Profile: Hadiqa

She is out, about and painting the town red with her latest album "Rung." The album was long called for since people had almost drawn the conclusion that Hadiqa had nothing to offer after "Bohey Baarian" and "Duppatta," two of her most popular songs from her previous album "Roshni." A gap of good three years, may be detrimental to any other singer's career, but not to Hadiqa. That's because she hasn't been out of sight to be out of mind. She has done numerous concerts in and outside the country. So she has been there, only her new piece of work wasn't. With "Rung," this vacuum also gets filled.

It's not easy to be the only female pop singer of the country. From "Angan Angan Taray" to "Rang Barangi Duniya," to "Sargam" to "Roshni" and now to "Rung," it hasn't been a cakewalk for Hadiqa, much as people would like to believe. "As a female it is twice as tough to make your niche in a field which is mostly dominated by men. I had a pretty tough time in coming to terms with this fact that this is a moribund and bound society which is heavily influenced by old stalwarts. You have to be a fighter to get your capabilities recognized."

Hadiqa's musical journey actually started as a VJ. She co-hosted "Angan Angan Taarey" and went on to be a VJ in what now looks like the black and white era of pop music in Pakistan. One still remembers her coyly sharing the screen with budding singers like Fakhar and Nadeem and happily provided what was the ultimate entertainment for our entertainment starved youth. "Yeah I started as a VJ and loved it thoroughly. Although I did around 28 programs as a VJ it did not leave any definite account," said Hadiqa.

"VJ" was followed by "Sargam," which, more than its refreshing music, got noticed for the controversy it brewed. Adnan Sami's repeated switchovers from Hadiqa to Asha Bhosle as the female crooner to suit his convenience, added not only to the sales of the album but also to the confusion of people. "I received a lot of feedback for my work in the album. The only controversy related to the soundtrack was that I did all the songs but three years after the official release of the soundtrack of "Sargam," Adnan got Asha Bhosle to sing as the lead singer. Since Adnan had the audio rights for the local and foreign release of the soundtrack, there was nothing that could be done about it. No hard feelings though. As I said I received my share of acclamation for the song," says an optimistic Hadiqa.

After Nazia Hassan left the field vacant in the 90s, out of the few female singers who tried their hand at becoming a successor to the pop diva, Hadiqa has been the only one to be successful. After Nazia's death, comparisons between the two have become more open and frank. Hadiqa, for one, seems to have no qualms about being bracketed in the same league as Nazia. In fact, she makes it clear that she takes pride in being put right next to the singer who, while made a name for the country on the western frontiers, stayed rooted to her culture and tradition.

While one comes across many people who can yak for hours on how they have made it into the world of music on their own steam, Hadiqa, for one doesn't hesitate in giving credit where it is due. Hadiqa attributes her success to her brother Irfan Kiyani. "I am very close to my brother. We are the best of friends. The support that I have received from my family has played a great part in it (my career). Things had become very tough after my father's demise, but my family fought against all odds. I draw my energy from the various downslides in life. Whenever there is any terrible thing that's happened, there is a surge of energy it produces."

While many professional singers get the best lyricists to pen the words they want to croon, Hadiqa has her mother doing the job for her. "She builds an amazing bridge between the un-explored concepts and practical realities of life. Her writing is more than merely a collection of concepts." Having said that she insists that lyrics must characterize a singer's image.

Having an academic background in Psychology Hadiqa can't help connecting the two. "Music for me is more like a therapy that one goes through. One takes solace in music when one is down. That way, a singer is in a sense psychiatrist who can turn on or off moods." She elaborates further, "I take music as a source of connectivity. How one connects feelings with melodies and establishes a relation with music. Also it largely depends on how you deliver it to your audience so that he can not only hear it but also feel it."

Apart from three albums, and a few TV programmes as VJ, a number of international concerts including Celebration Hong Kong 97 where she shared the limelight with international big names like Wet Wet Wet, Lisa Stansfield, Michael Learns to Rock etc., Hadiqa has to her credit BBC1's National Lottery Live programme, in which she performed in 1997. The singer still holds it with a sense of pride that out of 10 million people Hadiqa was selected to perform on the show. Asians living in UK still call her "The National Lottery Girl."

The pace at which the trend of producing music videos is taking momentum in the music industry is really amazing. In many instances it is noted that the song gets a mass appeal after the release of the music video. So does it mean that it's the video that makes a song a hit and not the song itself? "No. I don't agree with this." Hadiqa says. "The song and the music are the main elements of the equation and the video is made to add to the song. In a nutshell I think that role of the video could be gauged by the fact that if you turn off the volume, you should still be wanting to listen to the song. The video of "Bohey Baarian" was released long time after the song came out. The song was a chart topper even before the video was released."

Hadiqa's latest album is "Rung." It is a collection of 14 tracks. The songs are about gentle, sensual and emotional feelings as usual. "I have also tried to explore folk music in this album. The unusual thing in the album is that for the first time I have tried to explore the relation of friendship in "Achay Dost." Actually it's about the kind of relationship that nowadays teenagers get involved in and call it "love" but at the end they get to realize that it was actually the friendship. Composition of the song is worked upon by John Mall who was once just playing it and I got so impressed that I decided then and there to include it in my album."

Right now the singer is watching the response over her latest "Rung." The music world, need not worry about losing its only female pop singer to anything in the world, for she wants to continue as long as she can. "I am a fanatic about music and consider myself taking up this mania all through my life," she declares.

Asif Khan
October, 2002
The News International, Pakistan