“I know that what I do is pretty ridiculous,” says singer, songwriter, producer and director Adil Omar. “I think it takes a certain level of insanity and lunacy to do what I do. I’m having a lot of fun. I’m in on the joke.”
This Islamabad-based creative mastermind has just released the first single, Mastery, from his upcoming second album, also titled Mastery, which is due to be released completely in 2020. It’s a bizarre visual feast, but in a very good way. Carefully curated with numerous pop culture references from the 1990s, the video of Mastery, directed by Adil Omar as well, features his dog Tuesday as well.
Adil Omar comes across as an incredibly intense, outgoing and flamboyant person in his music videos, yet in person he is the exact opposite — incredibly soft-spoken and almost a bit shy. It’s almost as if he slips into some kind of an alter ego when the spotlight is on him.
Singer, songwriter, producer, director, synesthete and control freak, Adil Omar only cares about authenticity as he gears up to release his second album, Mastery
Much like his previous visual album Transcendence, which came out last year, Mastery hits close to home. “It’s all based on truth, my childhood, my real-life experiences,” he adds. “None of it is made up. It’s all real. It’s all very, very authentic.”
“If you watch and listen to Transcendence, it’s a very vulnerable project,” says the artist. “It’s about where I’m from and how I grew up — everything I went through as a kid. Mastery is more about how I overcame those challenges and became a master of my mind and craft. A lot of it might look dark and jarring on the surface but it’s actually positive and empowering and I hope it helps others who are going through challenges of their own and need a voice of strength to push them.”
The song, Mastery, was written in just about four hours. What’s his approach to songwriting? “I’ve been writing lyrics since I was nine-years-old, it’s something that comes naturally to me,” he says. “I wouldn’t be able to define my process. I carry a notebook with me all the time. I’m always taking notes even if I’m not writing, like, full-blown rants. When I make a beat, I’ll sit down … and it sort of pieces together very organically.”
He also directs his own music videos. Is it important for him to control every aspect of production? “Absolutely,” he says. “When I was younger, I did work with other directors [who are also his friends]. [But] since 2015, I’ve been directing my own videos. I definitely enjoy full control over what I do. I’m very involved in the entire process.
Mastery is more about how I overcame challenges and became a master of my mind and craft. A lot of it might look dark and jarring on the surface but it’s actually positive and empowering and I hope it helps others who are going through challenges of their own and need a voice of strength to push them.”
“While I learned a lot from those experiences, it wasn’t ever [fully] my vision. I’ve never been about following rules. I break a lot of technical rules in terms of videos and even in music.”
In his previous album, Transcendence, the artist came out with the revelation that he has synesthesia. It’s a neurological condition in which when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. According to Psychology Today, “This may take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of colour.” That’s exactly the type of synesthesia Adil Omar has. How much does it dictate what he does?
“It dictates everything in terms of not only my music videos but also my music production itself,” he responds candidly. “I’m not classically trained, I don’t know anything about music theory etc. I’m pretty uneducated like that.
“But in terms of my own music the reference is always visual. If it looks good to me, then I know that it sounds good as well. Everything I create and produce, it’s like an audio painting and that’s how I treat all of my songs.”
Finally, while Adil Omar is a legend in the alternative music scene and in circles abroad, he somehow hasn’t been able to click with a more mainstream audience in Pakistan. Does he think people here will ever understand his art? “I don’t care,” he responds, quite strongly. “I really don’t care. When I was younger, it used to bug me.”
He takes a deep breath. “The best I can do is be authentic, be myself, and let my legacy speak for itself,” he says. “Whether someone understands it now, tomorrow or 100 years from now — it doesn’t really matter to me. As long as it’s real and honest.”
Published in Dawn, ICON, March 3rd, 2019