Monday, September 8, 2008

Will Pop prince Ali Zafar grow up to be a king?

The boy who would be king

Pop prince Ali Zafar has proven at Coke Studio that his vocals go much beyond his love for Channo and his stint with Masty. Will the pop prince grow up to be king?

Maheen Sabeeh, Karachi

Rohail Hyatt's magnum opus project, Coke Studio, managed to prove quite a few things about the music industry of Pakistan and its collective power.

The most surprising factor on the show had to be Ali Zafar, the young pop prince as he is fondly referred to.

There have never been any doubts about Ali Zafar's capability as a singer. For songs like 'Channo' and later 'Huqa Pani' and 'Rangeen' that put him on the musical map for the youth of Pakistan, other numbers like 'Aik Pal' and 'Jugno Se Bhar Ley Aanchal' - all of his debut record Huqa Pani - proved his mettle as a singer.

But Ali has mostly been about the young, fun side of music. His most successful songs are just that. Whether it is 'Masty' where he lived his childhood dream of flying or a Casanova in 'Rangeen', the videos and the music have been about the energy and youth of Ali Zafar. This factor made him one of the most relatable musical acts around for fans.

Veteran singer Alamgir once said that Ali Zafar is the complete package, with looks of a movie star and manners that make him a dream for girls and an inspiration for boys.

But beyond the youth, there is another market of Ali Zafar. The 40 year old age group and above who often attend his shows to see him belt out old hits of Kishore Kumar. Not every pop star can pull it off. But Ali Z has always managed with natural ease.

On Coke Studio, one saw Ali Zafar perform some of his most well-known, much-loved tunes. But it was 'Allah Hu' from Khuda Kay Liye OST that he sang with Tufail Ahmed that stunned everyone.

Ali matched Tufail in verses and hit notes that were powerful to the hilt and ultimately mind blowing.

It proved that of all the pop singers around, Ali Zafar is the only one besides Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, whose vocal range allows him expansion few can dream of.

Ali Z has the kind of voice that gives him an edge over most commercial musicians.

His last two albums, Huqa Pani and Masty, do show these vocal ranges but on a few songs. The rest are often dominated by the sound, and at other times, the bouncy nature of the songs themselves. That doesn't make his tunes any less interesting and powerful.

But, after two albums, it seems the time has come when Ali can turn towards a more serious side. It doesn't necessarily mean loose all the fun and charm that has now become the staple of Ali Zafar. But more songs like 'Allah Hu' that showcase Ali Zafar's voice than anything else, in all its power and glory, should ideally be a part of his new record.

After 'Allah Hu', he has entered a new league, which few can be a part of.

And fans have proven that they are ready.

On a poll conducted on the Coke Studio website, 75 per cent people voted for Ali Z's 'Allah Hu' as their favourite. On another poll, which was held after the 'Best Of' episode of Coke Studio aired, fans again voted for 'Allah Hu' as their favourite.

It was tripped-out and hypnotic and the entire Coke Studio team put together this number but it was the voice that was the defining factor for many.

"Ali Zafar was fantastic on Coke Studio. 'Allah Hu' was just impeccable. I didn't know he was capable of this," says Imran, a 24-year-old.

Another 21-year-old, Nida held the same view. She says, "Ali Zafar's songs are fun but 'Allah Hu' was like a different singer altogether, so mature, and so powerful. I was really surprised."

For musicians, experiment can often work out. After all, Huqa Pani was just that. Bollywood-meets-Arabic dance-meets-pop were some of the genres that defined it.

Ali Azmat's Klashinfolk maybe picking up slowly but hardcore fans have lapped it up. Even Ali Azmat's debut Social Circus, a 360-degree turn from everything Junoon ever did, worked out nicely for the rock star.

The latest example is of course, that of Strings who took a drastic turn from soft, sonorous pop to sharp, addictive rock and rewrote their own hits such as 'Jab Bhi' and 'Jab Se Main Ney Tumko' and took them to different levels altogether on Koi Aanay Wala Hai. And it worked out for them rather nicely.

Between Masty and Huqa Pani, Masty is the record that shows off the more restrained side of Ali Zafar. Songs like 'Janay Na Koi' and 'Aasman' are well-written numbers that work not just for their soft notes but for the words that bring hope and inspiration. The process has already begun for Ali Zafar and with Coke Studio, Ali Zafar showed off to the world what he's capable of… and its solid stuff.

The timing is just right. Music industry has collectively turned 2008 into one of the best musical years we've seen in a long time. From debut acts like Zeb and Haniya and Azal to veterans like Shehzad Roy, Ali Azmat and Strings, it's been a time of experiments, diversification and true-blue gems. And if anyone can add to these names on his own, it is Ali Zafar. So here's hoping that the third album shows us all more magic that Ali Z's vocals can create!

Source: The News International - No. 1 English Newspaper from Pakistan - Saturday, December 30, 1899

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