Posted: 09 July 2005 at 1:44pm
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Najam - changing strategies?
Once the voice of the angst-ridden youth, Najam Shiraz has come a long way. From being banned on PTV to being aired reciting religious poems is a change that speaks for itself. Has this man's fire been completely snuffed out? Or as he would put it, has he 'moved on'? Osama Zafar caught up with him to find out where the artiste is headed ...
His was a voice like no other. Najam had really inspired many in 1997. When people were talking only about the misdoings of the past establishment, this man actually had the courage to sing against it. Funnily enough, his songs were still being aired then, sans the anti-government lyrics.
Later, he was banned along with few other artistes as 'Pop trash'. His album, Roop Nagar, still stands out as one of the best alternative albums that I have heard. He had earlier portrayed a lot of raw anger in his songs. If you listen to the song Sona Chaahta hun you will realise it. But after his last album (sponsored by a tea brand), Jaise Chaaho Jiyo, this had completely changed. He now looked completely out of fire. And he sat down at the lobby of the hotel for a chat.
After the success of Jaise Chaho Jiyo, your latest album, what is the future like?
I think I have already moved on by doing Yeh Maamla koi aur hai which has now become a universal message of peace and brotherhood. The first Muslim channel in America, funded by the American government (Bridges Television), is now running this Hamd (poem written in praise of God) with English text. It has gone beyond what I thought.
In your early days, you were pretty much regarded as an angst-ridden youth. You were the big voice - starting from Sona chaahta hun all the way till Khazana, and then Roop Nagar. Now, you are into peace messages and Hamds. How did such a change come about?
I think I am a much bigger voice now because I can reach out to the older generation, to the labour class, to the masses because this hamd has taken me to those crowds that I never dreamt of reaching out to. So, the voice has grown bigger. My recording results are much better, and my latest work ... you'll be amazed to listen to it ... how mature has the voice grown now! I've recently done a composition for the (Mahesh Bhatt) movie Murder called Bheegay Hoant (sung by Kunal Ganjawala) and we're launching the video of the original version. The original version is in Punjabi, and we'll also do a punjabi song Rabba tera ki jae ga. So keep looking for the new stuff, and you'll be amazed.
There was an article written that stated that artistes like you have gone more commercial since you get more exposure that way. Having achieved critical appreciation with Khazana and Roop Nagar, you want to go on to the other side and look more senior and everything. What's your take on this?
I think transformation, progress and growth is something without which any artiste will die out ... rather any human being will die out. I am a human being, and I need to grow. I've grown out of what I used to be 10 years ago. I've spent 10 years of my career now.
When can we expect your next album?
I am launching my Greatest hits album in Pakistan as the 10 years of Najam Shiraz, and we're shooting three videos. One will be Rabba tera ki jae ga, second would be from the movie Murder, and then I will move on to my seventh solo album. But before that, I want to check out how the music does in films, as well. I want to see that scene, too. And then I will move on to my next album because the expectations are higher this time.
Do you think there can be a second Roop Nagar?
Well, for the greatest hits, I am redoing the song Roop Nagar. Myself and (ace guitarist) Amir Zaki ... we've got together again and we've made it a huge (spreads both arms wide) song this time. But I have no limits. I certainly like Roop Nagar and it could be certainly more intense and much more appealing.
What about (Sitar Player) Nafees Ahmed? You guys seem to be playing a lot together. Tell us a bit about the vibes between the you two when he is playing the sitar and you are with the guitar.
He's a great sitar player and I am going to use his talents even more in the future. We get along very well.
Your message to your fans?
My message to my fans is that appreciate every good thing and don't wait, initiate and contribute to everything positive that is happening around you.
through the ages
After a brief stint with the Jupiters, Najam started off in 1994 with the a mix of angst-ridden and romantic songs. His colleagues at the time included Jawad Ahmad, then with Jupiters, and songstress Hadiqa Kiyani.
His first televised song was In say nain, which was a concert video that showed this young man jumping around. His first album, Khazana, included sound tracks like Meri tanhaiyon - a track on the lyrics of King Bahadur Shah Zafar he wrote while in British captivity.
The track with raw energy being unleashed was Sona chaahta hun. It showed how Najam could go mad and let all frustrations flow in perfect nonsensical cascade! However, songs like Larki and Aa Jana fared well with the masses as they had romantic appeal. Videos of Yeh baat kisse maloom nahein were aired on different channels, minus the anti-establishment lyrics.
Roop Nagar - dawn of a new era
A sensation of an album, Roop Nagar was definitely worth the wait. This compilation demonstrated Najam's maturity since his debut album. One could tell that every song had been very carefully selected and recorded. Tracks that proved to be great hits were Pal do pal ki chahat, Roop nagar, Mera jee naheen lagey and Ur gaee maina. The Song Mera jee nahein lagey was chosen for the movie Split Wide Open and marked Najam's entry into Hollywood. The album really showed the mature rebel inside Najam, and is one of his most critically acclaimed albums till now. Little did one know that this would be a precursor to pure commercialism.
Pyar Karannu Dil Karda - The harbinger of commercialism
The cover of the album itself depicts different moods this talented singer is capable of setting. Most of the tracks were romantic in nature, and ones that stood out were Menu tere nal, kajla and Nach kay.
Jaise Chaaho Jiyo - a storm in a teacup!
Although the title song of this album celebrated the spirit of youth, the motive was unclear as the song's chorus was the slogan of a tea brand! The only other two songs that are worth a listen in this album are the romantic Aao Wahan Chalain and Bad ban. Later, he sang a cricket song for the tea brand which used the word 'cup' for a dual purpose!
then took the religious route and released a religious album which contained Hamds and Naats - poems written in praise of God and the Prophet (PBUH) respectively - titled Yeh maamla Koi Aur Hai. Surprisingly, he also took the route to Bollywood and composed Bheegay Hoant sung by Kunal Ganjawala for Murder.
The song's popularity speaks for itself with extensive airtime on all the radio channels in the UAE and the Subcontinent. Of course, it was Kunal Ganjawala who got all the credit, with Najam left reminding journalists about it.
He has decided to come out with a Punjabi version of the song. He also did a peace song and a song for the Olympics. Looks like this guy just wants to celebrate anything and everything happening!
Najam has now become a complete antithesis of what he earlier was. We see a Najam ready to preach a tailored version of religion to society. He is now all set to release another version of Roop Nagar with Amir Zaki. So, for now, we can safely say that Najam is going from Urdu Rock to Urdu Soul. But is he a complete corporate sellout? Only time will tell!