By Alina Jawwad
John Leo a.k.a Khakan Altaf Chaudhry is a multitalented musician who began playing the keyboard at the age of 13 and wrote his first English song at the tender age of 16. He was influenced by both, Western musicians such as Michael Jackson and Prince as well as Pakistani bands such as Junoon, Strings and Vital Signs. John also headlined Scandinavia’s biggest mela festival last year, the Oslo Music Festival, which is held annually. John is a Pakistani who was born and raised in Norway. He has visited Pakistan numerous times over the years.
Q) Tell us something about yourself.
A: I´m born and raised in Norway and I am from Pakistani descent. I grew up in a town close to Oslo. I’ve studied medicine, and work as a doctor alongside my musical venture, so in a sense I have two jobs. I consider myself a Pakistani – Norwegian, and I’ve been to Pakistan more times than I can count. I speak fluently Punjabi and Urdu, as well as I can read and write Urdu. I love animals, music and my favourite food is samosa! That’s me in a nutshell.
Q) When you thought to be a musician, were you influenced by anyone?
A: I was always interested in music since childhood really, even if I don’t come from a musical background. I was influenced early by the likes of Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Strings, and Vital signs etc. I began playing the keyboard at the age of 13 and I wrote my first English song at the age of 16. I released my first track when I was 18. After that I decided to pursue a medical career, but along the way I picked up the guitar and various instruments like dholak, drums and so on and kept on writing and playing. I realized that music is something I really wanted to do, and thus it led to the release of “Different ways” EP.
Q) Tell us something about your upcoming projects.
A: I am soon releasing my first ever track in Urdu. I really have got a lot of requests for it, and I want to do it as well. So in the future I can see myself writing tracks in both Urdu and English.
Q) Why did you change your original name to an English name ‘John Leo’?
A: I haven´t actually changed my birth name or even thinking to do so. I have a stage name which is “John Leo”. When pondering about a stage name, it came about after a chat with a friend of mine discussing various options. I liked it and decided to keep it. Also, being a physician, I wanted to separate the roles.
Q) Do you consider yourself as a Pakistani?
A: Yes, I do without any hesitation. Travelling to Pakistan more times than I can count is also a factor. I am a Pakistani, but born overseas.
Q) Do you try to give specific messages in your songs? And if so, what are they?
A: Various songs have various messages. Sometimes I write out of my own experiences or happenings. It depends really. Like in “Shine” the message is simply to live each day with love for all and everything. In “Different ways” it’s a message of how someone loss can be a strength. “Always” my latest single – is about feelings that can fluctuate, but if it feels right, stick to it. Ultimately it’s up to the listener to make his or her own mind about it.
Q) Are you planning to compose a song in Urdu?
A: Yes absolutely! I have composed many songs in Urdu as of now, and the first Urdu song will be out very soon. It’s written by me as well, so I am really thrilled how it will be received.
Q) Do you have any plans on visiting Pakistan and doing a gig here?
A: Yes, I do. I have to work it out with my team in Pakistan, and hopefully I will be able to have not one, but a couple of gigs in Pakistan. I honestly can’t wait! I have been to gigs in Pakistan myself as a fan, and that is really cool.
Q) Finally, a message to our readers and your fans?
A: I am actually doing this all by myself, writing, producing, singing and it can be overwhelming at times. With your support, I can go on and that I am. Each and every comment means a lot. Thank you for your support!