Instep Today

The Atif Aslam controversy uncut

August 9, 2018
By Maheen Sabeeh

Some songs, through their own history, have become so sacred to some of us that a cover effort feels lacking in either context, humanity and/or more. A case in point is Bollywood film, Satyameva Jayate’s version of ‘Tajdar-E-Haram’, which is simply put, an abomination.

But the amount of trolling and some national airtime given to Atif Aslam for simply singing his own Bollywood songs during the Pakistan Independence Day parade in New York is nothing more than yet another display of phony outrage, no matter whom it’s coming from: Pakistani fans or Indian ones. Atif has displayed his nationalistic side far too often, and we know he has one, but artists should also be given some room to improvise, experiment and sing to their heart’s content or you may as well call it a day.

To be honest, I wasn’t there in NY but if he refused to hold a Pakistani flag, does that mean that his patriotism should be questioned for it? Why? This is an artist who is known to represent the country around the world, in spaces few artists perform or are invited, while wearing his nationality on his sleeve, whether you agree to it or not.

If art truly has no boundaries, and it does not, then why expect artists to conform? And have we not had enough display of forced nationalism on either side, in form of propaganda movies at minimum. Why are we not willing to celebrate our collective South Asian identity, which means Atif being allowed and able to sing the songs he wants to sing without turning it into an issue of national pride, on either side it seems.

Some have defended the singer; others have trashed him but as Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan pointed out on Twitter: “I stand in support with Atif Aslam for singing his songs at the parade. Music is not Indian or Pakistani. It is just music! Singers are synonymous with their songs, which are loved equally by fans from every country. Should have briefed him if they wanted national songs.”

The last line by Shafqat is also indicative of how the music business works, where artists are briefed to sing certain things as opposed to what they want to but that is another story and for another time. For now, let the man sing instead of belittling him. He has enough “patriotic” songs and “performances” to his name.