Rising star

May 08, 2022

Mehak Ali on fashion choices and musical ideas.

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Mehak Ali’s newest release is called ‘Naina’ with components of Sufism at its heart. Artwork by Mustafa Mirza (a.m.mirza)


ne initiative by Spotify that has made music coming out of Pakistan more visible than previous years is an initiative called Equal Pakistan. It comes with a huge billboard splashed across Times Square in New York City. After selecting Grammy Award-winning artist Arooj Aftab as the first ambassador in March, the second artist featured as ambassador is Mehak Ali for the month of April.

As her billboard went up in NYC, Instep tracked down the singer to speak about her musical narrative, origin story, and fashion choices.

Mehak Ali is more than a singer. There is a fashion brand in the works. But she confirmed that she has no stylist or a full-time designer on call. Signed with Pakistan’s Rearts Records, Mehak told Instep that for the billboard image, she opted to work with Yousuf Bashir Qureshi (YBQ) as her stylist with makeup by Ali Shaz and photography by Meem Noon.

Talking to Instep about her unique fashion choices, Mehak explained that for her last release, the kalaamSaleh Ala Nabi Yena’, there was no stylist involved. “I shopped online, paid for it myself, and wore it.”

When it comes to style Mehak maintains that it depends on the project. “As an artist, if there is an appearance or a shoot or some event, of course different designers are involved, but by and large, I shop myself or get something designed myself. I have, until now, never hired a designer permanently. However, for an upcoming shoot, I chose to work with YBQ and in one recent image I’m wearing a Kameez by YBQ.”

The interest in YBQ, she said, comes from his work. “If you look at his work, it can be minimalist and there is a spiritual component to it, which is why I prefer his designs.”

The response to her last release, she claimed, was incredible and a lot of positive response came from India. “It reaffirms the idea that music and the arts have no boundaries and connect you to the world,” she said.

An accomplished artist in the musical arena, she began her odyssey in music at the age of 8 through a local music competition before going on to win a music competition in Pakistan in 2012. But her breakthrough moment arrived with Nescafe Basement where she performed ‘Kameez Teri Kaali’.

Mehak Ali on a Times Square billboard in New York for the month of April as part of Spotify’s Equal Pakistan initiative.

Post-Nescafe Basement, Mehak has sung playback for films as prolific as Jawani Phir Nahi Aani 2 and released several singles and an EP called Meem (2021).

2022 has begun on an auspicious note with the release of ‘Saleh Ala Nabi Yena’. More releases will follow, she confirmed, with one arriving on Eid. The upcoming track, is somewhat drenched in the spirit of spiritualism. “For my first song, Abida Parveen showed great love. It is a culture in Pakistan and to that end, the new track is called ‘Naina’ with the teaser out and the release slotted for Eid.”

As Mehak declares, Sufism is something that is a pure connection to God with sincerity. “Without doing research, I don’t do any Sufi rendition,” she said. “I only do it after I understand it so it has sincerity to it.”

Mehak also has an eye on her own brand other than shopping herself. “I am launching my own brand where through a factory I get shawls printed with the lyrics of my songs written on them. When I’ve worn those shawls at a concert, I get messages from fans and I send it to them as a gift.”

“I am launching it as a brand mainly because the response is strong. I am representing women and the brand will help in opening, in the future, a school for girls in particular and anyone who wants to pursue creative arts. The aim is to make it a free school where children and young people can learn the arts.”

Mehak Ali’s origin story begins from Nankana, a small town in Punjab famous for the shrine of Guru Nanak. It is just as important for Mehak to shine a light on where she comes from and not just where she is headed in her career.

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