Asfar Hussain – Expressing feelings through music
Hailing from Pakistan`s northern areas, Asfar Hussain started school from the Langland College, established by the famous Mr. Jeffery Langland. Since childhood, music had greatly interested him, perhaps more so because he was brought up in a house where everyone was a music lover. His father is a poet, his elder brother is a singer and his cousins play several musical instruments. In Chitral, small musical sittings take place where people gather in a house and singers are called, these gatherings are called bazum in Khowar (Chitrali language).
In intermediate part I, he got the highest marks in the whole Chitral division but in FSc. Part two, he got extremely less marks. Asfar got disheartened, opted for Arts subjects and he applied for Musicology. His father supported him and did not object when he applied for NCA, and Asfer considered himself to be very lucky indeed. When he got admitted in Musicology, everyone would ask and make fun of him, they would say who would study music? What’s there to study? People would call him names.
But when I appeared on TV for the first time, everyone was surprised and it was then that they all thought I was actually doing something. That is when the stereotyping changed!’
Many things have changed since then. It is general perception that stars live in luxury and do not have the ways of normal people. However, Asfar does not believe so. He still walks around in Kolhapuri chappals and pajamas, and absolutely loves his normal life.
‘I like my normal life. It is in my blood and bringing up; people of North are generally humble and down to earth.’
Asfar started Nescafe Basement in 2012 in its pilot season. In the auditions, he sang a song he had himself written, another was someone else’s kalam that Asfar had composed, and they really liked both. They instantly selected him, and they were asking for his opinion on selection. That surprised him greatly!
In Season 1, Asfar did 6 songs including Waqt, Hamesha, Toh Phir Aao, the last two songs, Raaz-e-Khuda and Toh Kia Hoa were his own. Along with writing his own songs and composing them, he plays Rubab and guitar as well. He was then asked to return for Season 2, where he performed Tere Ishq Mein, Sub Bhula Kay and Akhiyan Udik diyan, all of which got extremely popular.
‘According to Nescafe Basement’s policy, they do not sign you for consecutive three seasons, so in Season 4, they called me back and I sang Gorak Dhanda and Kitni Sadyan.’
After Season 2, Asfar was part of a project which later turned in to a band and he came up with the name Bayaan. He writes his own songs and they are his expressions, so Bayaan was an ideal name for the band.
‘The first ever song I wrote, I wrote it for people, I put people in my mind as my priority but it did not work out. Later I wrote for myself, whatever I felt, I wrote and those songs went pretty well. People liked them. Till now, I haven’t been able to find a middle ground for myself and people!’
Besides his family’s inclination towards music, Asfar himself had probably wanted to be a music star since forever. He has several inspirations varying from Udit Narayan to Sonu Nigam. In modern artists, he is a fan of Atif Aslam, Jal & Ahmed Jahanzeb. When it comes to ghazals, Mehdi Hassan is his inspiration, along with Abida Parveen, & Ghulam Ali.
Asfar believes his songs to be more about social evils. He cannot write until he actually feels something. There are lyricists who write for a given, predefined situation like movies, which is an art in itself, but Asfar does not think he can do that. For him, feeling is essential. According to him, poetry is actually all about expressing one’s feelings.
‘I remember when I was writing Farda, which is about hope; it took me around six months to feel the hope and then write.’
Asfar’s contribution towards his country might not yet be so great, but the fact cannot be denied that not many youngsters go towards music or Urdu poetry writing. Through his work, he has become a role model for several students from Chitral, and he tries to be of help to them. He has one primary purpose: to invite youngsters to question whatever is in the society and think about the social issues and that they should realize and try to change. For him, it is very important to be humble and realize subtle things.
‘When Allah has given us the right to question and the power to think, why should we not? He is near us, very near and I sometimes used to feel Him talking to me, and that was the reason I sang songs like Gorak Dhanda and Tere Ishq Mein.’
Specifically in Chitral and generally in Pakistan, music is not taken as a very socially acceptable profession but he strives to change this. In Chitral, people are more open to the idea of sending their children to music more because they have someone to look up to, someone who has proven that music is not as bad or non-serious a profession as it is thought to be by some people.
‘People should not be judged on the basis of their religion, nationality, race or color.’