The Reinvention Of Uzair Jaswal

By Sonya Rehman

A few months before the pandemic, Islamabad-based singer, Uzair Jaswal, was in his creative element. With a schedule often packed with gigs around the country, Jaswal couldn’t wait to pen down new music for 2020 as he hopped from one venue to the next.

This is where he felt his best; the adrenaline rush of being on stage, singing and interacting with new people fired him up. For an empath and an extrovert like Jaswal, this was the perfect sweet spot – being in the spotlight and making real connections.

Uzair Jaswal. Photo: Raza Jaffri

“But 2020 had other plans,” Jaswal states with a dry laugh. For an entire year, the artiste found himself swept away in toxic, emotional whirlwind of paranoia and depression. He worried incessantly about his parents contracting the virus. Shutting himself off from the world for over six months, by staying holed up in his room, Jaswal reveals that it was an “emotional, trying time.”

“It took a toll on me. I stopped everything. For someone who has been singing and performing since the age of 14, every weekend, to having no human interaction and not being able to hug the people you love…I think that’s the worst place an artiste can be in,” he says. “There was so much pressure to be productive since everyone was home and had a lot of free time. Everyone was like, this is the best time to write and compose music, I tried to be honest, I really did…but I just couldn’t.”

But by the start of 2021, Jaswal had had enough. He was ready to make a comeback. The year prior had been a brutal reminder of the fragility of life.

“I’ve never had such a long break in my career,” he says, “When I emerged from it, I wanted to re-invent myself and do something new. So I started writing songs again.”

One song turned into two, and before Jaswal knew it, he had ended up with nine tracks.

“By the ninth song, I thought, okay, this is an album,” he laughs, before continuing, “It was a very emotional and fulfilling experience for me. I felt like someone new was emerging from within, a new me.”

Having released his second album, Lovestruck, in December, 2021, Jaswal is gearing up to begin shooting music videos (from his new album) and also record more music. He’s even open to trying out new genres; rock, R&B, you name it.

Jaswal realizes he has changed. There’s an ease to his otherwise anxious energy too. The artiste is more focused on the present, rather than letting his mind – and his nerves – get the better of him by projecting needlessly into the future.

After an extended hiatus, Uzair Jaswal is ready to make more music following the release of his second album in December, 2021. Photo: Hassan Habib Hashmi

The second last of seven siblings (an older sister and six brothers), Jaswal grew up in an artistically-inclined family where music and singing was a tool to express oneself, to let loose and feel connected to one another. Hence, it was only natural that he felt his career was mapped out since he was a toddler. In fact, the artiste reveals that his teacher had once penned the words; ‘your child is full of music’ – as a note to his mother – on his Kindergarten report card.

As a teen, Jaswal would do freebies performing at educational institutions and print his tickets to his own gigs (that he’d sell himself) at cafes in Islamabad such as, Civil Junction and the Paper Microphone Café. He just wanted any opportunity to be on stage to sing his heart out.

Even though Jaswal has won multiple music awards since the onset of his career – some of which include Best Album of the Year (at the Lux Style Awards, 2017), Best Song of the Year (at the HUM Awards, 2016), an award across the border, in India, where one of his songs, Tere Bin, was even picked up by Bollywood – the artiste makes no bones about the fact that young musicians have to work very hard to establish themselves.

“It’s just you from the get-go, making music, recording music videos, marketing and promoting yourself. It’s very tough doing everything on your own,” he says, “It wasn’t a smooth process when I started out.”

Added to that, Jaswal would often find himself being compared to his elder brothers – also part of the Pakistani music scene. “People are always quick to draw comparisons and make you question yourself. But I learned early on to shut all of that out. It has no bearing on my work especially when my siblings have been my biggest supporters and my first sounding board when I’m putting new music together.”

Currently, the artiste is thrilled about the direction that the local music scene seems to be heading in.

“I see very exciting times for all of us artistes in Pakistan right now. There’s such a diverse range of music coming out of the country since 2020. You’ve got Karakoram, Young Stunners, Hasan Raheem, Manu, Natasha Noorani, Abdullah Siddiqui, and so many more – everyone’s doing such interesting music, and they all have their own, different vibe,” Jaswal says.

“The lyrics are very honest too, people aren’t shying away from expressing themselves, I think that’s what’s helping artistes connect with their fans. People have given so much attention to new music – and discovering new artistes – over the course of the pandemic, which has really helped the music scene. Also, we now have music streaming platforms like Spotify for instance, which are helping our artistes put their music out there. The reach creates an audience and that’s what makes a song big in the digital age,” Jaswal states. “I see a huge music evolution taking shape in Pakistan and I’m here for it.”

Forbes


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