Photo by Mink Mingle
Pakistani-Australian singer-songwriter Mahmood Khan is making headlines again today, and for all the right reasons. His single “Merry Go Round” has climbed all the way to top spot in the Australian iTunes charts; at the same time, his album “Tere Baghair” (translation: Without You) has also clinched the coveted #1 spot.
In cracking the Top Ten “World” category, Khan joins the ranks of famous artists such as Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Youssou N’Dour. Thrust into the limelight with the release of his break-out hit “Ginoo” — the first Urdu track to make the iTunes, AIR, Khan continues to champion his Pakistani heritage and is sure to add to his growing legion of fans in the weeks and months to come.
For those familiar with Khan and his creative vision, it will come as no surprise that the artist has earned his spot in the history books with a foreign language project A proud Pakistani by birth, Khan’s heritage is threaded through all that he does to this day.
According to sources within the music industry, this is the first time that a bilingual and/or foreign-language album has topped the domestic charts.
Though he alternates readily between his native Urdu and English in much of his previous works, “Tere Baghair” focusses almost exclusively on the former, in a nod to both his roots and to the vibrant Pakistani-Australian community. The album contains some of his finest offerings, including:
- Tere Ooper Chaon
- Din Jagay
- Hum Do
- Jidhar Jaoon Ga
- Rukna Mumkin Nahi
- Tere Baghair
Some of the tracks — like Hum Do and Tere Ooper Chaon — have more of a poppy, electric feel to them. On the other hand, Rukna Mumkin Nahi takes it back to the instrumental sound that first propelled him to stardom. If the tracks have anything in common, it’s the Urdu language; as well as a fast-paced, lively beat to match his works such as Ginoo.
“I used to compose English music only but it was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who advised me to make music in Urdu as well,” he told SBS Urdu back in 2013.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, of course, being the acclaimed Pakistani vocalist, musician, and singer of Qawwali, a form of Sufi Islamic devotional music.
It is in this way that Khan continues to smash down stereotypes and create music that transcends genre, ethnicity, and religion.
With the catchy “Merry Go Round,” Khan eschews musical convention to deliver 3minute 30 seconds of effervescent bliss. In fact, the track has proved so popular amongst Khan’s dedicated contingent of followers, that it is now listed as his top song on iTunes. No surprise, really, when you consider that it’s the hottest track in the “World” category on the platform.
But Khan has never been one to abide by genre or creed. A long-time advocate for not just the Pakistani and South Asian diaspora more broadly, his innovative approach to musical composition has seen him take inspiration from Australia’s indigenous community. In yet another interview with SBS Urdu, Mahmood previously stated that the sounds and vocals of famous South Asian musicians are comparable to musical styles practiced amongst First Nations peoples.
“Aboriginal music is based on the sounds of the trees, earth, and everything in it. Even the music instruments are made from the trees. This is quite similar to the classical or early music styles we had in South Asia.”
To a degree, this is evident in Tere Baghair. And while this is far from the first record that the award-winning artist has managed to snag, it certainly won’t be the last. In 20o9, Khan’s “Like the River” took the ARIA charts by storm and recent tracks including “Ginoo” shot to the top of the iTunes listings virtually overnight.
With Tere Baghair, the singer-songwriter draws heavily on his roots and South Asian musical heritage. Yet at the same time, he melds this in typically effortless fashion with a lighter-style, Western “pop” sound; perhaps owing to his years spent working as a producer alongside hip-hop and R&B acts in LA. Today, Khan concurrently holds the top spot on iTunes Australia for the “World” category. Unprecedented? Yes, but if the singer’s previous works are anything to go by, it will only be so long before he looks to push the boundaries even further.