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.
“There have been two unforgettable collaborations — one with Ghulam Ali saheb which was for his audio album released in India; and the other with the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saheb for Bandit Queen.”
“Collaborations play a vital role in the road to success and provide the opportunity of doing something different,” she said adding that, “There have been two unforgettable collaborations — 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