Arieb Azhar was born in Rawalpindi, grew up in Karachi, spent much of his life in Zagreb, and is currently based in Islamabad. He came from a family of avid entertainers. His both parents, Aslam Azhar and Nasreen Azhar were actors.
Arieb Azhar was born in Rawalpindi, grew up in Karachi, spent much of his life in Zagreb, and is currently based in Islamabad. He came from a family of avid entertainers. His both parents, Aslam Azhar and Nasreen Azhar were actors. Aslam Azhar was also a founding member of Pakistan Television (PTV), Radio Pakistan and a well-known orator. Irish blues, Croatian gypsy music, Punjabi kafi, and Urdu qawwali are only a few of Arieb Azhar’s many inspirations. Arieb’s famous hit is ‘Husn-e-Haqiqi’ which he translates as ‘Beauty of Truth’.
From a young age, Arieb Azhar was surrounded by talented musicians and entertainers, and quickly developed a love for music. His singing voice was strong and distinctive and he was often given lead roles in school plays and musical concerts. In his teens, he was drawn to songs that had strong political and social messages. His craft as a singer only intensified in time as his life experiences enriched and deepened his voice.
At the age of 19 he went off to Croatia, just as it was breaking away from Yugoslavia, and spent the next 13 years of his life there. In the city of Zagreb, Arieb was exposed to Balkan and gypsy music and his musical discoveries led him to perform on the streets, in pubs and clubs, concert halls, and festivals, with musicians from Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Bolivia and Ireland. He was one of the founders of the band ‘Shamrock Rovers’ with whom he recorded two albums of a unique interpretation of Celtic music.
There he also started becoming interested in qawwali and other Sufi styles of South Asian music. After spending a substantial part of his life in Croatia, singer-songwriter Arieb Azhar returned to Pakistan in 2004 in order to reconnect with his roots.
Although Arieb Azhar often sings Sufi music he is very careful not to identify himself as a Sufi. He has previously stated, I'm not officially initiated into a Sufi order, though I have many friends from orders who encourage me in my music, and I feel that connection is strong enough for me to continue growing in my work.
Arieb Azhar was exposed to folk and classical music in his early years and ultimately developed a passion and love for traditional, soulful music. He came into the limelight of the Pakistani music scene following his globetrotting musical antics and contributions to season two and three of Coke Studio.
Arieb has simultaneously been working on another project with his friend Dus based in Croatia, who is a DJ as well as a composer. Every time he made a trip to Croatia, he would record a few songs over a click track and Dus would compose and arrange the music around it.
His interactive live performances connect well with the audience due to the references he makes to poetry in his music. As a result, he has postponed his much, awaited personal album and is planning on releasing an album which contains live performances instead. The album includes Akmal Qadri on flutes, Zeeshan Mansoor on lead guitar, Kashif Ali Dani on tabla and Azhar himself on rhythm guitar and vocals. His band has also added Zain Ali on bass and Ibrahim Akram on drum.
Wajj, the name of Arieb's first album, stems from the Punjabi word 'wajnaa', meaning an 'impact' of sorts, something being 'struck', 'cha jana'. When Wajj was originally released, it encountered distribution and availability issues, as Arieb's label decided to go through their own distribution channels. Now that it's been re-distributed it has finally found its way into the market.
Comprising of eight soulful Sufi songs, Wajj caters to serious music listeners, those interested in 'spiritual lounge music'. The album comprises of poetry by reputed Sufi poets (and saints) such as Khawaja Ghulam Farid, Bulleh Shah, Mian Muhammad Baksh, and Sarmad Sehbai (a poet and playwright). Vocalizing poetry of such profundity is a task in its own, something which seldom suits voices. Arieb seems to carry it off pretty well in his deep and throaty vocals.
Each song featured on the album feels like a haunting journey such as Verhe Aa Varh Mere, it is mellow, neither happy nor sad, and sounds like a traveller's desert song. Track number five, Saif ul Maluk, from Mian Mohammad Bakhsh's 'Safr ul Ishq' (Journey of Love) is rich, emanating a certain kind of magic or mystery where one feels amidst mountains, the mist and forgotten love stories. Arieb sings; Destroy the mosque, destroy the temple/ Destroy all that you wish/ But do not destroy one person's heart/ for that is where the Lord dwells! Kahe Rokat/Tede Nena, merges two songs into one. The latter part, Tede Nena is like viewing a dark cave from the outside. All that you can make out are shadows that flicker, dance and sway making Tede Nena sound like a song from the past. Husn-e-Haqiqi on the other hand is more forceful including an element of the 'present', calling; Love and knowledge/ Superstition and belief, conjecture/The beauty of power, and conception/ Aptitude and conscience.
Emina, the last number, which has an evident opera-ish touch to it, comes as a bit of a surprise. It is a Croatian love song written by a Bosnian Serb poet, Aleksa Santic. Arieb's cross-cultural diversity in music is evident as he croons in Croatian superbly.
As mentioned before, Wajj caters to those with an ear for music, the casual lot may find it slightly repetitive, but it grows on you and is extremely soothing. With instruments such as the violin, banjo, sitar, and flute integrated into the music, the songs are given that extra 'zing'.
Through the years man has been able to channel his emotions, thoughts and ideologies through various art forms and mediums. This 'channelling' leads one to great inner 'release' a certain liberation from the now, the present - where the artist finds himself suspended within the fluidity of time yet, traversing to magnificent transition within.
Lyrics and poetry regarding finding inner strength or regaining courage, melodies or tunes that inspire or captivate are spiritual in their own right. Wajj the album being Arieb's 'reconnection' with his roots is nothing close to pseudo, rather, heartfelt and sincere. That music (which is genuine with the intent of its message), which can enthuse an individual to change, make the soul soar or make one disengage from the physical to connect back with the metaphysical, truly is the greatest thing a musician can give back to humanity.