In Attaullah Khan Essakhelvi's household in Mianwali Punjab, music was a form of entertainment that was not just looked down upon, it was also strictly forbidden. Essakhelvi recalls that his father used to own a radio set that he would turn on just to listen to the news and then quickly lock up lest someone dared listen to a tune. Little did he know that his own son would grow up to become one of the most popular Pakistani folk singers.
Essakhelvi traces his overriding love of music back to his earliest childhood memories. He sang â€“ despite the social taboos. And secretly, while still in school, he sought to learn more about music. One of his teachers, Syed Nasiruddin Shah Bukhari helped hm. "He taught me Mohammed Rafi's songs, Mukesh's songs and told me never to stop singing," Essakhelvi reminisces. Soon Essakhelvi's passion for music overcame his fear of society, and he tried â€“ unsuccessfully - to convince his parents to let him sing. "I tried to describe to them what happens inside of me when I singâ€¦ I begged them," he remembers. "Maybe they would have brought themselves to bear it. They were, after all, my parents. But the system, the rules and traditions of where I come from would never have allowed it."
At 18, a disillusioned Attaullah Khan Essakhelvi left home. He went from province to province, city to city, doing odd jobs, surviving. During this time, he nurtured his bond with music, singing and often recording himself on cassette tapes that he later distributed. One day, to his surprise, he received an invitation from a recording company in Faisalabad to come to their studio and record some folk songs. It turned out that they had come across one of his home recordings. Essakhelvi kept the appointment and recorded four albums in one go. When they were released at the end of 1977 they became nationwide bestsellers. Attaullah Khan Essakhelvi has never looked back.
After 40 years of singing countless folk songs, holding the world record for the highest number of audio albums ever released by a singer, and belting out award-winning anthems in five different languages all over Pakistan and the world, Essakhelvi still maintains that all of this was never his intention. "I didn't yearn to become a professional singer," he says, "I was simply compelled to sing. It was a passion." This year Esakhelvi brings that passion to Coke Studio.
" I cannot describe the thunderstorm that builds up inside me when I don't sing! "