauq’ and ‘Dupatta’ Pepsi was the sponsor , but it doesn’t really show. It should never look contemptible. Even in ‘Bohey Barian’ Lipton backed the video but we used Lipton Cups in just one scene , and that too in such an artistic way that it doesn’t stand out.
It seems you are quite superstitious. The names of all there of your albums begin with ‘R’: Raaz , Roshni and Rung. are you really?
No I am not superstitious I just felt like having all the names starting with and ‘R’ – to make a hat trick, I suppose. I named my new album Rung even though there is no song in it by that name. But I like the name and it was exciting to have all three with an ‘R’. But the next time it probably won’t be with an “R’.
It is to be believed that you have not only sing in urdu but have also sung a couple of regional songs. Are you trying to be another Runa Laila , as she was known to be a multilingual singer?
I think Runa Laila is a wonderful singer, but to say that I’m following in her footsteps is a bit far-fetched because I don’t believe in it. I would rather have my own style than to copy someone else’s. But, I do appreciate other singers as well. I think Sajjad Ali has a great voice; I think Abida Perveen sings amazingly well, but that’s about it.
You once had an axe to grind with Adnan Sami Khan for not using your voice in his album and preferring Asha Bhosle to you. Is it true that you have still not forgiven him?
I think it was childish on my part to be cut up with him. Let’s face it, I was a nobody at that time, so if he was getting Asha Bhosle, why would he go for me? I would have done the same thing. So let’ put it this way; if you look at it from my side then I had the right to be hurt , but if you see it from his side he made the right decision.
From Raaz to Rang what difference do you see in your music?
My thought pattern hasn’t changed much obviously. It has matured with time. I have explored different areas and discovered new directions in music. I have experimented with ballads, soul, folk, and funk. So, in Rang I have concentrated more on the expression and lyrics. Unlike in the earlier albums, where I only focused on the music and ideas, Raaz was totally pop while Rang is more somber and the ideas are more profound.
Many Pakistani Singers are making their way to greener pastures in India. Is that a positive sign?
I don’t think from the political perspective. I take India as a place where people love music and appreciate artists. I have no objection to this. I take people as listeners and if there are music lovers in India, then why not. If you can go to US or UK for your recording or videos, then why not India? Politics and arts can’t go hand in hand. Music should not have any boundaries and artists should not be limited. Art is totally about creativity. It has got nothing to do with politics.
So don’t you ever think of going there and expanding your market?
Whenever I get a chance I will avail it.
How would you compare our current pop scene with India’s?
There is no comparison between the two. Their music is very filmy and ours has so much variety. It’s unsullied and different.
They say that artists here are not given due respect. Do you agree?
Of course I do, and it is very disturbing. All over the world artists are respected for the work that they do, but here it’s a different ball game altogether. Take Nazia Hassan for instance: She was the pioneer of pop music in Pakistan but we all have forgotten her.
Do you fear your end will be the same?
Of course it will be the same. I can material gain. People can sink to any level just to stay at the top. But I know its all temporary, and it will fizzle out sooner or later. And only music keeps me going. And the faith that I am loyal and honest to my work, doing it with all my heart and soul – this keeps me sailing.
You have worked with a number of video directors. Who do you think is the most talented of all?
I think they all are good but I really enjoyed working with Jami and Asim. In fact, I think Asim takes a lot of pains when he is working. I have never seen anyone working with so much dedication and perfection the way he does. But I think all the directors have their own distinct styles and it’s always fun to work with them.