The future of classical music doesn’t look good in Pakistan: Humera Channa

The future of classical music doesn’t look good in Pakistan: Humera Channa

Humera Channa stresses on the need for music academies and shares her views on the current state of Pakistani music
06 Oct, 2015

Humera Channa has achieved countless milestones and garnered accolades in the two odd decades she’s been a part of Pakistan’s music industry as a playback singer and recording artist.

She has a calm and mild persona. Her down-to-earth personality becomes all the more apparent as I met with her for this interview for Images on Sunday on her recent trip to Karachi while she dealt with the exhaustion of a hectic US concert tour.

It is pertinent to mention here that after gaining immense popularity in Pakistan as a vocal artist, she has gone on to become a cultural ambassador for the country.

Her talent has taken her to India, the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh (for the SAARC Leaders Conference), Canada, United Kingdom and across Europe to name just a few places.

“I was in the US to participate in Independence Day shows. It was simply wonderful. The expatriate community applauded heartily to all my performances,” she shared rather merrily.


Music and lyrics

Humera Channa enjoys tremendous prowess in geet, ghazal, thumri, dadhra, kafi, semi-classical, sufi, hamd and naat. “I am in love with all kinds of good music and always searching for something new. These days I am focusing on ghazal and sufiana kalam,” she said.

What is ‘good music’ for her? “Classical has always been known as ‘good music’ as every kind of music branches out from it,” she responded. Humera is currently not just hosting but also melodising the ongoing Bazm-i-Mehdi Hasan on PTV.

She is a staunch supporter of productive collaborations, having collaborated with Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Hamid Ali Khan, Ustad Asad Amanat Ali Khan, Ustad Ghulam Ali, Ustad Ghulam Abbas, Abbas Ali Khan, Mekaal Hassan, Jawed Bashir and many others.

“Collaborations play a vital role in the road to success and provide the opportunity of doing something different,” she said.

“There have been two unforgettable collaborations," she continues, "One with Ghulam Ali saheb, which was for his compositions for an audio album released quite successfully in India; and the other with the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saheb for the Indian movie Bandit Queen. To this day, I feel lucky to have worked with both legends.”


Classical music woes

As pop, rock and jazz take over our hearts, minds and souls — especially those of the youth — this trend continues to undermine the importance of classical music in Pakistani society.

“The future of classical music doesn’t seem too rosy in this country. It is absolutely essential for this very purpose to establish academies that can promote it,” she says in her thought-provoking manner.

However, she disagrees when I pessimistically state that Pakistan’s music scene is in the doldrums. “I have nothing but positivity for all the work being carried out in the name of music today. I would never dream of degrading our music or singers. Every vocal artist is giving it his/her best shot.”


Lollywood and Bollywood

Pakistan’s film industry seems to be making giant strides towards revival after films like Na Maloom Afraad, Karachi Se Lahore and Moor have become instant hits with audiences. Humera Channa also believes in the upward trend of our films, which bears good signs for our entertainment industry.

How different is it to do playback singing from performing individually? “Singing for films is difficult from everything else. Here, expressions are important along with a firm grip on sur and tempo,” she responded. About singing offers from Bollywood, she says, “There are a few. I will consider the more reasonable ones.”

The piracy problem

Her take on piracy is pretty candid: “There shouldn’t be any piracy whatsoever! Unfortunately in Pakistan no hard and fast rules are enforced against this unscrupulous and dastardly act to the effect that many internationally renowned recording and distribution companies have shut down their operations here.”

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 4th, 2015

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prateek Oct 06, 2015 07:41pm
Humera should migrate to India. She will get adulation in India,
Tamilselvan Oct 06, 2015 07:45pm
Beautiful voices, music and rhythm too. Don't know Hindi or Urdu but melodious voices and music made up for it. Wish Pakistan supports her own culture which is closer to S. Asia than Arabs Hope mullahs don't end up banning it as they do wherever they can. Bluntly put, please don't make these artists move to India (as India will gladly accept them) as let them bring glory to Pakistan
Arvind Ajimal Oct 06, 2015 08:38pm
Excellent voice. I guess the hony-singh type party song culture is soon going to be over and then singers like her will rule the bollywood.
Zak Oct 06, 2015 09:19pm
Her rendition of ' Akele na Jana, humey chor kar tum' is amazing. It's on YouTube.
Bupi Oct 06, 2015 09:55pm
If we forget our past we will drown in false future. To give respect to past is like remembering our forefathers. Keep your past alive be in India or Pakistan.
Shaam سے Oct 06, 2015 10:54pm
Why Bollywood? why can't they stay happy in their country?
Nauman M Oct 07, 2015 12:11am
Long live the semi-classic music legends Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali and all those classical singer Shrafat Ali, Nazakat Ali and others.
Reverseswing Oct 07, 2015 05:09am
Yes, Humera is right. I would say future of classical music doesn't look good in India too. The rise of Kishore Kumar was a clear indication of the change that opened the avenues for pop music.
Israr Khan IsmailZai Oct 07, 2015 08:31am
Ms. Channa, you should check out LMF. I am sure that will make you change your thinking about the future of classical music.
KaKa Oct 07, 2015 10:58am
Humera Channa has gone beyond excellent. Mighty performance, excellent compositions, Javed and Abbas are also brilliant. Both numbers are now one of my best songs. Keep Going Pakistan
Ramesh Oct 07, 2015 11:34am
To be honest, classical music cannot take root in Pakistan because all the gharanas were based in India and is not compatible to ideological basis of Pakistan. However, popular forms like qawwali, nats, etc that have religious fervor to them will prosper.
Madan Mohan Oct 07, 2015 01:17pm
Contrary to many writers wrong notion that classical music was born in only that part which is north India, it is to be added that many reknowned and respected Gharanas still exist in Pakistan although on the verge of extinction. Still we can call that North India was a great nursery for Sufi music and still flourishes. Historically classical music has all ancient Hindu traditions thats why all the ragas have pure sanskrit names. Courts of big Nawabs and Badshahs sponsored classical music and numerous Gurus converted to Islam to remain in Darbars significant example is Dhrupad gayak Dagar brothers who still recall their ancestor Pandit Gopal Das.
Parveen Oct 08, 2015 12:26am
Humera has a beautiful voice and a good knowledge of music.I wonder why i have not heard her before. Has she launched her music or are there any CDs available in USA.