Arieb Azhar – Biography, Music, and Philosophy

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Azhar is a Pakistani singer who is known for this deep voice. Having a uniquely global perspective and having lived in different parts of the world, his life has had a unique trajectory. For example, he was influenced by his Croatian stint, and the media he consumed there. Not only was he inspired by South Asian music but also Irish blues, Dhikr and Croatian gypsy music.

Arieb Azhar in front of a book shelf

Childhood for Young Arieb

For his first 5 years, Arieb lived in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Arieb Azhar’s dad was helped launch the channel Pakistani Television (PTV). Aslam Azhar was known as the “Father of Television in Pakistan,” and was working as a broadcaster and director.

Then Arieb and the Azhar family moved to Karachi. When the Azhar family moved, Arieb’s brother bought a guitar but never played it. So, Arieb picked it up.

Being young, he dabbled as a singer and used to sing a lot of revolution songs. His songs were a protest against what he believed was wrong in the state.

Then again, the Azhar family moved to Islamabad for Arieb’s teen years.

Studies Took Arieb Azhar around the World

At 17, he went to Russia to study. In Russia, he encountered the revolution he’d been fighting for in Pakistan actualized. Yet, conditions weren’t better here.

He studied in Croatia, which at the time was Yugoslavia. There he went to study film.

During his school years, he identified as an atheist. At that time, he blamed religion as the reason for all the bad things happening in Pakistan. During the time Yugoslavia had war, then he began to study all faiths again.

When he was studying, the war started. He was there for 13 years and started playing music professionally

In 2004, he moved back to Pakistan. The father of Arieb Azhar was a man got strong ethics. His father was not one to promote his son. He would insist that Arieb not get special access just because of his relationship. In his last years, the talent of Aslam Azhar was not fully utilized.

Arieb Azhar’s Music

Art was at the center of as he was growing up. Tufail Niazi, Abida Parveen, Reshma were his influences. These were also personalities he had heard, had seen performing, and grown-up socializing with because of his father’s position.

Arieb Azhar holding guitar

Arieb Azhar knows other music but is deeply moved by Sufi poetry. That’s why he has chosen Sufi music.

The guitar was his primary instrument but always hoped for a vocal accompaniment. Music only became Azhar’s profession in 2003, at the age of 25 during his time in Croatia.

Azhar’s music on Coke Studio catapulted his success. He sang original songs as well as adapted snippets from a sufiana song of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. After success on Coke, even toured with his friend Sanam across the USA.

Arieb Azhar takes issue with the term Sufi music. “This term came into being after the band, Junoon and Coke Studio Pakistan. Prior to that, it was referred to simply as folk music.”

Thoughtful Art and Content Creation

Azhar’s conviction is that language is very important. The current state of Pakistan has biased the country towards the English language and Urdu. Regional languages have been pushed aside. They are considered inferior. Even though, languages like Punjabi, Siraiki, Pashto are older. And with their longer existence, they express not just a different vocabulary but additional knowledge and relevant experience. They hold within them a culture. This cultural knowledge is being suppressed when suppressing their native languages.

Arieb Azhar

He regrets how he handled his formal education. Because he was so into music, and you about his passion from an early age, he never took his college degree seriously. At times, he debates getting further education. But unfortunately, he doesn’t have the basic educational degree to pursue that dream.

Riyaaz Qawwali