Mohammed Ali Shyhaki is a well-known name in Pakistan
entertainment industry. He is among the ones who introduced the genre of pop
and rock music in Pakistan. Started his music career in the 1970s, Shyhaki earned
a name and fame as ace star in Pakistani pop music and as a playback singer.
His patriotic song ‘Main Bi Pakistan Hoon’ and folk song
‘Teray Ishq Mein Jo Bhi Doob Gaya’, with famous folk singer Allan Fakir are
still popular among masses.
Shyhaki also acted in a few films. Some of his films
achieved success at the box office but the industry was already on the decline,
so he left films. His film Choron ka Badshah (1988) celebrated platinum
His family name ‘Shyhaki’ comes from his Iranian father who
used to work at the Iranian Consulate in Karachi. After graduating from NED
University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, Pakistan, he made a
short-lived career in aviation but could not find him fit for the profession
and got back to his passion, music.
The government of Pakistan recently awarded him the ‘Pride of Performance’ for his services to the music industry of Pakistan.
Daily Paperazzi reached to this legend and talked about his
recent achievement and current activities.
Don’t you think that you must’ve have got this award a
long time ago?
Yes. It seems true. But I leave things to God. He can better decide what is and when is something better for us. We can only work hard which I think I did to my best.
Your fans see you very seldom these days. Why?
There was a time when we (musicians of his generation) were everywhere and all the time on television. Then policies changed and channels started to give more priority to current affairs and politics on their screens. People were also enjoying them. Ratings got higher and ultimately these channels started to get more advertisements for political talk shows rather than entertainment. They might decide why to spend money on musicians (and their tantrums) and other entertainment programs with less profit in return. Instead they just set up studios, hired a host, and called two politicians, and then a hot debate started. It cost them much less but earned more.
What do you do to satisfy the artist inside you?
I do private shows. I always go and perform when someone
calls me with respect. Moreover, I have
established a registered YouTube channel where I put up short durations
programs and shows along with my radio show which I do every week on FM 100.
The program also goes live on the channel’s Facebook page. I have a right to
download it, edit it and upload on my official channel so anyone can watch and
You have studied civil engineering. So how did you come
into the field of showbiz and music?
I thought I was not fit for the job of an engineer. I didn’t
realise it when studying but when it came to be a professional I could not
In meantime, to my surprise, I met many who could not even write a single sentence but passed the exams and got the job. I also got the job but I could not sustain it for more than 6 months as my boss had a laid back attitude and was not ready to take any responsibility for his work. He also asked me to do the same. I thought it was not just to get earnings without taking any responsibility and doing things in a right way. Moreover, naturally, I was more comfortable in performing arts than engineering.
You are among the founders of pop music in Pakistan. How
did you modify the pure pop rock from the west for your Eastern Listeners?
Music is like a bara masala ki chaat in which the more you
put in the more it becomes interesting and appealing for the audience. We
always do experiment to transform music, for instance, there was a time when
bhangra was a hit thing with amalgamation of pop and rap.
You have worked in films as well. Tell us something about
It is an interesting story. Director Iqbal Yousuf approached me and offered a role in his film. I was shocked. I asked him to hire me as a playback singer but he was adamant for me to act, He said, “Tum film material ho.” It was a time when I had returned from the USA. He cast me as lead in ‘Son Of Andata’. It was kind of a debut. Then I was cast in a very challenging role in ‘Pyar Do a Maar Do’. It was a quite difficult topic and co-production between Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia. The film could not be run in Pakistani cinemas as the censor board said it was promoting Bengali and Hindu culture. The story demanded all the female characters wear Saris while male cast wore lungis. I did 10 movies altogether. Among them almost 4 were released while the rest are still in boxes or files
Do you think that what appreciation and promotion our
artists and performing arts are getting on state level is enough for the
betterment of this industry?
To be honest I feel general public has not accepted us as
part of the society. It not only
includes the showbiz or performing arts but also the artists who paint, write
or do any other creative trait. We are not considered as normal as we are not
working 9 to 5. They ask why he is
charging so much money just from singing. What he is doing is so big. I ask
them why they don’t do this. I know everybody can’t do everything. It means
this is an extraordinary talent which God has given to some of his people. If
they can’t or don’t want to do it, hen deny to accept it. This is not fair. I
believe that it is only God to decide from which profession we would earn.