12 Things We Learned About Altaf Raja on Talking Music

Host Kirthi Shetty sat down with Qawwali legend Altaf Raja on this week’s episode of Talking Music. Here are the highlights from that fascinating conversation. If you’re intrigued, listen to the whole episode here!

1. He ‘Inherited’ Music

When Kirthi Shetty asked Altaf how he got into music, Altaf pointed to the old tradition of fathers singing the Azaan into their newborn’s ears. Altaf’s father was a Qawwali singer himself, and Altaf says that hearing his father sing as an infant ignited his passion for music.



2. He Left School in 9th Grade.

Altaf wasn’t a great student, but his parents insisted he get a formal education so that he learns the ways of the world. Altaf said that he was always interested in studying music and perfecting his art. Well, we are certainly glad he dropped out. 

3. From Selling Millions of Albums to Scoring Millions of Streams.

Altaf isn’t fazed by the transition from albums to singles. He feels audiences will discover good music no matter what. He does miss the craft and effort that went into making albums. He remembers back in the day, he used 45 violins on one song, and he feels that in the age of singles, songs are produced far more quickly. 

4. Born for the Studios, Famous on the Stage.

Altaf became a household known for Qawwali fans by touring with his parents, but very few people know that Altaf actually sang in a Bollywood movie before making his debut. And, even to this date, he’s grateful for Bappi Lahiri for giving him that small part. 

5. Loves to Compose.

Not many people know this but Altaf writes, composes, and sings in his songs, and is actually quite an adept composer.

6. ‘Tum To Thehre Pardesi’ Was Not Going to be in His Album. 

Altaf sang his biggest hit on a Qawwali TV show so many times, he felt he should try newer songs for his debut album. But, his mother insisted that Altaf add the song that had made him famous, and so the song made its way into the album, became a major hit, and the rest is history. PS: Kids, always listen to your mom. 

7. Looks for Poetry from Lucknow to London.

Be it London or Lucknow, Altaf attends poetry recitals everywhere. This helps him write better, and if he hears a poet recite a great verse, he immediately asks their permission to use their words in a song. 

8. Altaf Missed Those Melodies.

Altaf says back in the day, songs used to have great lyrics and melodies. And, that’s the reason why producers and composers keep going back to those classics. He feels while this makes a film’s music more commercial, somewhere the industry is missing out on fresh, new sounds.

9. Qawwali Is Here to Stay.

Altaf says that the lack of albums makes it seem that Qawwalis are disappearing, but Qawwali and its influences are seen everywhere. In fact, he made us realise that Bulleya from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was influenced by Qawwalis. 



10. No Likes or Retweets from Altaf. 

Altaf tours all the time, and he finds it hard to spend time on social media. He feels if he can’t do it regularly, he should just stay away from it. Luckily for us fans, he joined us on Talking Music, and told Kirthi Shetty all that we wanted to know about him.

11.  He’s All about the Family.

His proudest moment as a singer was when four generations of a family came to meet him backstage in Birmingham, and he saw that he touched hearts across ages. And, when you ask him who he likes touring with? He answers with a smile – Mom! 

12. Kirthi Still Can’t Sing. 

But, he keeps trying, and maybe he’ll also do a killer Qawwali some day. 



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