Asim Azhar quickly became a prominent voice. Starting with covers of English songs on the web more than four years ago, he is now delighting audiences in Pakistan and elsewhere, especially in the United States. 2018 is an important year for the rising pop star.
After releasing ‘Dunya’ and ‘Mahi Aaja’ on Cornetto Pop Rock and Cox Studios respectively, Azhar has now signed with Universal Music, India and EMI Records and announced the news with a self-produced single under the banner’s subsidiary, VYRL Originals. Titled Jo Tu Na Mila, the ballad has been trending on the YouTube Top 10 in India and Pakistan for a week now and has been shared by several Bollywood bigwigs including Karan Johar and Mohit Suri.
“About three years ago, Momina (Mustehsan) mentioned my song ‘Awaari’ from Ek Villain and since she was in the team with VYRL Originals, she introduced me to one of her representatives at the time,” Asim told Instep on telephone. How tete-a-tete formed the first international team. “For several years, I think they liked my work, and starting this year, they contacted me to sign me up. I went through the normal procedure and became a master of universal music.”
However, the ban on Pakistani artists working in India has not been lifted and is a barrier to cross-cultural engagement. While seasoned musicians like Atif Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan continue to work as playback singers, Asim feels that talent retention is a testament to that. “I feel every art form is affected when the doors close. At this point, if the ban is not imposed, I believe we will have more collaborations and in India – concerts and tours,” he said.
Asim, who was signed to the label earlier this year, started working on ‘Jo Tu Na Mila’ with Indian singer Kunaal Vermaa from Hamari Adhuri Kahani earlier this year. This song featuring Ikra Aziz is on the way with over 22 million views on its video. Moving forward, Asim is working on some original songs with VYRL Originals and plans to launch his first album with a platform dedicated to independent musicians.
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“If you do it alone in Pakistan, the chances are very low,” Asim said. “But at the end of the day, he’s a man who believes that good content will be seen, no problem. I only have to blame myself if it’s not enough. Marketing or really just a bonus. At the same time, it’s tough in Pakistan, so I believe we all help each other to some extent, which is where VYRL Originals comes in. Just one day, my friend started noticing that ‘Jo Tu Na Mila’ is the first original song (not from OST or branded platform) released in ages. “
Continuing his thoughts, Asim added, “You have to be as smart as the talent in this industry, just from a financial perspective. There are more talented people out there, but it’s all about what you bring to the table. Smart artists make their careers like everyone else. Also, you have to put yourself out there in a certain position (authority). I hope “Jo Tu Na Mila” can inspire other artists to create original music and I hope you don’t get bored because it’s slow and steady. This is all like a game of chess.”
Asim is also particular about his decisions, and despite facing several records this year, the singer prefers creative control over endorsements and sponsorship deals. Associated with the music platform under the corporate banner, Asim sees it all as a separate yet intimate balance. “Taking a brand and catering to your audience is difficult, but you have to strike a balance,” he said. “That’s why you won’t see me in any other launches or commercials, I learned from Momina not to ‘sell’.”
Asim had a brief stint on television before taking a break from acting last year, postponing the release of his musical film Noor and refusing to accept a new script. “Nothing excites me and my heart is not in TV right now,” Asim said before being eliminated. “But remember, I mean TV. It’s too early to talk about it, but I don’t want to play it safe anymore and do conventional things,” he said, hoping to explore new methods of expression as the web space emerges and Cinematography changes naturally. Moving forward, one can only wonder what’s next…