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I’m writing the songs I’ve always wanted to write. ‘Chand Mahiya’ author Asim Azhar discusses his creative development.

The singer's latest release celebrates 10 years in the industry and showcases his evolution as an artist.

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For more than a decade, Asim Azhar’s tunes have warmed our hearts. He has a large fan base in Pakistan and beyond because of his talent for writing catchy and emotionally engaging songs. He began his career in music at a young age and has since become a well-known figure in the industry. Chand Mahiya, his most recent work, illustrates his development as an artist.

Asim’s disdainful croon sets the tone for the opening of the electropop song. He hates himself for being weak enough to let himself fall so passionately in love with another person, and his song reflects that. While not drastically different from his past efforts, Asim shows his mettle in Chand Mahiya, solidifying his position as the undisputed king of romance. Drama and dogma play off one another in this song. The song’s lyrical questions are both introspective and challenging. They address the challenges faced by young people in romantic relationships while remaining accessible.

Inspirational music

Even though Asim has been doing music for ten years and many of his followers have grown up with him (“some of them have kids now,” he tells me over the phone), his sound is modern and appealing to younger listeners. That doesn’t mean it’s immature, but rather that only the most essential feelings have been left in. However, appealing to a specific age group is not a priority for Asim. “I’m making music that I want to make, so that’s why I’m feeling so carefree about everything right now. When it comes to my music, I’m not setting any criteria, and I realize that doing so increases the likelihood that I’ll fail. Nonetheless, he tells The Express Tribune, “I have faith in longevity, in self-happiness, and in self-satisfaction.

Asim’s music has always been infectious, with its own unique sense of melody. Asim is a young singer who got his start on YouTube doing covers of modern Western music. He has since been on Coke Studio, sung national anthems and original sound tracks (OSTs), and even tried his hand at playback singing. His contributions to different services have adorned a large portion of his discography. Those performances may have been milestones in his career, but it’s unusual to see Asim singing just for the joy of it. When he does, however, he creates enchantment; there’s a reason Jo Tu Na Mila is his most popular song.

His more recent films, such as Chand Mahiya, Bulleya, and Habibi, have a more relaxed approach, especially sonically, than Jo Tu Na Mila. Asim is making some changes, and his music has started to reflect this leaning toward a more alternative aesthetic. I’m a total risk-taker. In my opinion, when an artist is at a loss for inspiration, they should try new things and work with other people. He emphasizes that “collaboration” is a crucial concept. And I don’t think the recent material I’ve been putting out is a huge departure from my previous style. There will never be a major shift in my position. Long-term goals and plans are usually something I find exciting. But of course, I know that for the kind of audience that I aim for, even the experiments need to be introduced gradually so as not to overwhelm them.

The embryonic Chand Mahiya

Asim recorded Chand Mahiya at his own home studio. It’s probably also due to his altered outlook on romantic relationships. When I first set up my impromptu home studio, I began working on this tune. At night, I would try out different instruments and see what I could come up with. I stumbled onto this rhythm in this way. After I’d established a rough framework for the song’s melody and chord progression, I began composing. However, he says, “the writing itself is fascinating.”

The main guy in this piece is reveling in his independence. He does not settle down, does not believe in love or the afterlife, and takes each day as it comes. Responsibility and commitment are two things he finds unpleasant in a relationship. However, a woman who is completely at odds with his entire universe sweeps him off his feet. And now he’s upset about being imprisoned. For him, love is tinged with sadness because he knows that eventually, someone will come along and, you know, break everything up. He was very attached to his independence and his ability to fly; therefore, his current plight has him crying, “Chand mahiya, ye tune kya kiya (my darling, what have you done? You cut my wings)”.

Asim’s motivation for his most recent display of affection was primarily to test his own limits. There should be more to falling in love than saying, “Jabse maine tumko dekha mein pagal hogaya. I did my best to spice things up a bit. In my song, I sing, “Mein tou khogaya, mein tou khogaya, ye kese hogaya? Dil mera puche ye sawal we’. In that moment, the protagonist starts to question how he could have allowed this to happen. Tujhe dekhun mein sapnon mein, ghairon mein, apnon mein, har chehra tera he deedar hai, goes the next lyric. His situation is hopeless. He has experienced love and all its ups and downs, and he understands.

The Universal Music Group record agreement

Even though Asim has signed a three-year record deal with Universal Music, he claims that the following season will see the most releases from his end because he is working on an EP. Every other month, you can expect a new song and music video from us. And with that said, I’m also working on my debut EP, which will feature, you know, more than just a few songs,” the singer assures.

Our mutual appreciation for good music—both in terms of quality and quantity—is the foundation of our friendship. So, from now on, expect new music every other month. Every other month, we’ll be putting out a new music video. As a one-man band, there are limits to what I can accomplish, so that was new to me.

Pakistani Labels

Given that he began his career in Pakistan as an independent artist at a time when digital hadn’t really taken off, Asim reflected on the challenges he’s faced over the past decade as follows: “I was doing as much as I could, but obviously there’s a threshold when you’re self-producing, self-investing, and creating. But I had to accept the reality of our situation. I had to accept the reality that there just weren’t any places to play music. Without judging others, I can only say that I did what was within my means.

When I first started out, we had to rely on television networks because digital wasn’t an option. Those were the occasions I saw, and I’m grateful to God because I realized then that no one was coming to save me.

However, Asim isn’t the only recent signing with a major international label. Recent performances by Shae Gill on Coke Studio Global suggest that she has also signed with Universal Music. And there’s talk that Taha G and Sony have inked a deal. Why, I wonder, are Pakistani musicians all of a sudden getting these labels thrust upon them? Since Covid’s release, the indie music industry in Pakistan has blossomed. Thanks to platforms like Spotify, solo musicians now have a lot more leeway. It’s never been easier for music or art to cross national boundaries and cultural divides to reach a global audience.

I believe that is one of the main draws for major studios like Universal to set up shop in this area. Never before or since has Pakistani pop music not performed at a world-class level. That, too, is common knowledge. It’s not like they’re trying to make a profit. The thing is, they have come to the same conclusion: Pakistani art deserves better. And I believe that all they want to do is do their share in spreading Pakistani art around the globe.

To the nearest decade

I think spending 10 years here has taught me more about life than about the company,” Asim says of what he’s learned over his decade in the sector. And I believe that also aids me in curating the commercial side of things. My creative guard has been down for a while now. However, I’ve picked up a wealth of knowledge about the human species as a whole. It’s the equivalent of a doctorate to me, you know.

It’s always an honor to contribute to something so worthwhile. Six or seven female protagonists overcame societal expectations and achieved amazing success. I spent seven months working on that OST. Asim reflected that he had to care as much for the serial as any of the actors in order to create the OST.

It was the result of much planning. I had just as much of a hand in writing the script as any of the other actors or crew members. I needed to read the playbook. Every word and bit of a character’s name had to be known by me. The second verse, or antra, in a desi song, is typically longer and more complex than the first verse since it functions more like a breakdown.

His most current song is always his favorite, though. For me, it has to be Chand Mahiya. My most recent musical creation is always included. It’s probably just a thing among musicians.

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