Tanhai Kay Safar Mein: Bilal Khan Ke Saath
‘Tanhai kay safar mein, Chalna hai kaise’ yeh Bilal Khan nay sikhaaya humain. Known for his musical and acting skills – Bilal Khan has made a name for himself, that is accompanied by love and support from his fans internationally. Having taken part of 2 seasons on Coke Studio Pakistan, acted in various serials and now, taking the world of vlogging by storm, this Bachana star has got us excited in anticipation as we sit down with him and ask – What’s in store for us next?
FUCHSIA: What got you into singing?
Bilal Khan: I bought my own guitar at the age of 16, with my own money. Initially, maine kissi ko bataya nahin kyunke mujhe laga keh agar main kissi ko bataoonga toh woh mujhe discourage karenge. I told myself I’d figure out how to get it myself, but I was Rs.500 short, so my mum helped me out and encouraged me. I started writing songs when I was 18, and I would play in the lounge in LUMS* on occasions like Eid. People would tell my mum ‘Iski awaaz toh bohat achi hai, iska kuch karao’. Par ammi kehti theen keh: ‘Nahin, iski abhi parhai par focus hai’ and I was like: ‘Aapne mujh se toh kabhi poocha nahin!’ (he laughs)
FUCHSIA: Acting, Singing, advertising & Vlogging…intriguing choices. Still in search of a creative direction?
Bilal Khan: Ah, good question! My first passion is singing and song-writing. The rest of the things I’m doing – whether its acting or vlogging – is only to supplement that. What’s happened in Pakistan and globally is that music banane ke tools bohot aagaye hain: laptops, keyboards, equipment, waghera. Ab bada aasaan hai music banana. Aur music ko distribute karna, utna hi hard hogaya hai. Because there is so much noise in the industry now. The biggest challenge in the Pakistani music industry (for an aspiring artist or even someone established), is to reach out to people. Regardless of the 2 million fans I have on Facebook, I have made many songs that have never been heard because they couldn’t reach out to the masses.
FUCHSIA: So where did this realization take you?
Bilal Khan: The idea of doing this was that I wanted to run an experiment – if I act, does that bring focus to my music? And the answer is, yes! The more I appear on screen, the more people take an interest in me and search me online. My doing many things in my career is not because I’m lost. This is all to supplement my core passion, which is my music.
FUCHSIA: And you got this idea from…?
Bilal Khan: I learnt when I was studying in the US, that the world is continuously changing, and you have to constantly upgrade yourself in the way you try and reach people. Yes, it’s challenging to do all these other things as well as my music at the same time, but it excites me as well.
FUCHSIA: Is there hope for our music industry?
Bilal Khan: I honestly feel keh music kaafi saara aa raha hai, but we aren’t progressing. Focus ab bhi cover songs par hai. Battle of the Bands mein, for example, kitne talented log aaye thay. Lekin uss mein se jo popular gaane niklay, they were all cover songs such as Kashmir’s Mera Pyaar, and Bismillah, by Badnaam. Coke Studio is also doing cover songs. And therein lies the problem; for a music scene to thrive, it needs originality and progress in terms of the sounds it creates. Yes, I know cover songs relatable zyaada hote hain aur unn par views zyaada aate hain lekin overtime, there are deeper connections made through original music and that’s how the music industry will progress. Originality, authenticity, rawness and telling your own story are what I feel are lacking in Pakistan on top of an existing distribution problem.
FUCHSIA: And the solution is…?
Bilal Khan: Achay singers bohat hain aur internet ki wajha se toh bohat hi hain. Exceptional aur unique jo hai, woh breakthrough karta hai. A lot of the time, people create work and put it out. Then, nothing happens, and they give up. The people who really make it, though, are those who are constantly trying. Ek nahin chala toh dusra, dusra nahin chala toh teesra. Eventually, koi aisa gaana hoga jo kick karega. Yeh khaali Pakistan ka problem nahin hai. Duniya mein har taraf yeh problem hai, lekin phir bhi gaane successful ho rahe hain aur artist bhi ban rahe hain.
FUCHSIA: Then what is your answer to the distribution problem?
Bilal Khan: My first song, Bachana, had zero budget and I knew nobody in the industry. I really had zero contacts and I wasn’t even social. The song was good enough to the point that it spread on its own. The other side to the distribution problem is – if the song is EXCEPTIONALLY good, it will find its way.
FUCHSIA: An artist you really want to work with?
Bilal Khan: Probably Adele, partly because she has never worked on a song with anyone else or been featured on anyone’s work. Also, because she’s amazing.
FUCHSIA: Any offers from Bollywood?
Bilal Khan: This is a really funny story but I was on my second season with Coke Studio and I got a call keh ‘India se ek director aap se baat karna chahtay hain. Would you be interested?’ So, I speak to the lady and she tells me she’s seen me on Coke Studio and liked my look and they were considering me for the role of a Pakistani boy. Now, this was right before I was about to leave for the US for University. I was very excited about that and I felt ‘Mujhe Bollywood ka koi shauq nahin hai’. Uss waqt, mujhe script reading aur auditions ke baare mein bhi kuch pata nahin tha, toh, na kissi se poocha. Maine apnay dost kay saath phone par record karke unko aisay hi bhej diya. 2 years later when I was in the US, the movie came out. And I heard those very dialogues in the movie, PK**, for the role of Sarfaraz.
FUCHSIA: What inspires you?
Bilal Khan: Life experiences! …in general. The motivation and inspiration come from the idea that life is very short and that I have very limited time here. There are so many things I want to do, and I don’t have enough time to do them! In your 20s, you think you’re never going to die, but then it struck me that we’re all mortals and saara kuch khatam ho sakta hai – and that is what motivates me.
FUCHSIA: A role in any Bollywood or Pakistani film…?
FUCHSIA: When Bilal Khan goes to buy Anday(Eggs) – Dabal Roti (Bread) from Kamal Bakery/ Mottas etc….call it what you will (Your corner store)?
Bilal Khan: The usual, waiting in line, asking for the total bill, never having the correct change. Then taking ages for the shopkeeper to get the change. One sometimes feels the anda will become a chooza for how long the process takes.
FUCHSIA: When you walk in late for your haircut appointment/ or at the doctor’s?
Bilal Khan: I usually arrive before time, but in Pakistan, even if I am late, I am still on time. So I haven’t really embarrassed myself as of yet (touch wood).
FUCHSIA: And Bilal Khan can tick off his mother because?
Bilal Khan: I didn’t eat enough or haven’t cleaned my room (oh wait, that was ages ago).
FUCHSIA: Something you’ve never told anyone else – a FUCHSIA secret!
Bilal Khan: Most people ask me the secret to good skin and I think I will finally reveal it: I drink a lot of water, maybe more than I need to. I haven’t really analysed it in detail, but that could be it.
FUCHSIA: Advice for youth and aspiring artists?
Bilal Khan: Like I said earlier, the people who make it, are the ones who are constantly trying and never give up. I’m a huge supporter of original work and creativity. Write original songs every day. Forget covers, and I will see you on stage soon.
*LUMS is Lahore University of Management Sciences