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29 Jun

Ali Sethi on art, life and the story behind ‘Chan Kithan’

ali sethi

Ali Sethi has avoided the commercial route to success, rather has spent time giving his own voice to folk tales of the past, making them a bit more popular amongst the new generation. His rendition of Asad Amanat Ali Khan’s classic ‘Umran Langiyaan’ was a reminder of the rich and vibrant culture we’ve all ignored till now. His latest, ‘Chan Kithaan,’ released this week, is a sensitive and heart felt rendition of the folk classic. The highly acclaimed singer might not have had a career spanning decades but his voice has opened up the treasure chests of our culture and and he has used his keen interest in classical and folk music to take us on a nostalgic journey of the tunes of yesteryears. We spoke to this young vocalist about his interests in folk music…

Something Haute: You’ve always had a very distinct style that is not common in musicians of your generation; where does that affiliation with folk and classical music come from?

Ali Sethi: Two things: my academic training at Harvard and my subsequent training in classical music with Ustad Naseeruddin Saami of the Delhi gharana in Lahore.

SH: Your debut single, ‘Mohabbat Karne Wale’ really was exceptional. What’s the story behind it?

AS: No story as such. It’s a wonderful ghazal that’s been rendered by some of Pakistan’s greatest vocalists, including Naseem Begum, Mehdi Hasan khansahib, Farida Khanum Sahiba etc. I wanted to add my name to that illustrious list!

SH: You’ve acquired quite a number of medals over the years, which out of all your projects, has been the closest to you.

AS: I guess my songs are the closest to me, because I pour my heart and soul into them. If I had to pick three they would be ‘Haal Aisa Nahin’, ‘Aaqa’ and ‘Chan Kithan.’


ali sethi

Ali Sethi with the legendary Abida Parveen, on the sets of Coke Studio


SH: Do you think that classical music now seems depleted of the status it once enjoyed? Why do you think the music scene of the country is struggling to achieve its once glorified standing here and on international stages?

AS: There’s a simple reason for this. Our music reached its peak in the first half of the twentieth century, when maharajas patronized musicians, there were radio stations all over British India and the Bombay film industry was getting started. Partition put an end to that collaborative and highly fertile atmosphere. The second setback occurred in the 1980s, when PTV and Radio Pakistan stopped patronizing classical music. No one has been able to fill that vacuum. So today, with all this corporate sponsorship of music, mainly “commercial” songs are being encouraged, and more accomplished musicians are struggling to survive.

SH: Tell us about your new song. 

AS:Chan Kithan Guzari Aye Raat Vey‘ (‘Where were you last night, Love?’) is a popular folk ditty from rural Punjab. Over the years it has been sung by great singers like Dhinanath Mangeshkar, Surinder Kaur, Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, Suraya Multanikar, etc. In our rendition of the song we’ve added shades of electronica and indie-rock to the musical arrangement, while retaining the traditional ethos of the song. I think we’ve created a new genre here – what I’d like to call ‘Punjabi Gothic’. However the video for this is quite different as it depicts a Cinderella story set in contemporary urban Pakistan. Longing, aspiration, dreams, the meeting of tradition and technology – these are some of the themes explored in the video.

SH: What do we look forward to from Ali Sethi in the future?

There are several songs that I have lined up, also a documentary film and even a TV serial. So lots of stuff that’s coming up soon.

Watch Ali Sethi’s latest song, and tell us what you think!

Chan Kithan By Ali Sethi

Ali Sethi — Chan Kithan [Produced by Saad Sultan]Ali Sethi presents “Chan Kithan” in collaboration with StudioSCast :Mira Sethi, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Mehreen Syed, Jimmy Khan, Ayesha Sarfraz, Saba Ahmed, Saba Khan, Mina Malik Hussain, Abeera Sami, Maham Mazhar, Ali Sethi, Ayaz Jokhio, Zainab Jawad, Yousaf Shahbaz.Music Production : Saad SultanMusic Arrangement : Ali Sethi & Saad SultanInstruments :Dholak by Fazal AbbasBeen by Akmal QadriHarmonium by Shehbaz AliBass & Guitar by Saad SultanKazoo by Ali SethiArt Direction : Shahbano ShahbazCostume : Studio SHair & Makeup : Maram And AabrooStyling : Fahad HussaynPhotography : Omer Khalid ButtDOP : Muhammad Husnain MehmoodPR : MintSpecial Thanks: Mehreen SyedProduced by: Ali Sethi & Seher TareenDirected by: Ali Sethi & Taimoor Salahuddin#AliSethixStudioS #ChanKithaN #PunjabiGothic #SaadSultan #MiraSethi #MikaalZulfiqar #MehreenSyed #TaimoorSalahuddin #ChaandRaat Website: www.studiosdesigns.comFacebook: @studiosdesigns

Posted by Ali Sethi on Sonntag, 25. Juni 2017

Haider Maqsood

The author is our Haute Lahore Correspondent, who's a part time writer with a full time passion to stay candid and loud!