Danyal Zafar: Life after Coke Studio
Danyal Zafar is on a journey to ensure that being Ali Zafar’s younger brother isn’t his only claim to fame. Recently concluded tenth season of Coke Studio has helped the 20-year-old set that into motion and gave him a newfound drive and motivation.
Instep: A career launch with Coke Studio is something most young musicians can only dream of. We know the pressure must’ve been great but tell us about life after it?
Danyal Zafar (DZ): Coke Studio has definitely changed some dynamics for me and my plans prior to it have changed. It has upped the ante significantly because the response has been overwhelming. ‘Muntazir’ has the most views from songs on this entire season and now I want my potential to come out in the songs that I have on my album. I gave myself a more creative push and I am working with a producer. But speaking of pressure, work was always different to my brother and I wasn’t in the public eye till Coke studio so I didn’t feel pressure until I was on the show.
Instep: You say that your sound is different to Ali Zafar’s and it’s natural to draw comparisons. How do you feel you two are musically different?
DZ: I didn’t even see myself as a singer earlier; I just used to play the guitar. I started listening to Slash when I was growing up and then rock, grunge, metal and that’s how my journey began. I would come to the melody after working out the sound on the guitar but Ali bhai comes up with the melody first, deciding what kind of song he wants. In terms of genre, I’ve always been into blues, funk and groovy music.
Instep: If your musical inspirations have been the likes of Slash and Pink Floyd, eastern music must not come as second nature?
DZ: The way music works here is that the average music listener will not have enough of an intellect to grasp music like Pink Floyd because those aren’t our roots. The way I see it, if the melody doesn’t reach the people it doesn’t work out because the average music listener would want to hum the song or feel the sentiment of it. My thought process was always in English but I had to make music that would resonate with the masses so I listened to Eastern music and let the gorapan wash away. I have had original songs in English for the past 7 years but didn’t put them out for this reason.
Instep: Do you have any inclinations towards acting?
DZ: I was about to do a film in Bollywood and was living there for a few months. I took classes for language, lost body mass for the role and I was really living and breathing the character. We were a few weeks away from shooting until the India-Pakistan situation became tense and I had to back out but I believe that there’s a reason it didn’t happen. I feel it’s best that an artist really masters one medium before delving into so many different ones at one time.
Instep: You’ve said on many occasions that you want your journey to be your own; without the help of corporate entities but decided to take up Coke Studio and launch your career on that platform. Why?
DZ: I realized if I released my album first no one would hear it. Where would the album come? No one watches TV, cable is gone. We watch things online at our own convenience. There’s no way to sell music in Pakistan because there are no CDs and very few concerts. You earn if there’s a corporate structure backing you or you put your music out and wait for people to approach you. With Coke Studio my voice reached millions across the country and allowed me to put out my original work on a good platform. Now when I put my album out, I will know I will have more organic listeners than ever before and that changes the way an artist’s songs are received and perceived.