The song aakh ve laraoni aay ta gudi ve uddani aay takes you back in the late 90s when Basant festivals were being organised. It was the time when Mazhar Rahi was in the starting phase of his career. The song gained immense popularity and so the singer. Afterward the talented bhangra singer gave many hit songs like Aj sada nal ta kal kita hor ne/ Sanu pata tera dil wich chor nee and came to be known at every nook and corner of the country. Go to any dhaba or tune any FM radio and you will hear his songs played there. He has released ten albums which are all available in the market. He is a multidimensional singer who writes his own songs, composes them and sings them. He has a huge fan followings in India and is invited regularly there for performance. In an exclusive interview with Sunday Plus he talks about his past, how he came into this field and his upcoming albums. He also mentions the reasons which have hit badly the music industry and the musicians of Pakistan. Followings are some excerpts of his interview:

Q: What were the motivations behind becoming a singer?

Becoming singer is an interesting story. What I say about it is that nature paved my way for this profession. I never thought to be a singer even during my student life. Like any common man I was found of listening music. Atta Ullah Khan Esa Khelvi and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan were common in those days and I was a big fan of them. It is natural when you listen music then you hum it consciously and sometimes unconsciously. The same happened and I often hummed their songs while sitting among friends. They started to appreciate me and asked me to take singing as profession. Initially I did not pay heed to their advice but with the passage of time I got convinced and started singing.

Q: How did you take your start?

Taking start was a difficult task. I did not get any good opportunity for a long time. I struggled in Lahore but to no avail. Then S.M. Sadiq called me to Karachi. He wanted to record my vocals to release the cassettes of Akram Rahi, who was a singer of sad song and was in jail at that time. I recorded songs and which were portrayed that Akram Rahi is giving albums from jail. Only in the one corner of the title of those cassettes it was mentioned “Akram Rahi ke Kahani Mazhar Rahi ke Zubani”.

At that time I had no other opportunity except to give my vocals. I recorded four cassettes. After that I was asked to sing in my own style which was obviously bhangra style. At that time I started to record bhangra songs for them which got voluminous response and the albums were sold on high price. In this agreement I recorded five albums.

Q: What was your family’s initial response?

My family was not happy rather they were annoyed. They were of the view that I will bring disgrace to the family. But I did not take that to my heart and kept my struggle on against all the odds because it had become my craze.

Q: What element do you think brought you the limelight?

Fakhar-e-Alam helped in this regard. He advised me to quit singing sad songs and to make my own style. He also helped me in getting different opportunities and I signed many agreements with private TV channels. My song Aj sad nal kal kita hor nee/ Sanu pata tere dil wich chor nee became popular and and made my identity as bhangra singer. I also started doing Eid shows, Basant shows on different channels. For all these I am thankful to Fakhar-e-Alam who assisted me everywhere.

And meeting with Fakhar-e-Alam is another interesting story of my life. In Karachi, where I used to record my songs, Fakhar-e-Alam also used to come there for the same. One day he heard my vocals while they were being edited and mixed. His impression was that the song was of some Indian singer. But when he came to know that it is a Pakistani singer he insisted for a meeting. I was called there at once and after ensuring he embraced me with happiness. He appreciated me very much. There we met never to disconnect again.

Q: Do you remember that particular song?

It was Tu nai boldi tu nai boldi ranu tera which teraa yar bolda. The same tone which Humera Arshad sang afterwards with some different lyrics – main nai boldi main nai boldi mera wich mara yar bolda.

Q: When did you do your first public performance?

First time I did a Basant Show at Jalo Park where big names like Abrar ul Haq, Jawad Ahmad and Sajjad Ali were present.

Q: Why do you sing only your own songs?

Usually I write songs my own songs because they are easy to compose. But I also sing someone other’s songs if they are good and according to my style. For example, Dr Nadir Aziz is a good poet and I have sung his many songs.

Q: Are you working on any new album?

There are three albums on which I am working simultaneously. One of them is duet with Amber Iqbal. Its name is Nikha Nama. My solo album on which is on final stage is Toon Party and the third is a Saraiki album. All the three are near completion and will be released in near future.

Q: In how many countries have you performed?

Recently I came back from Chandigarh, India after performing and again going Bathinda in December. Performance in Canada and America are also in the pipeline. In America I had performed eight times already. Besides, I have performed in Japan, Hong Kong, Africa, Uganda, London, and Dubai.

Q: Is anyone of your kids interested to carry on your legacy?

I have two sons and they are very young right now. The elder one is eight years old and the younger one is six years old. So presently I can not say anything specific about them because their main concentration is upon studies. But in future if either of them is interested then I shall be glad to teach and guide him.

Q: Comment about the present scenario for the artistes.

It is difficult time going on for the artistes especially for the singers. Only renowned artistes are surviving because they still get programmes but on nominal returns. Fees of our shows and programmes have decreased three times which we used to charge in heydays. There is no encouragement for the young talent and they are facing more difficulties. The present situation is disproportional for the artistes because the fees are decreasing and the expenses for preparing an album are increasing.

Q: What do you think are the main reasons for this deterioration?

There was a time when people used to buy albums of the singers they liked. Now because of latest technology the sale of albums has decreased. People share songs through their gadgets and mobile phones. Secondly, everything becomes available on the internet and people download the albums free of cost. Ultimately the sale of original albums has decreased to almost zero. Secondly there is no proper piracy law in our country which has also made the situation worse.

Now what we are doing is to sell the tunes of our songs to different mobile companies for which we are paid nominally.

Q: Local shows have decreased. Will you comment on this?

There was a time when different cigarette companies used to hire singers to organise their events. Singers performed live in open. Now law and order situation has affected this and the concept of open air shows has finished. There used to be big campaigns in which we had to perform city to city. But the bad law and order situation has changed the whole scenario. Now the concept of open air concerts and shows has almost ended.

The other main reason in the downfall of this business is the shortfall of electricity. The time of ending marriage events at night is fixed (10pm). So because of shortage of time people have stopped to do musical events on such happy occasions. Ultimately, it has also affected the artistes.

Q: What expectation do you have from the government?

I appreciate Shahbaz Sharif for fixing some amount as monthly stipend for the senior artistes. But besides, the government should create opportunities for the young artistes also instead to wait for becoming old to be entitled for the stipend.