KARACHI: 2017 saw the deaths of many celebrities, especially musicians. Chester Bennington from Linkin Park committed suicide, while AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young lost a three-year long battle with dementia. Aamir Zaki, Pakistani’s most iconic guitarist passed away in June this year as well.
I remember the day like yesterday when I heard one of Aamir’s songs Bhula Dayna playing on Indus Music. It was back in the 2000s and I was forced to go into research mode to find out more about the guy and his songs. Ah, the impulsive teenage life. Using a dial-up connection that racked bills of thousands, I finally found another gem by the genius, Mera Pyar – and I was hooked. Adding another music icon to my scrapbook that was already home to Strings, Vital Signs, Junoon and the likes.
Surfing the Orkut fanpages and music forums that time, I also found out that Aamir was an ace-guitarist. He had played with Alamgir, Vital Signs and Awaz as well. He continued playing with other musicians at Cafe Blue, which was a hub for music lovers in Karachi during that time. I remember speaking to Farooq Ahmad from Aaroh a few weeks ago and he told me that they shared countless memories together. The most priceless one being an engraved guitar that Aamir gifted Farooq, back in 2003.
As a music fanatic, I had the urge to learn how to play the guitar but growing up in Saudi Arabia, I knew it would be difficult to find lessons. Also, I didn't even own a guitar and my parents were obviously not going to buy me one because my grades were already pretty bad. Thankfully, much like Farooq, I got a guitar as a present from one of my relatives on my 16th birthday. A very sweet 16 as I like to call it. I tried online tutorials and e-books to aid my learning but nothing worked out. Summer came and I visited Karachi. Still obsessed with Pakistani music I found out that Aamir himself was giving guitar lessons - and it wasn't even far away from where I lived. But I hadn't gotten my guitar to Pakistan, so I lost that chance.
I finally shifted to Karachi in 2009 to start my university here and specifically remember getting my instrument with me because I thought it was the perfect place and time to learn it. Plus, I would be learning from the guitar mastermind himself. However, the hustle and bustle of staying by myself in Karachi forced me to leave the city and shift to Dubai. With my guitar. University started and I took up a few jobs that I thought would help me pay for some guitar classes in Dubai, but I never got time. By this time, my guitar had gotten quite a few skymiles as well.
Earlier this year, I decided to move to Pakistan for good as I felt there were better work opportunities for me here. I think my craze for local music is also partially to blame for my interest in media - something the country is currently booming in. Wow Shaheera, you're a fool. Who thinks moving to Pakistan is a good idea? Right? Wrong! I had made up my mind. I would work in Pakistan and at last be able to take lessons from Aamir - if he was still teaching that it. I checked some Facebook pages and found that he was. Oh, the excitement!
I vividly remember, on June 1st, I started packing up all my things that had to be sent via cargo. I kept my guitar on another side because I would carry it with me on the day of the flight. The next day, taking breaks while packing, I was scrolling through Facebook. Tashie Khan liked a photo of a cat in a bat costume, Annam Saleem shared a video of contouring for beginners, Asma Atiq shared "RIP Aamir Zaki." I thought it was a hoax - people post things like that all the time. But no! News outlets had already announced that the musician was no more. Aamir Zaki was no more. I was just leaving for Karachi; I was just going to contact him for lessons. My decade long wait to learn the guitar was going to be fulfilled, but death comes unannounced. Even to the best of us.
Reports stated that the musician was extremely ill and suffered from severe depression. As if even his passion couldn't keep him alive. But this depression, I tell you. It eats you up from the inside, feeling unloved. Unworthy. It gets the best of us and maybe that's what happened to Aamir.
It's a cold December night and while I sit on my bed writing this story, I look to my left - my dusty old Fender. Still unlearnt. Still untouched by the magician. Now, for all of eternity.
Rest in peace, Aamir Zaki. You will always be the reason behind my unpeeled fingertips.
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