Sunday, June 17, 2007

Interview: Abbas Ali Khan speaks out on why we haven't seen much of him

"Initially, every artist needs to be placed at the right shows.

In my case, my management company failed to place me anywhere."

– Abbas Ali Khan speaks out on why we haven't seen much of him.

With the music industry of Pakistan slowly and steadily spawning various styles and genres, artistes like Abbas Ali Khan have a chance to heard and appreciated. There is a definite market for them, but unfortunately, the music industry hasn't wisened up as to how to market talent. Abbas Ali Khan had felt that heat. Yet, he has made an impact. The videos of 'Sun Re' and 'Malal' still continue to be aired because of their superior quality. The album has sold, but even so, Abbas Ali Khan still hasn't done rounds of the music circuit. Yet he keeps chalking up achievements.

Abbas Ali Khan has been nominated in the Best Album Category for Sun Re in the Lux Style Awards. He's working on a show called Meet the Stars that features Bollywood divas like Bipasha Basu and Priyanka Chopra and he has a new album coming out shortly. He speaks with Instep about being shortchanged and yet making the best of his situation. You definitely cannot keep a good musician down!

By Maria Tirmizi

Instep: You have been nominated for the Best Album category in the Lux Style Awards. How does it feel?

Abbas Ali Khan: Getting nominated for any award is always very exciting as one gets a feeling that his work is being noticed and appreciated.

Instep: You're nominated with Atif Aslam's Doorie and Ali Zafar's Masty. What do you think your chances are of winning?

Abbas: I really don't know how these awards work, i.e., if it's a viewers' choice award or if there is any jury behind it. If it's totally viewers' choice, then I'm sure this battle is between Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar. But if it's based on a jury, which includes musicians and critics or even someone who understands what 'sur' and 'taal' is, then I guess I have a chance. I'm not saying that Ali and Atif's music is bad. I like their songs and often listen to them. I'm just saying that they target a very different audience, or should I say masses, whereas my music is targeted towards more mature music listeners.

Instep: Keeping in mind that your music is quite different than, say Sajid and Zeeshan's One Light Year at Snail Speed, also nominated in the same category, what do you feel about different styles of music lumped together in the same category for an award?

Abbas: Yeah exactly. It's totally unfair. I should have been in a separate category but along with Sajid and Zeeshan and Arieb Azhar. Though our music styles are different, what we have in common between us is the fact that we are all targeting mature music listeners. I believe it should have been something like a category for Best Commercial Album and Best Alternative Album. By alternative I'm not referring to the genre of music but an album, which is different from what's going on in the mainstream.

Instep: How do you think your album Sun Re was received in the market?

Abbas: Whoever listened to it, loved it. Despite the miserable promotion for the album, it did very well. It had something for everybody. Sun Re was a compilation of different genres that I have been inspired with while growing up.

Instep: Are you satisfied with the way Indispensable Communications marketed your album?

Abbas: 'Market' is not an appropriate word because whenever you market something, you promote it too. But in my case, it did not happen. So I would say they just released it. Would anyone be satisfied if they make a good product and just because of the bad promotion, it doesn't sell the way it should have? Plus, despite the promises of an international release, they failed to even take me to India, whereas so many upcoming bands are doing so much over there. But I would say that the distribution, if not great, wasn't that bad. I didn't have any problems with the availability of the album.

Instep: Your videos seem to have a big budget, larger-than-life feel to them and arealways well received. But you've had very few concerts. Why is that?

Abbas: My videos don't have a big budget. They are just executed very creatively and the credit goes to my director Shehryar Hydri and Omair Hyder and to myself for postproduction--in short Mystic Media. We spend a lot of time on video colouring and visual effects. We make sure the lighting is right. That's why we take at least a month to work on one music video.

About the concerts, it's true that I haven't been performing much. The dynamics of concerts and public appearance is a totally different ball game. This is where your management company steps in. Initially, every artist needs to be placed at the right shows. In my case, my management company failed to place me anywhere. They should have arranged promotional concerts throughout the city so that the people could see me on stage, but that never happened unfortunately. I have gotten offers from US too but they want to give peanuts and I'm not selling my self short. I believe in the fact that if you want me, you gotta pay the price. Otherwise, I'm not dying to perform for nothing.

Instep: How was it like working with Tariq Amin? Are there any plans to work with him in future as well?

Abbas: Tariq Amin is a gem and an amazing stylist. I would love to work with him in the future, especially when it comes to wild, crazy, innovative concepts such as 'Malal' (the video).

Instep: You have a Special Edition Album out. Why did you feel the need to do that?

Abbas: Well, since I had the remix for 'Malal' and 'Teri Yaad', I thought why not release it with a different cover and call it Special Edition instead of just putting a sticker on saying bonus tracks. If you notice, the new cover has a lot of photos from my videos as well as my biography up till now. So I thought that would be an added attraction for the listeners apart from the new songs.

Instep: What is your involvement with Mystic Media?

Abbas: I own Mystic Media along with my partner Omair Hyder. I take care of all the animation and graphics section and Omair takes care of the production and direction.

Instep: You remixed 'Malal' yourself and also co-directed the video. Are you also an
aspiring DJ and music video director?

Abbas: DJ as in live mixing and all? No I'm not really good at it, but yes I'm into music production. Right now I'm working on a song with Annie (Princess) which is quite different from the stuff that she is into. Though I don't get involved with the direction on set for music videos but I have a lot of involvement in the preproduction and concept development for my own videos and for videos that Mystic Media produces. But I would love to direct videos in future as well.

Instep: Are you working on anything right now?

Abbas: I have just done a title song (lyrics, composition, music and vocals) for an upcoming show called Meet Your Stars with Bobby Khan Holdings, which is an India/UK based company.This program will be on air soon and includes Indian film celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra, Yana Gupta, Katrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu, Vivek Oberoi and Arjun Rampal. We plan to make a music video for this song soon which will be directed by Bobby Khan, who has over 350 Indian music videos to his credit, along with events such as Zee Cine Awards '98, Screen Videocon Awards '98, Sansui Awards '98, Zee Cine Awards 2002

Instep: Do you plan to start work on a next album anytime soon?

Abbas: I have already started work on the next album which I plan to release by the end of this year or maybe sooner.

Instep: On a lighter note, how do you look back at yourself dressed up as a hip hop star with the fur coat and all that 'bling-bling' for 'Sun Re'?

Abbas: I left my styling for this video totally on Tariq Amin. I said yes to whatever he said because this was the first video in which I was actually getting styling done. I had something totally different on my mind when I went to Tariq. I wanted to come on screen as I really am with some semi-formal outfit and that's it. But Tariq wanted to do something totally over-the-top. So I said okay, let's go for it. When I look back at it, I don't regret anything. In fact, I believe that apart from the song, my styling was another thing that really got noticed, though it got some mixed reactions. (Laughs)

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