The socially conscious


Rapper, comedian, writer, actor, in a short span of time, Ali Gul Pir has become one of the most influential entertainers of the country. As a top digital influencer of Pakistan, his raw, socially charged yet relevant content connects with people across the nation. Ali reveals to Sana Zehra his different mindset to the run of the mill celebrities

You were the only Pakistani selected for the Pop Music Conference that was held in Switzerland in October 2018, tell us about the experience?

The experience was amazing, and I had a great time. I was very proud to represent Pakistan at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

I got to experience amazing new musical genres from around the world. For example, In Egypt, there is a revolutionary new type of street music and in Mexico they have a genre called Narco Music. We don’t have such diverse genres in music or street performances here so it was something new for me.

Additionally, for me to be praised and encouraged by PHD holders/Musicologists from such prestigious universities as Oxford, University of Berlin and so many others, felt gratifying. They could relate to my work even though it’s in Urdu. For generations Pakistani music has been Sufi inspired, and that’s all the world knows about us. So to tell them that in Pakistan we have rap music and we have socially and politically conscious music as well was a great pleasure. We (Pakistanis) should be known for our art in the world, as well as our perspective on the world.

What are some of your key take outs from the Pop Music Conference you attended?

We need to make an effort to share our art with the world. Many people of the world don’t know much about Pakistan, and what all they do know isn’t good. That’s why it’s up to the artists, students, travelers and so on to travel around the world and represent Pakistan.

We need to see what is happening around the world. We need to learn from others because we have a lot in common

I have been invited to speak and perform at other universities next year. Hope to continue this work and share my work with the world and learn from them. I never knew how important this is or how great it would feel, but now after this experience I know how crucial it is for us.

How did you get selected from Pakistan for the Pop Music Conference?

Norient is an (online) publication that showcases as well as writes about global music. The editor of Norient came to Pakistan three years ago and we got in touch via the Goethe Institute. Thomas ended up interviewing me for his publication and got to know that what I am doing is very different from what the majority of the musicians are doing. For me, it has always been about the bigger picture. Recently, Thomas contacted me and said that the University of Bern is holding a Pop music conference by the name of Pop-Power-Positions and they would like to invite me. Subsequently, I met the professors from University of Amsterdam there who invited me to do a guest lecture at their University. After Switzerland, I headed to Amsterdam where I interacted with students of hip hop music.

You recently released Sab ke Bajao. What’s the message behind the song?

Protesting is every citizen’s democratic right. But when we protest and become violent we end up killing people, breaking property of innocent people who are not at fault, and act like a criminal. Just because you can’t harm the ones you are actually upset with because of whatever reason, you take it out on the weak link i.e. the poor who have no way of getting even with you. We need to think like a nation, not a mob. Nations don’t harm each other for personal gain or just to vent.

“I feel, therefore, I create…I want to have kids in a just world”

How has the response been towards Sab ke Bajao?

Ali Gul Pir: Very good, since the majority in any society is sensible. You can reason with the silent majority that wants peace not chaos. That’s why the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

You’re one of the most socially charged artists of Pakistan. What motivates you to talk about topics that members of your fraternity are mostly hesitant to discuss?

Ali Gul Pir: I am a human before an artist. I feel, therefore, I create. And most of the time, I create when I feel angry at injustice, which could be in the form of corruption, harassment and extremism, resulting in injustice. I feel like I need to speak up about these issues to do my part in making our society better. This is a very selfish act, I just want a better home for myself, my friends and family. I want to have kids in a just world.

As one of the major digital influencers of the country, in your opinion, what’s the key to actively engage and interact with your fans online?

Ali Gul Pir: Consistency and realness. By realness, I mean being honest to your work. Don’t make a hit, make the song that you would love to make.

List 5 unknown facts about Ali Gul Pir that you would like your fans to know?

I just learnt how to make Dynamite Prawns.

I love cycling.

I read quiet a lot, mostly fiction.

I hate mushrooms.

I know khatak dance.

“We need to think like a nation, not a mob”

How did you get into acting? What has been your most memorable role?

In film school, we had an acting course for 6 months. I was the best student in that class, probably the only class I was best in (laughs). Then I started doing improv comedy on stage that transitioned into a TV show called Light On Hai. We did 2 seasons of that which was amazing. I got to perform with Javed Sheikh, Marina Khan, Ali Azmat and so many more. After that my focus shifted to my songs and I didn’t act for a few years. I then did three seasons of a sitcom called Batashay for ARY Digital, which was fun. Now I do the occasional telefilm and Eid show hosting because I enjoy the internet more than TV. Internet has less censorship and that’s very important to me.

From Waderay ka Beta to Sab ke Bajao, you have come a long way. What keeps you motivated and socially charged?

Ali Gul Pir: Family, friends, travelling…whenever I feel like my work is not making the change I expect it to, I spend time with loved ones or travel. It’s important to enjoy life as well be productive. It’s important to sometimes just stop and cherish what you have, be grateful and content.

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