No matter what I do, make an Oscar wining documentary someday or become a pan-wala, it will always be an odd job to make money for my music. Music is where I am at peace with myself and everything around me. It is what I am meant to do.
PakiUM: Tell us something about yourself.
Ali Ashraf: I am a documentary filmmaker by profession. However, music is my true calling. No matter what I do, make an Oscar wining documentary someday or become a realtor/pan-wala, it will always be an odd job to make money for my music. Music is where I am at peace with myself and everything around me. It is what I am meant to do. It helps me understand and decipher the complexities that occupy my mind and turn them in to beautiful melodies that everyone can relate to. And then the process of engaging creative and talented skills of musicians is such an enriching experience. No matter what stage of life I am or how tough the odds get, will always be making music.
PakiUM: What attracted/motivated you towards music and for how long have you been doing this? Any inspiration or favorite musicians?
Ali Ashraf: My first Casio keyboard when I was 12 years old. My favorite pass time. It had 99 different sounds and some pre-installed beats and I used to play random notes over those beats. And sometimes would figure out a song and play it again and again to everyone around me like Ode to Joy or Aye Meray Hamsafar. Formally started learning music in school and became the pianist of my school band. I wrote my first song in 2004 while doing a law degree and learnt to play guitar. Since then, songwriting gave me the best way to express myself.
My early inspirations were from everything that I heard around me. From Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Saab in my dad’s car to rock n roll on my brothers “double cassette stereo player” and to Ghazals in Murree during summer break. It all introduced me to good music no matter what language or genre. But musically, my inspiration doesn’t come from any other artist, it’s an encounter or an experience that inspires me to write a song. And that is how my music is, I am not restricted by genres, it’s all about the melody and of course, a guitar solo.
PakiUM: Can you tell us a little about your debut music video – the concept, the direction etc.
Ali Ashraf: The video of Zara Sa is my artist expression as a filmmaker. It is the first song I recorded for my album Paheli and therefore wanted to make it’s video first. The video concept of Zara Sa came to me after three months of brainstorming. I wanted to come up with an idea that would be an artistic depiction of various moments talked about in the song. The video is an abstract showcasing of Vanity, Pain, Desire and Loss. Each of them played by different characters in different environments. Every emotion is a struggle and a trap. And in the end you see how each of them never let you go no matter how much you try.
Music videos I believe are as important as the song. They should carry the creative essence of the song and its lyrics. And as a filmmaker, I had an opportunity to stretch my creative muscles of filmmaking with this video and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. It took us 2 months to shoot the video and another month to do its post. And once it is out there for everyone to see, I will be doing another one pretty soon.
PakiUM: A few lines on your debut album – what is it about, who has done the lyrics and compositions, who is the producer and when do you plan to release the album?
Ali Ashraf: Paheli will be my debut album. I have written and composed all the songs in the album. Its music has been done in the US by some of the finest musicians and music producer. The trend of making albums has slowly vanished in Pakistan, which has crippled the industry. When was the last time anyone bought an album from any Pakistani artist?
Making an album is a journey, which helps the artist learn more about his music and add on to it. And the listeners also get a chance to enjoy the range of the artist lyrically and musically.
PakiUM: Share your future plans particularly your plans regarding the release of other videos and their expected dates.
Ali Ashraf: After Zara Sa, I will be releasing a couple of music videos of Meray Yaar and Saahil, Tumbako Noshi Sehat k liye muzir hay, which are in the pre-production phase right now. I am planning to release the album in August 2015 and go back to recording the second album in September. So you will be seeing a lot of my music this year.