Haider Ali is a self-taught musician whose musical journey comprises playing live sessions for an array of Pakistan’s most celebrated acts. Haider’s approach to arrangements and influences included Junoon, Milestone, Vital Signs, and performing in the studio as well as live sets with Strings on keyboards for the last few years. Haider’s contribution to Coke Studio goes beyond his impeccable skills on the keys, he moonlights as a team player in the audio team pre and post shoot.
Fashion Collection: Tell us something about your work? When did you start music and why?
Haider Ali: I have been playing keyboards for about 16 years and during this time I have worked with many Pakistani singers like Faakhir, Hadiqa Kiyani, Shehzad Roy and Ali Haider. I finally joined Strings in 2007 and I am still working with them. Along with that, I have made appearances in Coke Studio here and there as a keyboardist. I have also worked as an audio engineer in Coke Studio and one of Pakistan’s most successful movies “Moor”. I was involved with the World Cup 2015 campaign, “Phir Se Game Utha Dain”. I was always interested in music even when I was in school. The beginning for me was singing in competitions. But my formal musical learning started in 2002 and one of my musician friends taught me some basics of playing keyboard. I then started self-educating by watching video tutorials which was quite some task considering we didn’t have access to platforms like YouTube back then. Of course learning is a continuous process and it can never stop, but I would say it is much easier now to find resources because we literally have everything on our fingertips.
Fashion Collection: What interests you most about your work?
Haider Ali: Music is an ever-evolving industry. Just when you might think you know everything there is to know, something new comes up. Plus, as humans it’s our nature to experiment and bend the rules. Music gives you that freedom to really utilise your creativity and break all boundaries. And then when your “bending the rules” pays off and you create something incredible, it’s the most rewarding feeling in the world. That’s what I love about my profession.
Fashion Collection: What are the most critical results you expect from your music?
Haider Ali: I don’t really think too much about the results to be honest. Everything I create, comes straight from my heart and I can’t really judge it based on its success or limitations. I take pride in every piece I have created because it represents some part of my personality. Now I’m not saying that everything I have created is perfect, but there is hours of hard work involved not just from me but also from the people who work with me. I know that it’s not possible to please everyone because we’re humans and we’re going to have different likes and dislikes. And I’m OK with that.
Fashion Collection: What are you most passionate about as a music producer? Why?
Haider Ali: As a music producer, I always aspire to create something better. If I make something that I feel isn’t adding anything to my previous works, I usually don’t go ahead with it. My mind is constantly working on how I can do things better and that’s why I start planning new projects even before my ongoing projects are complete. It’s never about what I am doing, it’s about what I am going to do next because I know it’s going to be better.
Fashion Collection: How would you describe your personal mission?
Haider Ali: My personal mission is to challenge myself as much as possible. Be it singing in languages I don’t speak or attempting genres I’ve never tried before. My first official release as a singer/music-producer was “Laut Aao Naa” where all the musicians were from different countries like USA, Iran, India and Pakistan and they brought their own style to the table. They all completed this project including the video, in their own countries. The idea confused everyone when I first discussed it but we made it work. My second song was written in Punjabi and Persian and I speak neither. I wrote the lyrics in Urdu then had it translated. I then practiced the Persian accent with one of my Iranian friends, so it was a whole new task for me. My upcoming song was conceptualised and recorded in Istanbul with Turkish musicians and it really combines the essence of Turkish music and what we’re used to hear in Pakistan. This was sung in Urdu and Turkish by me and a Turkish singer.
Fashion Collection: If you could change the world, what would you do?
Haider Ali: I would minimize the use of smartphones so that people could engage more with each other rather than virtually. I know it’s difficult !
Fashion Collection: What musical compositions would you like to pass on to future generations?
Haider Ali: I’m still in the early days in my career but if I can create something meaningful like Sir Kiye Pahar, Dil Dil Pakistan and Jazba Junoon, I would feel like I have accomplished everything. These songs are loved by every Pakistani because they’re heart-warming, truly ever-green and just overall incredible.
Fashion Collection: How do you rate Pakistani music scene right now?
Haider Ali: On the whole, things have definitely changed for the good. It used to be so difficult to get recognition and most of the times, musicians were judged based on the reputation of the company supporting them instead of their actual talent. I feel that our audience is just so well-informed these days that it’s not possible to take shortcuts or make mistakes and then brush them under the carpet. At the same time, it means that if you have real potential you are given a real chance to survive by your listeners. You also have access to unlimited resources from the world’s best musicians of all times so you can learn and improve. I think that’s why Pakistani music industry is just at a different height these days. We always had talent, we just didn’t have the means to express that but now we do and we’re making full use of it.
Fashion Collection: What would you classify as your biggest achievement?
Haider Ali: For every professional, nothing in this world can compare to the feeling you get when someone you looked up to your whole life, compliments you. After my song Laut Aao Naa was released, Bilal Maqsood said that he was proud of me. It’s a simple sentence but it means so much to me because I grew up listening to his songs, Strings are the reason why I became interested in music all those years ago. That’s when I knew I was on the right track.
Fashion Collection: What would be your idea of simplicity?
Haider Ali: Simplicity could have so many meanings, it’s difficult to choose one. For me, simplicity is being comfortable in who you are. If you can afford to show off your true personality without having to pretend even for a second, you’re living a simple and satisfying life.
Fashion Collection: What are you composing these days?
Haider Ali: I am working on multiple projects at the moment, including 2 Solos. There is also a classical song which I am doing with a well-known Indian singer (take a guess). These three songs should be out in 2019 insha Allah.
Fashion Collection: What would you classify your utmost strength as a musician?
Haider Ali: I value my professionalism a great deal as a musician. I think whatever I have achieved so far, could not have been possible otherwise. It is little things like turning up to work on time or sticking to your commitments or respecting your co-workers that define you as a person. No matter what your profession is, if you’re not taking it seriously you can never do well. You just cannot afford to be lazy even if you don’t have any competition, let alone working in an industry as competitive as music.
Fashion Collection: If you were not a musician, what else would you do?
Haider Ali: I really can’t picture myself in any other profession but if I have to choose one then maybe something to do with creating animations.
Fashion Collection: What habit would you like to break?
Haider Ali: Staying up late. I am pretty much nocturnal which doesn’t help anything. I need to work on going to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get a healthy amount of sleep.
Fashion Collection: If you were trapped in a TV show for a week which one would you choose?
Haider Ali: I would say The Simpsons, things always work out for them no matter how badly they mess up.
Fashion Collection: Which 4 famous personalities would you seat at your dinner table?
Haider Ali: Sir Ian McKellen, Johnny Depp, Jordan Rudess, and Sezen Aksu.
Fashion Collection: What advice would you give your younger self?
Haider Ali: Stop worrying so much and spend more time with the people you love.
Fashion Collection: What does perfect happiness mean to you?
Haider Ali: When you know that things are going to be okay no matter how bad they seem right now. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, it’s the best feeling in the world.