Atif Aslam: the King of Rock ‘n’ Romance
Atif Aslam is an international, renowned Bollywood and Hollywood pop sensation who has wowed audiences with his unique voice and spectacular stage presence. I met the king of rock and romance to find out more about the man behind the music.
As I greeted Atif at Park Lane and walked with him into his hotel restaurant, I was surprised at how someone with such a powerful voice was so down-to-earth with a quiet-speaking manner. While I drank a cup of tea which Atif kindly bought for me, he mixed his milk and cornflakes and told me that when he was a teenager he wanted to be a cricketer.
He explains that his dream of playing cricket led him to be selected for a professional team but it was short-lived because his family wanted him to become a doctor or an engineer. He explains “it is difficult to know what is right and what is wrong. My parents didn’t want me to play cricket but now I have a music career which is seen as haram in my religion. All I know for sure is that I love music and I love what I do.”
With sell-out concerts in Australia, China, Canada, Dubai and the UK, and records that have featured in both Bollywood and Hollywood films, it is apparent that Atif’s love for what he does is shared by the world. He has passionate fans and millions of listeners. One female fan says, “I like him because he has an unusual tone to his voice – it is sort of rustic/acoustic. He’s also one of the only Asian playback singers to incorporate guitar in his music. His songs have a lot of soul in them.”
After giving up cricket, Atif began to explore himself as a singer. He entered competitions and felt inspired by how people on stage connected with the audience. He is self-taught and explains “the voice is like an instrument – if you don’t tune it, it won’t work.” But connecting with the audience didn’t come easy to Atif and he had to work at it.
Atif has performed at the Apollo Manchester, LG Arena Birmingham and London 02 Arena at the Bollywood Showstoppers Show. Speaking to Naz Choudhury, organiser of Bollywood Showstoppers, he describes Atif has having ‘stage presence and charm’ and that his unconventional style of music which incorporates an element of rock is the reason why his songs are so appealing.
Coyly describing his love for the guitar, he tells me he took it to bed with him, the bathroom, everywhere. I laugh aloud when he says that it wasn’t until a year later that he realised he had to tune it.
Although Atif hates sitting at home doing nothing and loves touring because his fans are always expecting something new from him, he explains that it gets lonely. During the Lyca tour, he boarded 25 flights in 30 days so he barely had time to sleep let alone make friends. He loves watching people unwind to his music and watching the different reactions to the same song but at the same time he is far from home, his family and friends.
Atif explains that one the highlights of his career is when a doctor working at a mental hospital told him that his songs are used as therapy for the patients. Now, Atif wants to explore himself as an artist and as a person.
As we leave the restaurant, people greet him, wish him well and commend his music. It is evident that he is much respected. And I am very grateful to have just had tea with a legend.