Fiery singer Meesha Shafi talks to Haider Rifaat about her road to self-discovery, a grand album in the making and nepotism in Pakistan’s entertainment industry
Why did you decide to pursue a full-blown career in music as opposed to acting and modelling?
Music just came to me naturally at a very young age. Iâ€™ve been singing since I was four and kind of went with the flow, once opportunities started coming my way. Iâ€™d already been acting and modelling for some years when my music career began. Acting, singing and modelling have continued to overlap over the course of my trajectory, however my biggest passion is music. When I sing, my soul sings too.
Has COVID-19 affected Pakistanâ€™s music industry for the better or the worse?
I know for a fact that many musicians are struggling with depression and financial stress because these challenges have put a halt to live gigs and concerts. These gigs are a major source of income for many musicians. Celebrities can still do television commercials and drama shoots, while following the standard operating procedures, but musicians are really having a hard time this year. The studio work is still ongoing, which is an indication of new songs and albums being written and recorded, both remotely and in isolation.
The culture of online music festivals has grown during a global crisis. How wouldâ€™ve things been different without social mediaâ€™s power to entertain mass crowds?Â
Weâ€™re fortunate to be living in a digital age during a global pandemic. It wouldâ€™ve been even harder otherwise. Social media and the internet at large have helped keep everyone connected with their fans and loved ones. Itâ€™s been a blessing!
Tell our readers about the Global Toronto (GT20) music festival that you recently participated in?
Itâ€™s called Global Toronto. Initially, it was going to be live but given the circumstances, it shifted online. A very hefty jury selected 20 artists based on submissions from a pool of 150 entries. Those 20 artists played their music to delegates from around the world. These delegates included directors of various international music festivals, agents, promoters, presenters and talent hunters. As the only Pakistani selected, I was very excited to represent our musical heritage with the global music industry. Iâ€™d love to see more of our culture and music being played live globally, at international festivals and on radios across the airwaves.
How do you see the current lockdown affecting artistsâ€™ creativity and craft, specifically in music? Any experiences you would like to share?
The lockdown has been a great time for ideas and creativity. Many creative people thrive during these times, because the noise and speed of the everyday grind slows down. This is a fertile time to go inwards and ask ourselves what we want to create. Put pen to paper and go back to the old drawing board, as they say. Artists are extra sensitive and when we feel a rush of emotions, we naturally express what we feel through our craft. In such a way, this lockdown will lead to more honest work, made from a deeper, more personal perspective.
Do you feel that artists in the music business today have trouble finding their own voice?
I donâ€™t. The newer batch of artists looks extremely promising and exciting. Iâ€™ve been following and even collaborating with many younger indie artists. Reminds me of my days when I started with Overload. That creative spirit, where music was made for the sake of music, is very much still alive.
What new music can we expect from you? Any album in the making?
Yes, Iâ€™m working on a big project that involves all original work. Itâ€™s a very personal body of work with me, being my most honest and vulnerable self. Itâ€™s a multidisciplinary project; an album but more like a thesis. Iâ€™m collaborating with several artists, writers, thinkers and creative individuals and am really enjoying the process. My visionâ€™s at a stage where itâ€™s turning into a reality. This project has been a long-time dream of mine and I think the lockdown has really helped show me that the time for it is now.
Which music composer do you wish to collaborate with in the future?
Iâ€™ve been truly blessed toâ€™ve worked with the best of the best in Pakistan and abroad. The only name on my wish list is A.R. Rahman.
Whatâ€™s your connection with Sufism like? Is it self-healing?
Iâ€™m a deeply spiritual person. My connection with the divine has become stronger over time. Itâ€™s very essential for healing and has been my saving grace through difficult times. Staying balanced, centered and connected is our number one job. Thatâ€™s how we become the best version of ourselves.
How have you evolved as a person over the years?
That is a vast question; I donâ€™t think I can answer that so briefly. Iâ€™ve become a lot wiser and calmer as I grew from a young woman, to a mother, and now at this stage, I feel like Iâ€™m returning to my most authentic self. That was the place I wrote â€œMeinâ€ from. It talks about returning to your true self. Coming full circle and shedding the opinions of others. Not leading a life so egotistically, but from our higher selves, which is an extension of our source energy.
How has motherhood changed you?
Itâ€™s changed me a lot. Itâ€™s taught me a lot about unconditional love, being a role model and how important it is to prioritise self-care. Children watch and learn. They imitate you. So itâ€™s crucial to show them how they can stand up for themselves, respect and honor their feelings and lead their lives with dignity and kindness.
I wanted your take on nepotism. I believe it shouldnâ€™t be brushed off as common practice in all major career fields. For an entertainment industry like Pakistan, nepotism remains widespread, leaving fresh faces, with considerable talent, on the side. What do you make of this?
Iâ€™ve seen many self-made artists follow their own path to success, so I wouldnâ€™t say that only people with family connections make it in the industry.
Letâ€™s talk fashion. Are you someone who follows the latest trends or sticks to her own personal style?
Iâ€™ve always followed my own instincts when it comes to fashion. I donâ€™t follow trends. I guess that is the difference between style and fashion. I donâ€™t consider myself fashionable, but I do have a signature way of styling myself.