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Meet Atif Afzal

Today we’d like to introduce you to Atif Afzal (popularly known as A-Zal).

Hi Atif, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Well, music pulled me towards it at a very early age. I started learning music at the age of 11 and the mouth organ was my first instrument. I got interested in picking up more instruments and then went on to learn the guitar, piano, ukelele, percussions, etc. I spent my childhood in London and had an environment which really cultivated music into my DNA. But, I never really had inclination to make this my career. It was something that I loved doing, and that’s what worked wonders for me. Just doing for the love of something, without any reason can get you a long way in any craft.

I was quite good with my academics and completed my engineering in Electronics. I secured a plush job in KPMG where I worked as an IT consultant. Now, this was the turning point in my life. Sometimes, you have to go the wrong to realize what’s the right way! That’s when I decided to give it all to music and I got into film scoring. It all started with independent films which didn’t have the best budgets, but my focus was to go all out with the production and invest every penny of the budget into the music production. My production quality started getting noticed, then a couple of my films went to the CANNES film festival. This led to me getting international films, and I landed up shifting to the USA. Once again, I had to work on several films which were not big studio films, but finally came a point where I started being contacted by larger networks and film studios. I worked one NCIS: Los Angeles and The Twilight Zone with CBS, Loki with Marvel Studios and Resort to Love with Netflix. 2020 was the turning point in my life and I can’t wait for 2022 to begin, there are several interesting projects in the pipeline!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No, the road wasn’t smooth at all. In fact, it had more bumps than a smooth run. But, if you get a smooth road to drive on, what’s the value of the glory? It is a decade of perseverance, hard work, belief that eventually led to the glory for me. I feel it is a long way to go, but finally I feel I am out of the bumpy terrain and a bit on the cruise mode on a highway.

When I moved to the USA, I had to start over again. Meet and pitch my music to all kinds of projects, commercials, short films, thesis films, literally anything! This was the strategy as it was allowing me to make connections and build a solid network. For example, I did a thesis film at the New York University, which gave me an opportunity to work with so many amazing musicians in New York at the NYU studio facilities. The other big obstacle was even learning how to live in a new country. But, as I said, the glory would mean nothing if it was all served to me on a plate.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a singer-songwriter and film composer based in New York. So, my work is clearly divided into two parts – writing music for movies and writing music for myself.

I compose film scores and soundtracks for tv shows, films and commercials. This is what I have been doing for a decade now. I specialize in orchestral hybrid scores and amalgamating world music with western music.

The more exciting part is the singer-songwriter side of me. I am a pop singer and am working on my debut album slated to release in 2022. This is my music, my voice and my story. I love this side of my work more as this is where I express as an artist and am not bounded by briefs. What sets me apart here is my voice, which you will hear soon! The album is called 17&11 Nights and it has songs like Phonebook, Autopilot, Needles, Lonely Town, etc. All these songs are pop & singer-songwriter style and am working with the best team possible. A Grammy nominated team that has worked with artists like Justin Bieber and David Guetta. I can’t wait to bring this album out to the world.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Yes, the most important lesson I learnt was to introspect talk to yourself once in a while to know if you are living life each day. It was during the early COVID-19 stage, where the world had almost stopped, when I realized that I have always wanted to cut out my record, however, due to the constant work schedule, I never took the plunge. This is what led me to write the song Autopilot, which speaks about how our lives get into the autopilot mode, and we live everyday like a programmed robot.

Sometimes, life doesn’t give us the time and space to even talk to ourselves. So, I would say the crisis situation was a blessing in disguise for me.

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