KARACHI: One of Pakistan’s top guitar virtuosos, Aamir Zaki, died due to heart failure on Friday, his family and friends confirmed. He was 49.
According to brother Shahid Zaki, he had been suffering from prolonged illness for quite some time.
Playing guitar since the age of 14, Zaki was best known for a short stint with the Vital Signs in 1994 when he toured globally with the group. He also played with the band on their fourth album before being asked to leave.
He then released his debut solo album Signature in 1995, from which the song Mera Pyaar became a massive hit.
The musician, who made his overdue debut on Coke Studio in 2014, was last seen in action performing at the two-day long I Am Karachi Music Festival. He recently collaborated with Saleem Javed, reworking the singer’s classic Tum Mere Ho.
Widely considered the most influential guitarist in the country’s history, Zaki was known both for his musical genius and volatile temperament. Even so, according to most of his colleagues, he has left a void that is not only difficult, but perhaps even impossible to fill.
“I must say that he was the most talented guitarist I ever came across in Pakistan. Not just as a musician, but even as a person, he was likeable and humble,” fellow Vital Signs alumni and guitarist Asad Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
“He was a great teacher as well, who inspired so many people. He inspired them to just pick up an instrument and play, and when someone like him goes away, it doesn’t really feel good. It’s a loss for the music industry but more than that, for people in general, because he was one of a kind. He is someone who will be missed but celebrated.”
Calling him the most influential guitarist in Pakistan, Fuzon band member Imran Momina, also known as Emu, regretted not having worked with Zaki one last time. “We have been honoured to play with him several times. He was such a great mentor and a great person to hang out with as well, and it’s just sad to hear this news,” he said. “I have one regret because I wanted to work with him one more time on a project and it just couldn’t happen. Sadly, he succumbed to illness and other factors in life.”
Nescafe Basement producer and Call front man Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, known by the mononym Xulfi, meanwhile express disbelief and sorrow on Facebook. “I cannot believe this. But this is the truth of our world, of our lives. It’s the truth of time. A guitarist, who was a genre in his own right in our country, has breathed his last. In a world of vocalists, this guy challenged the norm and succeeded. Back then, watching him made me believe in the power of music, even without words. He made me believe that I can make it if I never give up even as an instrumentalist.”
Zaki’s funeral is to be held after Fajr prayers on Saturday, the guitarist’s friends and associates said. He is to be buried in a graveyard in Karachi’s Steel Town locality shortly after.