Towards evening, as the time for Shafqat Amanat Ali’s concert approached on the third day of Mosaic Festival 2012, there was a visible increase in the hustle bustle in the Celebration Square. Before he could even come, the lawns were full.
Dressed casually, Shafqat walked on the stage amidst cheers, after being e introduction by none other than Sohail Rana.
The first song ‘ankhon ke sagar, le doobe humein ‘, was enough to drown the crowd into a Shafqat frenzy.
Then followed the khamaj “mora sayyan mo se boley naa,” which transformed the mood of an excited crowd into that of a sombre ecstasy.
Having talked to Shafqat in the waiting room, prior to the show, he had mentioned of his conviction for Indo Pak cross cultural exchange.
He had promised, “As such we artists contribute a great deal towards that, but I would consider myself very fortunate to support anyone who works towards making it into a reality.”
Carrying on that conviction in the crowd, he dedicated the third song, Ye Hausla, towards “India Pakistan Peace” amidst an uproar of applause for his dedication. By just this third song, the crowd had been immensely electrified. The words were powerful and seemed to reiterate his promise even more strongly.
“Ye hausla kaise jhukey, ye arzoo kaisey rukey. Manzil mushkil to kya, dhundla ye saahil to kya…”
I noticed a lady, sitting on the front most rows, reciting every song of his, verse by verse.
“You seem to be his diehard fan?” I asked.
Pat came her reply, “Yes, I love the imagination with which he brings fusion of different genres in his music. Though many of them are coming from Bollywood, but are yet not cliché’ Bollywood. It touches the strings of the heart. “ Sapna, as she introduced herself, is a new immigrant from Delhi, and takes pride, that she knows all the songs he has sung so far.
In the conversation earlier, Shafqat had told about his family’s experimentation with different kinds of music. He mentioned of how his father Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, excelled in Ghazal singing despite being earlier dissuaded as not deemed suitable to his classical background of Patiala gharana. He referenced the experimentation of his brother, Asad Amanat Ali’s with various forms, including Punjabi.
A soft spoken Shafqat Amanat Ali, to me was contrary to the image I had of him through his “Rockstar Ustad” image. I had expected I would meet a loud, talkative, rock star personality. Diametrically contrary to my image, he was extremely soft, and sombre not just in voice, but expressions and body language too.
Most of my questions, some serious, and some not so serious, were mostly answered by him with a uniform sobriety, with just a slight smile on the question, “Why did you take up a degree in Political Science?”
The smile followed with a simple answer, that “he was the first one to go to the University, from his family, and hence, without much direction being given, he followed, what his friends chose to study.”
Being a musician, to him was inevitable, as this is how kids in his gharana are trained from a very early age. “They are left with little choice to do anything else.”
If he is not doing music, what does he do? “I watch a list of movies, and sleep”, replied Shafqat.
We had been told by his manager that he loves food, especially desi food. So came my obvious question: “What’s your favourite food?”
“Biryani Saag” , was the instant reply, but with a quizzed expression on me, he preferred to explain, as “a relative unknown dish, being his favourite dish. It is cooked on occasions and in special deghs, by the cooks.”
The manager also revealed Shafqat’s love for nature. He reminisced of the time, when due to a beautiful foggy weather in Malaysia, they went for a walk, and during that stroll composed one of his most beautiful songs.
“Tell us something in this blog that you have never shared before, but would wish to.” I asked.
With an expression of hurt he shared, “ I was a rejected singer on PTV, and ….” .
However it hurt me too, to have asked that, so I switched instantly to, “What special message would you give to Mosaic Festival?” And his instantly opened arms and a flying kiss towards all the Mosaic volunteers standing around, did all the talking.
Back to the concert, each song that followed, further mesmerised the crowd . Half way through the concert, the jam packed crowd was completely electrified. The radiation of enthusiasm could not hold back an interactive Shafqat’s energy too, and he chose to come down into more proximity to his fans, shaking hands, giving them hugs and sharing the mic with them to sing.
Before he began the folk song “Main nai jana pardes biharwa’, he paid a tribute to Tufail Niazi, the great folk singer, considering himself fortunate to have re sung the song.
After almost a dozen melodious renditions, and with time to close, the crowd was too charged to let him go that easily. Amidst almost everyone screaming “one more” and “Eid Mubarak”, a bunch of threesome fans near the stage were screaming:
“Shafqat tussi great ho”…and out of modesty with no smiles he replied “Eidi chahiye?”
They were right behind me, so I turned and asked, “Any specific reason you say so, or is it just for more songs?”
Each one of the young girls, Chhavi, Saumya and Esha had different replies, which they literally had to scream out, due to the cheers all around.
“He’s versatile and very powerful.”
“Most soulful singer.”
“Kudos to him for bringing classical back to the youth.”
To convince the crowd, that it was time to leave, he even tried to parody “Aaj gaane ki zid na karo, dekho pit jaoge, aisi baatein kiya na karo”, but the verses fell unheard on the screaming crowd.
As I tweeted and posted a picture of the crowd on the face book :
Ilmana Fasih @ZEEMANA
Electrified crowd at #ShafqatAmanatAli concert #MosaicFest2012http://yfrog.com/kibnaboj
Almost instantly came a reply tweet from Pakistan:
One of the finest singers I must say “@ZEEMANA: Electrified crowd at#ShafqatAmanatAli concert #MosaicFest2012 http://yfrog.com/kibnaboj “
Just the way how an incredibly electrifying evening should come to a close, the last song, which he chose to sing, did actually help to pacify an emotionally charged crowd.
It was perhaps the most touching of his songs, I had ever heard. After hearing it live, at the close, meant, it would linger much longer in the head.
And as I walked back home after the concert, and unknowingly, I kept humming it all the way.
“Kuch ajab khel kartar key, morey Saeen Gharib Nawaz key,
Ek ko deeno mulak khajaney, ek bhikaari anaaj key. “