A musician’s work is a reflection of their personality and this observation couldn’t be truer in Jimmy Khan’s case. One feels enveloped by an airy cloud of serenity when ‘Nadiya’ plays over the radio, or when Sheheryar Munawer serenades Sonya Jehan with the quintessential ballad ‘Baarish’ in Ho Mann Jahaan, the film which put Khan on the map. Those who have had the opportunity to speak to Khan about his life and work will agree that he is just like his music.
Khan isn’t aggressive in his approach towards his professional success, taking things slowly and calmly. There is hardly anything that makes him angry, or so it appears. The singer constantly shuffles between Lahore and Karachi, the former being his home; he spends a lot of his time “finding homes to crash” when he comes to city by the sea. However, one shouldn’t be deceived by the media because while Khan might not be that visible, he is actually involved in a lot of upcoming ventures with his concert tour with Salt Arts being on the top of that list.
“Raania from Salt Arts approached me a few months ago. I also wanted to work with them because it’s an organization that is so earnestly promoting the performing arts in Pakistan. Also, the fact that it doesn’t have any corporate linkages and is something so pure,” says Khan over a telephonic conversation that took a few days to coordinate, as he has been busy with various meetings and his vocal training lessons. Khan thought this venture to be the perfect opportunity to make his presence felt in Karachi where he hasn’t performed in over six months. The tour consists of two shows that will be held in Karachi on the 26th and 29th of this month.
This is perhaps the extent to which Khan would go to gain more ‘visibility’ in a time where many musicians are busy making their livings off of corporate projects, by doing ads and other uncharacteristic things. Of course, musicians all over the world are making money like this but Pakistan is one of the few countries where musicians spend more time on ads than on actually making original, unsponsored content.
Does this formula bother him? “It’s become a lot about putting your face out there and getting endorsements. Sometimes it feels a lot less about the music itself. But the people who are earnestly working on music as an art form, that’s what really truly means something, and that’s what means something to me as an artist. As far as the rest of the packaging is concerned and how commercially viable you can become, that’s also fine because that’s also part of the game. If people want to be everywhere and that’s the ambition then that is perfectly justified as well.” To each their own then.
But endorsements aren’t the only avenue through which a musician can make his presence felt. We are living in the digital age where it has become so easy to be famous. “Nowadays, every individual has become a brand. People are putting out so much information of themselves that gives them this identity. But it has to have humanistic traits; it has to be real.”
Khan proves to be an old soul when he claims that he misses the analog age but he understands the way things are working and tries to draw a balance between his personality and the way the world is progressing. “I’m not going to deny the fact that the world that we live in today cares about the number of Twitter followers you have, for example. But that is just one department of your work. You also have to market yourself. That’s also one department of mine that I would like to improve as well but for me, at the end of it all, it’s all about the music. I think there should be more original material and that’s something that will always have its place no matter how good you are at marketing yourself. If something is good, then people will like it.”
This is the formula that Khan has been applying to his work and clearly it’s working as his work is flourishing without the need for endorsements or social media obsessiveness. Having recently wrapped up a U.S tour, Khan is busy with his upcoming concerts in Karachi, has completed three songs for Mehreen Jabbar’s highly anticipated film ‘Dobara Phir Se’ and is getting ready to release a music video for an unreleased Punjabi song, the first of its kind from the singer. More power to you Khan!
This article was first published in Instep, 20th October 2016.