LAHORE: You don’t need to be familiar with Punjabi to sing along when Kinney Kinney Jana Billo De Ghar plays on the radio. There are always just a handful of lucky singers whose debut numbers become instant hits, and Abrarul Haq’s Billo De Ghar is one such example. The bhangra folk singer enjoyed his time in the spotlight and gave his fans fun Punjabi tunes to groove to until he decided to gradually step away from the fore. And following what could be called a hiatus, Abrar has now made a comeback with the release of Pani Da Bulbula, original sound track (OST) of Zinda Bhaag.
Pani Da Bulbula — a rendition of a track originally sung by Yaqoob Atif Bulbula in the ’70s — is a song Abrar remembers humming and listening to as a child. “I look at it as a spiritual message which says everything is a bubble of water and has a fleeting nature. Everything is perishable, whether it’s alive or not,” explains Abrar. “So why the fighting and thirst for power?”
“The success [of the song] has been more than what I had expected. The way it has been accepted by the public, I think it’s a milestone for cinema’s revival,” he says, adding that music has an important role to play in the film’s industry’s resurgence.
Abrar feels the music industry has changed and the desire to create good music has faded away. “Before, people loved music. And now, music has become secondary and the perks [that come with being a musician] have become the priority,” he regrets. “Maybe it’s destiny or lack of creativity, but there is something wrong.” Back in the day, bands like Junoon and other pop musicians who had genuine mass appeal existed, reminisces the singer. And he feels this isn’t the case anymore.
His debut in Coke Studio this season will be a breath of fresh air and he is thrilled with the prospect. He feels it’s the only platform in today’s time where a blend of Eastern and Western tunes takes place — it’s where music is digestible and acceptable, he says.
“The public’s liking is generally unpredictable,” Abrar continues about his contribution to Coke Studio 6. “But I think people will say that the songs sound different, and the mystic poetry will come forward as well in a positive manner.” About his music, he says, “I am just a man of the people — one who has always tried to include his voice in his poetry.”
An altruistic Abrar
When Abrar isn’t in a studio recording music, he’s busy with social work. With the assistance of his organisation Sahara Welfare Trust, Abrar is currently working on building a medical college. “To be honest, if my popularity graph can improve through music, then my social welfare organisations receive a lot of help,” he explains. “We need to raise a lot of money for that and by improving my music, I can help in that.”
He admits his music has always been politically-charged. “I think the more politically aware you get, the more in-depth your lyrics become,” he says, referring to deep, meaningful poetry. “But it’s not like I have left light poetry. That is still there, too.”
About his eighth studio album, which is expected to release in the coming months, Abrar reveals there will be a total of 10 tracks which will bring together all his recent endeavours — entertainment, politics and social work. “It will be an amalgamation of different thoughts and feelings,” he says, adding there will be songs on terrorism, love, mothers, friendship, bhangra and a spiritual kalam.