Asif Mehdi, 41, the son of legendry ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan was recently in town to perform live for ‘Music For Peace’ on 10th December 2009 at the FICCI auditorium, Delhi, as a part of Zee News initiative in association with ICCR and ‘Routes 2 Routes’ to spread peace and harmony across the subcontinent. The concerts will also be held in Amritsar, Lucknow and Hyderabad from December 10-15 and would include prominent artists like Asif Mehdi, Jagjit Singh and Bhupen Hazarika.
A prominent name in Pakistan music circuit, Asif Mehdi is a thorough gentleman and a class performer. He mesmerized one and all by belting out evergreen hits of his father Mehdi Hassan in a musical extravaganza that included ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’, ‘Pyaar Bhare Do Sharmile Nain’ and ‘Bulbul Ne Gul Se’ - to name just a few timeless classics. Asif Mehdi talked to Aman Kanth of Spicezee.com about his love for India and its rich culture.
Aman: Asif saab, welcome to India. How does it feel to be performing in India?
Asif: Thank you. I have been coming to India since 1983. My father Mehdi Hassan was born in Luna, Rajasthan. India is a lovely place and just like home to me. In fact, my waalid (father) will be coming to India in August – September 2010, though he will not be performing because of health concerns.
Aman: Being the son of legendary Mehdi Hassan, comparison is but obvious. How do you deal with it?
Asif: (smiles) Yes there are comparisons, but you see, people like Mehdi Hassan are born once in three or four hundred years. Even today, wherever I go to perform, people still want to hear the ghazals of legendry Mehdi Hassan. However, I would especially like to thank ‘Routes 2 Roots’ for providing me an opportunity to come and perform in India.
Aman: Over the years, times have changed and so does the popular taste. How popular are ghazals in today’s context, especially in India and Pakistan?
Asif: Talking in context of India and Pakistan, the basic problem lies in understanding the language. People in Pakistan understand Urdu and herein lies the real pleasure of enjoying ghazals. Still, there are huge takers for ghazals and classical singing in India.
Aman: What goes into the making of an aesthetic ghazal?
Asif: First of all, the poet’s imagination should be seen. After then, one should focus on lyrics and then music. When all these ingredients are available, only then one gets a complete ghazal.
Aman: Do you think ghazals have got their due recognition in comparison to other musical genres?
Asif: I firmly believe that like western music, ghazals should also be promoted. Classical music is thousand of years old and it will never die. However, it is necessary to promote it among today’s generation. I believe that media should play a vital part in promoting ghazals and classical singers. Indigenous culture is not being promoted and in therein lies the responsibility of media. It should play an active role in popularizing ghazals and classical music.
Aman: How do you find Bollywood? Are you willing to work for it?
Asif: Two years back, Sony Entertainment approached me and we did record a twelve-ghazal album. However, post 26/11, the album could not see the light of the day. But now, it will be releases anywhere around February – March 2010. Infact, Bollywood music director Ismail Darbar has also shown keenness to work with me once the political unrest subsides. It’s my heartfelt desire to sing with Lata Mangeshkar, something which she herself has promised me.
Aman: Your favourite singers from India?
Asif: Some of my favourite singers and musicians from India include Hariharan, Talat Aziz, Jagjit Singh, Ismail Darbar and Shankar Mahadevan.
Aman: New generation does not have many ghazal singers. Why so?
Asif: Ghazal and classical music has many takers. I recall one of my tours in Australia where people came to me and said that there was hardly anyone who sings ghazals properly. Nowadays, people want to become instant singers. One should never forget that classical singing requires dedication. The real problem arises when non-professionals take up professional singing.
Aman: Do you believe in music-based reality shows?
Asif: Reality shows are drama. No doubt that it promotes singing talent, but it has its pros and cons. It is good that people are recognized, but they do not get the right platform.
Aman: Do you think music can restore peace between two nations?
Asif: Even today, almost ninety percent of people in Pakistan listen to Indian music. Music is the ambassador of peace. Music is all about harmony, love and affection. It is the politicians who create differences. If I have my way, I would like to erase the boundaries between India and Pakistan!