Abdullah Qureshi – On the Musical Highway

  • 07 Oct - 13 Oct, 2017
  • Mariam Khan
  • Interview

"I was six when I went on stage for the very first time, and won the first prize in a singing competition. I was so nervous that, I didn't open my eyes for even a second throughout the performance," and that is the moment of joy which Abdullah Qureshi thinks motivated him to continue with music, 'seriously'.

Growing up, Abdullah would continue practicing this 'hobby' of his. "I used to stand in front of the mirror holding a badminton racket because I thought it looked exactly like a guitar," shares the vocalist who had 'never seen or touched the guitar at that time'. However, he tried making his own version of the instrument. "I remember making my own guitar by taping together a few pieces of wood, it didn't work out though," he recalls animatedly.

Here, Abdullah points out he did not belong to a family that had a musical background. "No one ever told me as a kid that music is something I could seriously pursue, so it was just a hobby till college, but I never stopped practicing," and the continuous drill is what he believes helped him later on.

Singing since the age of four or five, Abdullah "never took any kind of vocal lessons", but now is when he plans to take them. It was at the age of 12 when he picked up his first acoustic guitar. And here, he shares "before that it was just me playing drums on my books with pencils".

When asked what his muse on penning lyrics is, Abdullah reckons, "One can never write music forcefully; it always comes to you naturally; you have to wait for some inspiration to take over. There are also days when you want to write something, you might spend a whole week thinking, and just can't do it because there's something missing and that something is called inspiration."

Sharing notes on his own self, the soulful individual marks out himself as a 'stubborn person who will do what he wants to do'. He is one who enjoys spending time with his primary circle. "My day is very chill. I wake up late, laze around, listen, play and write music (not every day, those days are rare and memorable), I try my best to spend some time with my family and like staying out with friends till late at night so I can wake up late again the next morning."

The instrumentalist points out what he plays. "I play the guitars, drums and percussions. I really want to start learning the piano now; it is such a beautiful instrument," he expresses.

Having composed Tere Liye, Pardesi, Intezaar and Dastaan, Abdullah elaborates the 'stories' behind them. "Pardesi was total fiction; Intezaar was a friend's story which I completed; Tere Liye and Dastaan are my personal stories," the songwriter states.

One of Pakistan's qawwali maestros, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is whom Abdullah is greatly moved by. And one of his hamd is what this very singer did a cover of. "I always felt like reciting Wohi Khuda Hai because it moved me every time, and I decided to cover it," he adds. Having released it in Ramzan, Abdullah feels, "It's just a humble tribute to Khan sahab by someone who is greatly inspired by him," shares the entertainer whose cover was immensely appreciated on social media.

in his early days, Abdullah played in a number of bands. "Aghosh, Zynk and Angry Birds were a few bands I played with. They were all underground bands and the music was very different from what I play now," and as he speaks, he reminisces his first band performance, "it was a battle of the bands in Pakistan National Council of the Arts and we sounded so bad that we came last."

When asked how he would describe the state of Pakistan's music industry, Abdullah says, "Serious measures need to be taken in terms of record labels. We have so much talent in our country but no one knows about them because they have no releases, and the main reason behind that is the lack of money to get their music recorded and the lack of direction," he laments and as if to prove his point, he adds, "So many talented musicians message me saying that they love playing music but they don't know how to kick-start. I try to give them the required advice but there's not much I can do beyond that, since I have my own music going on too." However, he asserts that "ventures like Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement are great platforms for any kind of musician in Pakistan," and according to him there should be more quality shows like these to keep the music scene going strong.

For him, there are a blend of artistes who he listens to, so he isn't inspired by any one. "There hasn't been one inspiration, there were always many artistes. I grew up listening to Pakistani music, got into western music in my teens, but I don't stick to one specific genre of music, I try to keep my listening very broad which is very important for someone who has to write and compose music," he highlights.

When enquired if he would like to lend his voice to Bollywood like many of our other artistes have done, Abdullah says, "I think Bollywood is a huge industry which has one of the biggest audiences in the world, and any artiste would love to work there if they get the opportunity, so why not?"

If not a songsmith, this graduate of Mass Communication with a major in film-making, Abdullah sees himself in the garbs of a film-maker or working in an ad agency. But does he see himself as an actor? "No, I have zero passion for acting. Also, I need to concentrate on music right now which is all I'm passionate about. I know I could get some face recognition by acting in dramas and so many people have suggested me to do that, but my goals are not about selling my face; it's about giving the world a taste of my music."

In a world that has a soaring social media, Abdullah shares the important role the new medium plays in the promotion of music. "The concept of music has changed from cassettes, CDs and TV to social media. No one wants to go buy an album or wait for a song on TV, when you feel like listening to something, it's all on your fingertips."

Currently, Abdullah is working on singles. "I do plan on releasing an album, but not anytime soon. Right now, I'm just concentrating on singles," he reveals further adding, "I might go abroad to study music for a year or so but I'm still confused about that. But till then I'm planning to release my own music here and playing concerts all over Pakistan and internationally too," Abdullah talks about his future plans.

Wherever he plays, this young performer is received in a good cheer, and this scribe was witness to the merrymaking back on a chilly evening in January 2014 when he played at the LUMS Carma.

The crooner who has fans all across the country has had many fan encounters, but there is a memorable one which he likes to mention. "There was this fan who celebrated my birthday at her place with balloons all over the room, a cake which had candles that were letters of my name, birthday cards with my pictures on it, party poppers and what not. She partied all alone, there was no one else and all of this was video-taped and uploaded. Kind of scared me at first but then I realised how much she must've loved my music," he mirthfully shares as his friends wait for him to get done with his interview for they have a night planned out.