A Candid Interview with Nimra Rafiq

The voice of Sounds of Kolachi, Nimra Rafiq is one of the smartest musicians we have in Pakistan who knows her craft well and understands the key to longevity is reinvention. Hence, Nimra makes sure she keeps the artist in her alive by performing covers, singing OSTs occasionally, and being vocal about the issues faced by musicians. 

Appeared to the music scene at just the age of 14, Nimra has released several OSTs, dubbed for Turkish drama serials, and appeared in Coke Studio as well. In this interview, Nimra Rafiq talks about her life as a musician, her views on the current state of the industry, future plans, and more. 

Nimra Rafiq of Sounds of Kolachi performing live.

From a young girl pursuing her dream at a young age of 14 to a star that you are today, how has your musical journey been?

It was not an easy task to pursue my dream as a young girl. It surely isn't as simple as people assume it to be. I started out when I was 14 years old and now I'm 25, it's been a terrific journey.

Sounds of Kolachi are known for producing profound music. How did your collaboration happen?

I have been a part of Sounds Of Kolachi since 2015 and I remember when I met Ahsan Bari (founder of SOK), I had never heard of SoK before neither did I know the kind of genre they played. I played my first show with SOK at I am Karachi Festival and till date, it has been the biggest performance I've ever done.

All your songs, especially OSTs were chart busters. Are you picky in your projects or they come out good naturally in the end?

Sometimes it occurs naturally and sometimes I have to be very picky about my projects as I've got a very extensive reach and audience. All my hit OSTs have been a result of constant effort, hard work and perseverance.

What music were you into as a kid that propelled you into making music a career? 

I'm a fanatic of Indian Classical music. Also, I'm a die hard fan and follower of Shreya Goshal. She's a true inspiration and has been integral part of my journey.

What did you feel you needed to learn in order to get yourself ready for the very competitive world of entertainment, where only a very small percentage of individuals actually make it, let alone make it to the level that you have? 

I learned how to face negativity and those who can only discourage regarding my voice, tone and high scales. I was completely against the tide and I've reached here based on my own effort and determination. Commuting in buses and rickshaws and asking for producers for an opportunity. 

Nimra Rafiq is a Pakistani singer who also appeared in Coke Studio.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in the initial stages of your career? 

Being a musician in our society is quite an uphill task. Our choices of career in society are limited to medicine, engineering or law. Any artist who chooses to pursue his passion and make it his/her profession needs to fly against the wind of criticism and justify the career choice. Furthermore, the Pakistani music industry is more like a group of musicians in Islamabad, Lahore & Karachi working with corporates and beverage companies to produce projects. On top, it's very difficult as a woman to make your place.

Over the years you’ve been working so hard at your craft, how did you find your sound? Was it a conscious search for you, or an unconscious evolution? 

I believe a conscious search for the right sound becomes an unconscious evolution. You have to keep practicing, keep repeating yourself, learn from your mistakes and go with what YOU think sounds right. As long as you've out your soul into it, people will connect.

Apart from nailing the performance, what elements do you think about implementing in order to ensure that the song is not just well-performed but a commercially viable product, considering that your sound is packaged for the mass market? 

Trends these days change so fast. Every quarter of an year, a trend or style has changed. Musicians these days need to evolve accordingly. As long as you've put your soul into it, as long as it connects to my audience it's commercially viable. My sound is very malleable, I tend to change my style as per the requirements of an album, project or a show.

Nimra Rafiq is a Pakistani singer who performs with Sounds of Kolachi.

Which artists/bands from Pakistan do you believe to be the best live performers? 

Mekaal Hassan Band and Noori has always been one of my favourite bands. However, I never got a chance to perform with Mekaal Hassan Band, but Noori. The energy and positive vibes Noori brings on stage; I have never seen that energy and I am so lucky to perform with them.

What is the best part of playing live? 

The energy of the crowd,the closeness with your audience, your chance to connect with them.

Nimra Rafiq performing live at Coke Fest powered by Coke Studio Pakistan.

Can you name your three musical inspirations from Pakistan? 
  • Javed Bashir 
  • Hina Nasrullah
  • Madam Noor Jehan
What makes Pakistani music so different? 

Pakistani music has now become the melting pot of different styles and genres. It's where east meets the west and vice versa.

Today, a lot of music relies on technically sophisticated synthetic sound. Do you think this is one of the reasons why the current generation of musicians hasn’t been able to connect with the audience lately? 

I firmly believe that music education should be a primary and compulsory subjects in schools, colleges and universities to create a new generation which is well aware of music genres, tones, sounds and history. The disconnection between current generation of musicians has nothing to do with the new sound, it has everything to do with how the audience religiously follows the trendsetters.

How do you view the current state of Pakistan’s music industry? Do you think the current music scene in the country is progressive? 

It wonderful to see platforms like Coke Studio and Pepsi Battle of the Bands are giving Pakistani musicians the spotlight they deserve. The current music scene is surely progressive. However, I believe there should be more music channels on TV that play Pakistani music ONLY. There can't be 2 shows that air only during the summers of every year. The music scene is in dire need of an influx of investment.

Any suggestions for the improvement of the music industry? 

Every industry has regulatory authorities and unions that regulate, monitor, survey and lead the industry towards just, fair and international standard practices. The music industry is in dire need of a regulatory authority that safeguards the copyrights of music, oversees the music projects and regulates the finances and payments of artists. There have been many cases where artists have not been paid for their services or given the services they have been promised. In such cases, the interference of a regulatory authority is very important to speak for the artist.

Do you think nepotism exists in the industry? 

Nepotism is cancer for any industry and should be prohibited. Artists must be chosen solely based on talent, merit and work ethics.

Where do you see yourself as a musician in the next 5-10 years? 

I see myself as a successful artist with my music that connects with everybody around the world. To pluck the heartstrings of so many people and express my inner self.

Do you wish to release a complete studio album in the future? 

Yes, currently I'm working on many projects and my own original music is one of the.

Please give a small message for your fans. 

If you're a singer, guitarist or a drummer and looking for a chance to enter the spotlight, remember that if you do it for the fame, likes and followers you will not get anywhere. Do it for your passion and love for music. Put your soul into it and do what you love most and what sounds right to you. Ultimately people will connect to your music and once they do, they will want more.