Thursday Jan 03 2019

'Pakistan defines me but I wanted Western audience to know my music first', says British-Pakistani DJ Naughty Boy

Originally known as Shahid Khan, Naughty Boy has worked with global superstars such as Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Rihanna, Tinie Tempah, Bastille, and UK X Factor winners Rak Su.

LONDON: Superstar producer, songwriter, and artist Naughty Boy says he is a proud Pakistani and loves Pakistan but he wanted to focus on his music first, not on his ethnicity or religion, and therefore decided to be known as 'Naughty Boy' when entering the Western music industry.

Naughty Boy's real name is Shahid Khan and he is most probably the only British-Pakistani who has worked with mainstream artists at the level and scale where no other Pakistani producer has been able to do. Born to Pakistani parents in Watford, just outside of London, Naughty Boy is now 30 years old and has worked with global superstars such as Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Rihanna, Tinie Tempah, Bastille, and UK X Factor winners Rak Su, who he performed with at last year's final of the show.

His latest track "Bungee Jumping" sees him teaming up with his long-time collaborator, multi-platinum-selling artist Emeli Sandé, and Pakistani musical icon, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

Naughty Boy invited Geo News to his family home and for the first time opened his heart about Pakistan and how deeply he cares for the country of his origin.

Naughty Boy speaks to geo News at his family home.

He said: "I am a proud Pakistani. I tell the world that I am from Pakistan. People tell me if I am from London but I tell the world that I am originally from Pakistan. I am nothing without my Pakistani identity and heritage. Having Pakistani identity is important to me and I tell the world about that though my music, mind, and heart. I will never forget my roots."

When asked about the background of 'Naughty Boy' and why not Shahid Khan, he explained that before starting out in music he came to the conclusion that he needed an English, cheeky name to break grounds in the music industry on the style of superheroes.

He explained the background of ‘Naughty Boy’ in his own interesting way. "First I would like to stress that I am not a naughty boy! When I was young, I used to wonder what my name would be when I start my music career. I thought about the names of superheroes and thought about the word 'boy'. The word naughty is very English, British and cheeky. I thought ‘Naughty Boy’ would be a good name because I wanted my music to be more famous than me, I wanted my music to be known first before my origin, race or religion. I thought that I will make my name first and after that I will celebrate my Pakistani heritage. I am a very proud Pakistani and I celebrate that."

He visited Pakistan as a child and was admitted in a school near Rawalpindi for two years by his father. Pakistani music influenced Naughty Boy when he was growing up. "I grew up in a household where Pakistani and Bollywood music was a big influence. I grew up watching films of Anjuman, Mustafa Qureshi, Sultan Rahi, Salma Agha and Nadeem. As a child, I never listened to English music. My best Eid ever was the one I had in Pakistan."

Naughty Boy plans to visit Pakistan in the new year. One day he would like to work with Atif Aslam, Naseebo Laal and Abida Perveen. "I want Pakistani artists to make a name in the West, not just in Pakistan. Bungee Jumping offers an example of how our two worlds can collaborate. It has English and Urdu lyrics, by Emeli Sandé and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. I want to bring people together and that’s possible through music.

'Bungee Jumping' is another sonic departure for Naughty Boy – a wistful and soft track, the production interpolates Pakistani soundscapes and influences, with warm, watery textures, creating a haunting song that hums with emotion perfect for this time of year.

He met Rahat Fateh Ali Khan a few months back in London where the duo performed for Prince Charles at a charity gala for the British Asian Trust and it was then that Naughty Boy decided to work with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. 

"Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has influenced myself and tens of millions others and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan has continued the legacy of the great Khan sahib. I have always been a fan of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan's music. I performed Tere Bin Nai Lagda for Prince Charles with Khan sahib which was an honour. His understanding of music is very wide."

Naughty Boy with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (left).

The concept for 'Bungee Jumping' originated after a game that Naughty and Emeli played where they attempted to write a song about the most random thing that came into their heads. Despite such beginnings, however, the acoustic guitar-driven song packs an emotional punch. A call-and-response duet, Emeli’s lyrics focus on taking risks in love, while Rahat's lyrics are a meditation on the eternal power and commitment of love, echoing the devotional music he is best known for.

As friends and collaborators, Naughty Boy and Emeli Sandé have worked on numerous tracks together, including 'Lifted' and 'Wonder' taken from Naughty Boy's debut album Hotel Cabana, and 'Daddy', taken from Emeli's multimillion selling album 'Our Version of Events'. The pair also worked together on Emeli's second album 'Long Live the Angels'.

Speaking about the track, Naughty Boy said: "This is what dreams are made of, especially for a producer, for someone who's grown up with Pakistani music, with Qawwali music, with ghazals, and with Western music as well. It's a dream come true for me to be able to bring this collaboration together...because my heart is in Pakistan, and here as well."s

Naughty Boy’s new album is set for release in autumn 2019.