While Maqsood Ali was fond of singing since childhood, his proper training as a singer started under the supervision of Ustaad Abdul Rauf who teaches music at Alhamra Arts Council in Lahore. Since he was an undergrad at that point in time, Maqsood completed his education first after having learnt the basics of singing. It was after completing his Master in Business Administration (MBA) in 2011 that he stepped again into the field of music. I asked him a few questions, which are as follows with their answers:
Is it easy being a singer in Pakistan, considering the religious views of people here?
Music has never been easy in Pakistan. It is taken very lightly and is not considered even worthy of focusing on. As long as you are running a business and supporting your family, things seem to be fine in Pakistan, but if you turn towards Arts, many people start criticizing you and tell you that what you are going for is a low-grade profession. It’s a struggling phase through which I, being a singer, have also passed. I have had to create a very fine balance between singing and my other duties such as my family and business. It’s true that the path is full of trials and demands you to be very strong and patient. You have to face and ignore a lot simultaneously, and only then you are able to survive as an artist in this society. After having gone through all of this, I am focusing whole-heartedly on music now.
You have worked with Khawaja Najam-ul-Hassan, one of the biggest music producers we have. How was the experience?
First, I would like to mention Ally Adnan who is my dear friend, spiritual mentor and a fatherly figure. I am really grateful to him, for it was through him that I met Khawaja Najam-ul-Hassan. Khawaja sahib is an amazing person. It is not only from his expertise on music that one learns a lot, but sitting with him and having random conversations with him is, in itself, an honour. When Ally Adnan made me meet him for the first time, I was quite nervous. I feared the presence of a music director who has worked with the legendary singers of our music industry. However, when he came, he gave me some time to relax and asked me in a very polite manner to memorize a few songs and rehearse them. He gave me more time and attention than I had expected. Khawaja sahib made me cover an old classical song. I feel really blessed to have known him, for he is not only a good director but a fine person as well, whose ways of talking and instructing really benefit you. I will remain grateful for my entire life to Ally Adnan for introducing me to Khawaja Najam-ul-Hassan and to Khawaja Najam-ul-Hassan for providing me with my first opportunity to give a solo performance on State Television.
Which genre of music do you feel you are best at?
I personally am into pop music and fusion. I get bored if I continue singing slow songs. Not that I hate classical music, but I like to be entertained. The phase that I am in right now does not always give me the freedom to perform what I wish to. At events, I do have to sing semi-classical songs and Sufiana Qalams as well. However, I want to be a versatile singer who is able to sing in all the genres, be it pop, folk or classical.
Are there any upcoming music projects of yours?
My singing projects with BOL TV are in the pipeline. Besides, I also have to visit Karachi for a few performances. I have planned to do a few solos as well.
Do you plan to launch your album?
Launching an album is the biggest dream of any singer. It is like a due you receive at the end of the month for your efforts and services put into a job, and is a proof of your good performance. But considering the current scenario of music market, I personally believe that releasing albums has not remained a success-producing idea as it once used to be. It’s not the trend anymore. The trend is making a single music video, launching it and then moving towards your next song. I do wish that I launch an album and receive a breakthrough by presenting songs that people in the modern times like and want to hear. I would love to give the audience what they want. If Allah has written it for me, then the album is bound to be released.
Which singers have acted as an inspiration for you?
I really respect and admire Sonu Nigam since childhood. We had a dish in our house that became the reason for my having listened to almost all the good Indian singers. The reason I have a liking for Sonu Nigam is because he has experimented a lot in music and has sung in every genre.
I am also a great fan of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Shafqat Amanat Ali. Pakistan has a lot of highly regarded names all of whom I venerate, such as Mehdi Hassan, Madam Noor Jahan and Tahira Syed. I have learnt a lot from Tahira Syed, a woman of taste and intelligence, whom I consider a gift for my prayers in which I would always ask for the companionship of learned people who can inspire me and bring me automatically towards my field.
How far do you wish to take this passion of yours?
I cannot think of abandoning this passion of mine and I pray that it keeps on growing with age. Even as a child when I would sing the national anthem at school and recite Naats and Sufi songs in competitions, I used to pray that my love for singing may never come to an end. As long as I am alive, music will remain within me. I pray to God that He makes music my source of income so that I do not have to give time to jobs other than music.
Maqsood is passionate, dedicated and focused. Unlike many who wish to try their hands at a lot of things and earn fame as versatile people who can do a number of jobs, he has put his heart and soul into music only, and it is on every genre of music that he expresses a wish to have a complete command.
Maqsood’s prayers for attaining his desires, his efforts to exhibit those desires and his mental preparation for working more for them makes him an inspirational man from whom one can learn what commitment to one’s work is. We wish him all the best for future!