I learned of Asrar after his performance in the latest season of Coke Studio. To be honest, I haven’t really enjoyed Coke Studio very much for several seasons and the newest season, produced by Strings, hasn’t been much different. But I’m glad that they introduced Asrar to people like me.
I cannot emphasize enough how terribly acquainted I am with the creative arts. My attempt to draw the anatomy of the forearm has been mistaken considered a sketch of Bart Simpson’s hair. Despite that, I’ve been attracted to mystical currents of Islam and especially in the poetry and music that they have inspired. Asrar’s appreciation of the profoundness of that poetry is a rare quality in the new breed of Pakistani music.
Many new pop musicians and groups have emerged to sing or perform the works of mystics in the past several decades. But what they really do is parrot the lyrics while remaining oblivious to the multiple levels of meanings embedded within the poetry of the mystics. Asrar’s choice alone demonstrates that he’s a dedicated student, who has a genuine interest in music and in the poetry he performs.
The other aspect of his personality that has fascinated me is my perception that he is an underdog, much like myself. Several of his videos on Youtube feature him talking to his audience in English. Those brief moments betray so much about him: his accent, incorrect use of grammar, and limited vocabulary. So, unlike most Pakistani kids with a guitar, he wasn’t born with a silver spoon. The one thing that I’ve always detested in Pakistan is its socioeconomic stratification, particularly as defined by the English language. To paraphrase Ngugi wa Thiong’o, our minds are still colonized. The elites of the country think and speak in English. Urdu, the national language is beneath them.
So the fact that Asrar seems to have crossed many barriers to get where he is today, is promising for Pakistan. While he has earned the commercial success that he will soon have, I sincerely hope that he doesn’t stray from his strengths. With that, he’s my most favourite song by him performed on the poetry of punjabi poet Afzal Saahir.