Akhtar Chanal Zahri describes music simply as “fuel for the soul”. He received his professional training from Ustaad Sadiq Ali Khan in 1964 and got his first official break in 1973, when he was discovered by Balochi Radio Station and brought regional folk to national attention. In 1974 Chanal’s music became popular nationwide when his song Deer Deer was first aired live on TV. Since then Akhtar Chanal has traveled all over the world, including the United States, the Netherlands and Europe for tours. In 1998 he was also awarded the Pride of Performance by the Government of Pakistan. He cites legends of folk and classical music, including Faiz Muhammad Baloch, Reshma, Alan Faqeer, Roashan Ara Begum and Mehdi Hassan as his musical influences.
His distinctive voice carries with it the stories of his birthplace – the sweltering fields of Kalat Balochistan, where young shepherds are raised to the tunes of regional folk songs while they work. “Where I come from, when a child is born, the only two things he knows how to do are sing and cry - music is a part of us from the very beginning.” says the 60-year-old folk singer. “The songs I hummed as a youngster watching my sheep, are embedded in my memory.” Zahri believes that every animal, field, flower and blade of grass can feel the positive energy of music.
Chanal is grateful to Coke Studio for providing him a platform from which he can showcase his talent to a diverse audience of people. Prior to Coke Studio he feels that he was not as recognized amongst the younger generation of music enthusiasts, but with the growing popularity of fusion music, this status quo will change. “Our newer generation has started appreciating our music due to the popularity of Coke Studio and I think this trend will grow in the future. Coke Studio has shown us a new path in the dark.”
This season Chanal rejoins Coke Studio, with a sound that inspires, thrills and awes and at the same time touches the heart with its Balochi passion, and whimsical Pakistani beauty. He will be participating in performances with Komal Rizvi and Momin Durrani in Season 7 of the platform. Chanal says that, “Coke studio is always much awaited and fans of the platform are very eager to listen to new performances from participating musicians. It was also a great experience working with STRINGS and the production team of Coke Studio. They were fine gentlemen and very humble throughout.” Chanal hopes to a part of future Seasons of Coke Studio.