Who Is Arif Lohar? Three Facts About Asia Society's 10 Million View Man

In 2012, when Pakistani Punjabi folk singer Arif Lohar performed at Asia Society New York alongside Pakistani-American vocalist Aroof Aftab as part of the Creative Voices of Muslim Asia initiative, his performance of "Jugni Ji" brought the packed house to its feet. In the ensuing six years, millions more have enjoyed Lohar's crowd-pleasing performance by watching Asia Society's video.

On the occasion of "Alif Allah Chambey di Booti (Jugni)" reaching 10 million views on YouTube, we thought we'd share some facts about the song and its singer, a beloved figure in his native Pakistan.

He comes from a musical family

Lohar, one of eight boys, started singing as a child alongside his eldest and youngest brothers. His father, Alam Lothar, was a renowned Punjabi folk singer widely credited with popularizing the Jugni style, which involves storytelling through song. Both father and son specialized in performing Sufi devotional music, including poetry and scripture set to traditional compositions. Arif plays the chimta, a tong-like percussion instrument equipped with tinkling bells.

He's starred in over 45 films

One reason for the song's runaway popularity? It’s one of three tracks that Lohar contributed to the Pakistani film of the same name. Lohar also starred in it (as one of three men in love with the titular woman). In addition to Jugni, Lohar has starred in and contributed songs to films in both Pakistan and India, including Cocktail, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and Zindagi. Recently, following a break from the movies, he announced he would play his father in an upcoming biopic

The lyrics of the song are based on a 17th-century Sufi poem

The lyrics of "Alif Allah Chambey di Booti" are based on a poem by the 17th-century Sufi mystic Sultan Bahu. It's an exemplary version of the Jugni style, where singers share stories about life's journeys and the lessons learned along the way.

Lohar's interpretation of this poem is a praise song and poet’s declaration of faith to the Divine, the Prophet Muhammed, and Sufi saints.

A full translation of the poem and further information about Lohar's performance can be found in the program notes

About the Author

Profile picture for user Ami Li

Ami Li is a content producer and marketer for Asia Society, based in New York. Prior to joining the organization, she worked in media production and live music promotions in Beijing, China.