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Farhan Saeed on Art Transcending Borders: Pakistani Music is For India What Bollywood is for Pakistan

Farhan Saeed, the golden voice from across the border, shares his thoughts on art transcending barriers, singing for Coke Studio Pakistan and Bollywood, and his biggest achievement as an artist.

Kriti Tulsiani |

Updated:October 11, 2017, 3:54 PM IST
Back in the 90s, one could easily spot collegegoers crooning the tunes of Pakistan's popular band, Jal, at every nook and corner of university areas. Even though more than a decade has passed, the song continues to top the music charts for budding bands. Farhan Saeed, the then lead vocalist of the band, admits that this particular aspect of his career feels pure bliss.

"Aaj se 10 saal pehle jo university mein the, wo bhi humaare gaane gaate the, aur jo aaj university mein hai, wo bhi humaare gaane gaate hai," he shares while speaking to

"That's the true victory of our music. Whenever I've visited India- whether Shimla or universities in Delhi- students used to come up to us and share that they started creating music because of our songs. Some even said that it was our song that led them to play guitars in the first place," he added.

The singer, who enjoys a massive fan following in both India and Pakistan, believes that creative fields like art and sports shouldn't bear the brunt of cross-border tensions.

"One thing that shouldn't be affected is art on both sides of the border. And unfortunately, the thing that gets hit the most is the art. Kahaa jaata hai ki artist kahi se nahi hota, artist sabka hota hai. The music always transcends to the other side of the border, even during the time of distress. Wo India ka ho, wo Pakistan ka ho- aap art ko rok nahi sakte," he says.

"I believe that the government, too, shouldn't stop art. The world we live in today is a global village because of social media. If somebody likes something, they'll access it on Youtube and Facebook. Even when two nations are at war, art shouldn't be hindered because that's the only thing that connects people. Everywhere in the world, there's politics- people fight and then talk and things get back to normal but art and sports should be left alone. Agar kisi ko sabse zada iski zarurat hai, toh wo Pakistan aur India ko hai."

He also adds that while artists have made continuous efforts in bridging the gap between two nations, the media should be "more responsible” and “shouldn't blow just anything out of proportion."

"What has happened in the recent past is really unfortunate for India and Pakistan. As a Pakistani, I hope and I know for a fact, that things will get better and there will be more artistic collaborations between the two nations in the coming future. Meri dua hai ki aisa hi ho, mai aake apne Indian fans ke aage dobara perform karu aur Indian artistes idhar aake perform kare. Kyunki jab India-Pakistan ke artistes milke kaam karte hai, toh poori duniya dekhti hai."

Saeed feels that, for a musician, there's no bigger achievement than to get a chance to showcase one's talent at international platforms. And that, it only gets better when the international audience appreciates and acknowledges it.

"It gives you a boost when you get a chance to work on an international platform- be it Bollywood or any other platform. We don't work for awards but they work like tokens of appreciation. When an Indian fan appreciates my work, it's like oxygen for me. It makes me feel that all the work I've done is worth it. Plus, working in Bollywood always makes you feel special as an artist," he says.

Saeed, who has worked in two Bollywood projects including Creature 3D and Half Girlfriend in the recent past, shares that his connection with Bollywood goes way back. "I grew up listening to Bollywood songs the same way I listened to our bands. As an artist from Pakistan, it feels good to come and sing for Bollywood because you always wish to work with artists and talented individuals from all around the globe. In fact, I'm doing another song with Mohit Suri very soon."

While he takes a subdued pride in talking about the professional collaborations, he also highlights how these cross-border exchanges elevate him personally. "But what matters to me the most is that somehow I can play a part in bridging the gap between two countries. Jab mai India aata hu, perform karta hu, toh kuch apnaahiyat si feel hoti hai. So, it helps me to bring together the people. That's the best feeling."

Saeed also cited an example wherein while randomly scrolling through the comments section of his recent Coke Studio Youtube video, he came across fans from both sides of the border exchanging messages of peace and love amid appreciating the song.

Calling his journey a dream, Saeed says he's grateful to fans all around for accepting and loving his music. "Wo Lamhe, Aadat went on to become anthems of the youth, not only in Pakistan but in India too. In fact, in other countries too where people speak Hindi and Urdu. I first participated in Coke Studio 4 as a band and now, the last edition I was there as a solo artist. It's been like a dream since the beginning."

If one's accustomed to Saeed's music, it wouldn't come as a surprise that for many, there's a fervor of nostalgia soaked in the songs. On being asked if this has been a conscious choice from his end, he says that it is what comes from the heart.

"Honestly, it's not a conscious effort. Every musician has a taste, a sound and since the very beginning, we used to do songs like these- the ones of acoustic guitars. To make sure that you don't sound monotonous one needs to make some changes but the basic feel remains the same. The idea is to have a nice melody and relatable lyrics and probably that's why it's a bit nostalgic for everybody. But music has no set formula and if you go by the formula, then you lose your charm. And I feel that if it's from your heart, it'll reach out to the listeners."

The latest Coke Studio song, Dekh Tera Kya/Latthe Di Chaadar, has garnered over 5.3 million views on Youtube and Saeed expresses that it's always good to be a part of the show.

"Coke Studio has provided a platform wherein the best of Pakistani artists showcase their talent. I'm glad that it portrays the softer image of Pakistan all across the world. And above all, it's a treat for music lovers."

He also adds that while it's India's film industry that finds takers in Pakistan, it's the music that inclines Indians towards Pakistan.

"I think Coke Studio is one of the many things that binds India and Pakistan together. It's Bollywood from Indian side and from Pakistan, it's always been music. If you look at Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Nazia Hassan, Reshma, Rohail Hyatt, Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar and even Jal, you'll realize that music from both the nations has played a pivotal role in bringing them closer. And because I often come to India, I know that the taste in music is very similar for the two countries," he explains.

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| Edited by: Kriti Tulsiani
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