Six things to know about Pakistani pop star Atif Aslam

He will perform on Expo 2020 Dubai’s Jubilee Stage on Wednesday

Atif Aslam is the next major pop star to perform at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Pakistani singer and composer, 38, will take to the Jubilee Stage on Wednesday for a hit-filled set representing his near two-decade career.

Follow the latest updates on Expo 2020 Dubai here.

The concert will not only reinforce Aslam’s standing as one of the biggest acts to emerge from the subcontinent, but also as a tribute to a tireless career that began in his late teens.

Here are six things to know about Aslam:

1. He wanted to be a professional cricketer

Born to a Punjabi Muslim family in the Pakistani city of Wazirabad, as a child Aslam initially aspired to be a cricketer and was a devoted follower of the national team.

Aslam played in various local teams in high school before dipping his toes into music for some fun.

As someone with no formal training but a great fan of Pakistani spiritual singer and composer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Aslam took part in musical competitions and, buoyed by the reaction, began taking it more seriously and laid those cricket dreams to rest.

2. His first hit was as part of a band

Aslam found music success almost instantly.

After co-forming the college band Jal ("water" in Hindi), the pop-rock group scored a hit across the subcontinent with 2003 single Aadat.

Despite its catchy hooks and Aslam's soulful vocals, he says the success was a fluke.

"I had no idea it was going to do that well," he told OK Pakistan and credited the burgeoning power of the internet for spreading the word.

Jal couldn’t take advantage of their national profile.

Creative differences caused Aslam to quit the group and launch a solo career.

3. He had a brief and successful run of albums

While Aslam wasted no time in finding solo success with 2004 debut album Jal Pari, it also didn't take him long to realise the real action is in recording music for film and television.

That said, the three albums he released all sold well and delivered a regular supply of hits.

Jal Pari yielded the popular single Bheegi Yaadein, regarded by the Pakistani press as one of the country's first pop tracks to go viral.

The 2005 follow-up album Doorie found Aslam broadening his appeal by topping the Indian charts through his work with composer Sachin Gupta and fellow Indian lyricist Saneer Anjaan.

The latter received the Guinness World Record in 2016 for being the most prolific songwriter in the world with 3,524 official credits – a dozen of those came from Doorie.

4. He's a Bollywood favourite

Aslam continues to make his biggest impact in Bollywood.

However, it was in the 2005 US indie film Man Push Cart, starring Ahmed Rizvi, that he made his screen debut.

Two tracks from Jal Pari and the Jal hit Aadat were used in the soundtrack.

Aslam went on to contribute to numerous hit soundtracks over the 15 years, including the action film franchise Race, Salman Khan's Tubelight and Tiger Zinda Hai and Akshay Kumar's Rustom.

His contribution led him to receive five Filmfare Award nominations for Best Male Playback Singer and a Best World Song nomination at the 2013 World Music Awards for Main Rang Sharbaton Ka from the Hindi action comedy Phata Poster Nikhla Hero.

5. He coached Pakistan

Perhaps he did not play cricket for Pakistan, but Alsam did represent his country in a fierce musical derby against India.

In 2012 he took part in the one and only season Sur Kshetra, a programme where both countries battled it out to see who has the better unsigned acts.

With Aslam and Indian singer Himesh Reshammiya coaching their respective countries, the final took place at the Dubai World Trade Centre in 2012 with singer Nabil Ali clinching it for Pakistan in front of a panel including Pakistan's Abida Parveen, India's Asha Bhosle and Bangladesh's Runa Laila.

While he didn't quite reach the status of his coach, Ali continues to work as playback singer for Pakistani television dramas.

6. He's a man for the occasion

Aslam is no stranger to large events.

As one of Pakistan's biggest pop stars and the country's large diaspora, he has been playing international arenas since 2006.

With key shows including headlining London's Royal Albert Hall in 2007 and being the first Pakistani to perform in the 02 Arena in 2010, in addition to several sold-out dates at Dubai World Trade Centre, he will be more than ready to deliver a worthwhile show at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Atif Aslam performs at the Jubilee Stage at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday, November 17. Show starts at 9pm. Tickets are free with an Expo pass. More information is available at expo2020dubai.com

Updated: November 15th 2021, 1:43 PM