If one were to say that Pakistani musicians and Islam go hand in hand, the controversial statement wouldn’t be a far cry from the truth. From Junaid Jamshed and Najam Sheraz to Ali Haider, the magnetism and appeal of Islam have pulled some of the best Pakistani acts to its forte. The latest musician to shun his old life as a singer and songwriter is Shiraz Uppal regarded as an influential musician within Pakistani pop music.
This week the prominent musician called it quits, leaving many of his fans in shock. Before he announced the news, Uppal had uploaded a new picture to his Facebook page, which shows him with cropped hair, a light beard and a caption that read: “a new beginning”. The Express Tribune spoke to the former musician about his spiritual journey that lead to his new calling.
How it started
His transition began six months ago, when he started praying five times a day and reading the Holy Quran. During that period, Uppal spent hours in his basement studio, which was once used as a spot for hanging out with friends, making music and watching movies. Something had completely changed — the motivation of making music had vanished from his life.
“Although I wasn’t much of a party person, I lived my life in this confined environment with the sole purpose of creating music that speaks,” said Uppal. “Ever since I had come into the industry, everything in my life had become stale. I was getting ill in a strange way because of the late nights which is necessary for a musician or an artist as creativity and inspiration always comes at night.”
From being the shy musician whose first album Tu Hai Mera (a compilation of romantic ballads) which failed commercially, to his follow-up album Tera Tay Mera in 2003, where he was compared to his inspiration AR Rehman, Uppal has come a long way as an artist. He has also been featured in Bollywood films such as Aashayein, Dhokha and Nayak as a playback singer.
His last single called “Data Di Deewani” featuring Rafaqat Ali Khan was a qawalli that showed his spiritual side. For his avid musical fan base, he still has two tracks yet-to-be released from the films Secret of Success and Naina Tere.
As a producer, he masterfully polished and directed various musical acts. From Atif Aslam to Noori, Zeb and Haniya to Jal and Shafqat Amanat Ali to Fariha Pervez — his production studio named SU studios became a major hotbed for music. When asked which aspect of music he enjoyed more, he replied, “I liked producing music even more than singing.”
Peer response and family pressures
No matter which way Uppal turns, he can’t really run away from the comparisons to former artists Junaid Jamshed and Ali Haider. The feedback and opinions that these ex-musicians received in their times was a mix of good and bad. When it comes to Uppal’s family and peers, both have advised Uppal not to leave music.
Faith leads the way
With many artists including Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) who have lent their voice to religious music, it would seem logical that Uppal lends his voice to a spiritual song in the future. On this note he said, “For now, I am trying to cut music entirely from my life. I haven’t really planned anything out for the future but I have always been a strong believer in fate working things out.”
Uppal’s life changing tweets
My mind is at war with my heart. Let’s see who wins!
There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in the way your creator wants it to be spent.
I just want to be a good muslim and a good human being by following the Quran and Hadith.