Ali Safina is a Radio Jockey, Video Jockey, Disc Jockey, aspiring actor and a musician. Not only is he a man of many talents, he clearly enjoys working hard on being all of them too. His show on Radioactive FM96 attracts a loyal following of bhangra listeners from across the nation. His television show on MTV, MeraMTV, is also a favorite amongst his fans. And more and more people are beginning to tune in to his shows.
And it's easy to see why: in person, Ali is laidback, calm and friendly. He meets people with ease and without hesitation, blending himself into conversation with them. His accent shifts from an English-born-Pakistani to a pure Punjabi lehja and right back without one even noticing it.
Born in Multan, Ali moved to Oman with his family when he was three where he completed his schooling. For higher education, he then moved to Scotland where he pursued a degree in Mechanical Engineering. And while he wasn’t studying, instead of getting a part time job, Ali became a DJ. “All my friends at university would pursue it because it was easy money,” says Ali. “I got hooked onto it because of the music. Before that I was interested in the guitar, I kept trying to look for a guitar instructor, but due to my schedules there, that never happened.” But he did take time out and become a DJ, which eventually led him to be on Scottish Radio.
Time passed and eventually, Ali returned home to his family hoping to continue his studies by pursuing a Masters degree. It was then Ali realized that he was at a crossroads. Having had his family send him to the best schools all of his life; it was pretty clear to Ali what he should do. “My parents had already invested into my studies,” he states, “I was put through the best school; best college and the best university for engineering, even for someone like me!” He laughs and explains, “I say that because, my parents knew I wasn’t interested in learning engineering, but they did all of that so that I could have a better future and be prepared.”
Ali made his choice, he got in touch with Napa, packed his bags and arrived in Karachi. “When I landed here, I went straight from the airport to Napa,” recalls Ali. After signing up with Napa, Ali then made his way towards the offices of FM96. “I basically went to them and asked them if they were having any auditions, and they asked me for my experience. When I told them my background, they suggested that I produce my own show.” Ali stepped up to the entire experience, being one of the few RJs at the time to be producing their own shows.
But the hesitation wasn’t that there’d be too much work involved, but how audiences would welcome a totally Punjabi-based show. “I wasn’t too sure what the welcome would be like, what the situation in Karachi would be like, would it have a Punjabi community?” His answers came with the replies that he received following his show. “The majority of the feedback I got was, ‘finally, here’s a show that gives us information, latest updates and latest tracks, different mixes, and all about Punjabi music’, and it’s been constant like that since the past two years,” Ali said.
While he was RJing, he was contacted by MTV. “I remember, I was sitting at home and I get a phone call from Ghazanfar Saab, and he called me over. I had done an audition for them a while back so when I reached there, I was told that I’d be going live on TV in an hour’s time!” Instead of having a panic attack, Ali brimmed with glee. “It was a powerful experience, I mean any job on TV is a responsible job, but I always wanted a show of my own, where I can portray our people in a proper manner – and I did all of it without any support at all.”
Though Ali was now enjoying success on the TV and Radio, they weren’t his calling here. He had come to Pakistan to seek out training and refinement at Napa. But due to unfortunate events and political situations, he decided to pull out. “All the people there, especially my tutor Salamat Ali Sahib, were helpful and if it hadn’t been for the political scenario I would’ve stayed there polished up on my singing.”
So when will we hear of Ali Safina the musician? “Not any time soon, I want to take my time, learn more about music and then see how the situation is. Because I don’t want to be judged as ‘oh look here comes another VJ-turned-musician’, I want to focus on a career of music that is purely retro and classical, something I’m looking forward too.”
For the time being Ali continues to host both his radio and TV shows – which is an amazing feat unto itself. Ali remarks, “There was a time when I clocked in over seventy hours of live shows in one month, both radio and TV.” And it’s clear that Ali’s energy translates well on live TV and radio because of his personality.
With such determination and dedication to his work, it’s pretty clear that this is just the beginning of Ali Safina’s journey. “I have a long way to go, may be five, may be 10 years. I need polishing, I need refinement and then perhaps more and more people will appreciate my skills.”