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There are some singers who can revive something that seemed now buried in the sand. Atif Aslam is one of these but his is not sand but pure Hindukush dust.
Atif Aslam was born in 1983 in Wazirabad, a small town in Punjabi on the border with India. Few could imagine that the boy could ever have become one of the singers symbol of the new Pakistan. At 21 releases the first album, Jal Pari, “mermaid” which will soon become a hit of the entire Indian subcontinent, managing to involve all the inhabitants of the former British India. The success is not long in coming and since 2005 he has been in the Bollywood tour for which he has written several soundtracks and also starred in the 2011 Bol film. Meanwhile, his musical career progressed one success after another and in 2008 it was the turn of the first tour in the States, one of the greatest hits ever for a Pakistani singer.
The key to Atif’s success is in style. In fact, he is the first to introduce a new way of thinking about music in his country. First you had to decide: chants in the western, for Bollywood or Sufi music, all 3 together not possible. Atif has shown that in music, the mix of styles pays off. In his music there is everything that was not possible to mix:
- The melodies are quite simple and immediate even for those who do not understand Indian music, with western tones both as a presentation and as a disposition.
- Obviously there are all the characteristics of the most popular Indian music: refrains, a sometimes exasperated sweetness and a dynamic of the videos taken by Bollywood. It is that sense of trash that Westerners are looking for in Indian music, as naive as it is particular to our eyes.
- The last aspect is the Sufi part, perhaps the most veiled of his music. Atif Aslam is Muslim, and from the name you can see, not only, he was born in one of the parts of the world where Sufism has become more established, led to reflect on its presence in the continent of the thousand gods. Sufi music is what many Pakistanis use to reflect and reach levels of meditation never seen before. Part of Atif’s music goes in that direction, not all of it though. On the other hand, it would be stupid to throw all the most beautiful pearls immediately. His pieces with this mold are, however, that, to my taste, it is really worth listening to. Aslam does not bring many of them but what he does are to be listened to late at night, lying on the bed to reflect.
Atif Aslam is one of the most popular singers in Pakistan but he is also one of the few who has been able to make his music universal, opening for the first time to 3 ways and 3 cultures. If you are curious to learn more about Indian music, you cannot do without him.
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