Catching up with
Amanat Ali Khan
Post-Kohraam, Amanat Ali has his heart set upon making it big in playback singing.
By Maliha Rehman
“I love Shah Rukh Khan. I would love to sing for him some day. While I was a contestant in Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,
Shah Rukh Khan once came as a judge and he told me, ‘The world is my fan but I am your
fan.’ Hearing that was such an honor. I think that is the best compliment I have ever received.”
– Amanat Ali Khan
When I call up Amanat Ali Khan for an interview, Shafqat Amanat Ali’s ‘Khairiyaan De Naal’ plays as his ring tone. I mention this to him later and he enthuses, “I love that song. Shafqat Amanat Ali is one of my favorite singers.”
In the course of our interview, I discover that Amanat Ali is just as exuberant about all his favourites. His favourite singers also include Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Atif Aslam and Sajjad Ali while his favorite actor on any given day is Shah Rukh Khan. “I love Shah Rukh Khan,” he asserts. “I would love to sing for him some day. While I was a contestant in Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Shah Rukh Khan once came as a judge and he told me, ‘The world is my fan but I am your fan.’ Hearing that was such an honor. I think that is the best compliment I have ever received.”
That’s Amanat Ali for you. A remarkable singer himself, he is generous with his compliments – a novelty in the competitive, backstabbing world that is the Pakistani music industry. The 22-year-old singer’s career so far has the makings of a fairy tale. At the age of 18, he was selected to participate in Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’s Pakistan-Middle East challenge. He subsequently won the contest and was invited to participate in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’s global competition, alongside 75 other contestants. In this contest he eventually ranked second-runner up in India and first, according to the international votes. During his tryst with Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, he won over judges and fans alike. When he sang ‘Hangama Hai Kyon Barpa’ in the show’s ghazal round, judge Jagjit Singh commented that he had left all the other contestants far behind. Following the show’s finale, he participated in three world tours with the likes of Atif Aslam, Kailash Kher and the Bachchan clan. On returning to Pakistan, he released his debut album, Kohraam.
The ease with which he rose to stardom is probably the reason why he has such an unguarded, trusting attitude. “I haven’t had to work my way up from the lower wrungs of the music industry,” he agrees. “Luckily, even prior to the release of my first album, I already had fans from all over the world through Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. I didn’t have to experience the politics involved in trying to establish a career in singing without any outside connections. Unlike other newcomers, my career so far has been relatively smooth sailing. Now, though, I am beginning to notice the hypocrisy in the music business. People aren’t what they seem to be. I returned from India and renowned musicians came up to me and commended me. Post-Kohraam, they’re no longer as congenial. Suddenly, I am their competition.”
So, how does he plan to deal with this competition? “I am just going to work hard,” is his simple solution. “I invested a lot of effort into Kohraam, trying to make it as diverse as possible. The album includes contemporary songs that will please everyone and more classical, raga-based songs for true music aficionados. So far, two videos have been released; of the title track ‘Kohraam’ and of ‘Thumri’.”
He has also sung a song for the soundtrack of Indian movie Dostana. I ask him how he’s faring in Bollywood post the Mumbai bomb blasts. “The Mumbai blasts definitely made things difficult in the beginning,” he says. “Some of the Indian playback songs sung by Pakistani singers were re-sung by Indians. This happened to one of my songs also. Now, slowly, the situation is improving. I have recorded songs with Ismail Darbar and Vishal Shehkar that will be releasing soon. Even prior to the Mumbai incident, there has always been an underlying tension towards Pakistanis amongst the Indians. As a contestant in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, I had a very strong fan base. Still, when I sang a Pakistani patriotic song ‘Ae Watan Pyaare Watan’ in the show’s 15th August patriotic song special, the very people who had idolized me, turned against me.”
So, does he plan to continue pursuing a career in India? “Of course,” he asserts. “I can reach people all over the world through the Indian media. Their channels are aired everywhere while only a handful of our Pakistani channels are available in areas like Europe and the U.S.A.”
With Kohraam due to release in India in December and a concert tour planned soon thereafter, I wonder what Amanat Ali wants to concentrate on in the future – solo albums or playback singing? “Playback singing is my first love,” he reveals. “In Pakistan, this ‘album culture’ is more popular but in India, people are more fond of listening to Indian movie songs.”
It seems as if Amanat Ali has his heart set upon making it big in India. Pakistani singers like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Adnan Sami Khan have gained a strong foothold in the Indian music industry. A longer list of singers have returned back home without much success. Whether or not Amanat Ali manages to leave a mark across the border, only time will tell.
Source: INSTEP Magazine