After Hours: Ali Sethi

Published: September 3, 2018

Singer, composer and novelist Ali Sethi is recognised globally for his music and novel The Wish Maker. The multi-faceted nature of Ali’s artistic endeavours beautifully encompasses the talent and diversity of the musician. He walks us through his journey as he talks about his new projects, the hardest thing he has ever done and the inspiration behind it all

How did you decide your chosen career?

As a child I found traditional music — ghazal, qawwali, etc — very stimulating. So I started to study it. And one thing just led to another.

What kinds of things inspire you to write/sing?

All kinds of things. A conversation with a friend. A sight on the street. A funny phrase I hear on a politician’s lips.

Are you more of a singer or more of a song-writer?

More of a singer in my opinion.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you aren’t making music?


Can you tell us a little bit about your latest song Rohndiyaan Ankhiyaan with Souchaj?

This is made for the fashion brand Souchaj! It’s an evocation of the traditional Pahadi raag — native to Kashmir and the Potohar region. We’ve kept the arrangement minimal. I guess it’s a little bluesy, which is nice!.

Name the top five artists/songs on your recently played list?

Porches, Nouvelle Vague, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Chromatics and SD Burman.

Which singer is your biggest inspiration?

My teachers; Ustad Naseeruddin Saami and Farida Khanum Sahiba.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three items would you take with you?

A book, my headphones and my iPhone.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?

Restrain myself when a delicious opportunity presented itself (I’m afraid this happens too often in my life!)

Do you come up with impromptu dance moves while you’re on stage or are they practiced?

Happens in the moment. I wish some of those moves could be deleted!

If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose this career? Would you do anything differently?

I would still choose this career. And do nothing differently.

Do you ever see yourself transitioning into an actor?


Is there anything exciting coming up for us to look forward to?

Lots, actually. I’m making a couple of very interesting records in LA with producer Noah Georgeson. Also doing an EP of ghazals taught to me by Faridaji. Plus a documentary film I’m directing. Lots of good stuff ahead!

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Reader Comments (3)

  • muhammad khurram
    Sep 5, 2018 - 2:43PM

    Things were quite easy if you belong to sethi’s clan… When your parents have powerful connections.. You can be famous after pulling some strings.
    Instead write a column on someone who has started his or her journey from scratch.
    Fame story of a famous family man. Recommend

  • usman
    Sep 8, 2018 - 7:32PM

    Apart of strong family back ground, you are talented person with diversity. Keep it upRecommend

  • samunder Khan
    Sep 10, 2018 - 3:56PM

    @muhammad khurram:
    It’s not limited to Sethi clan, nepotism is common practice in Pakistan, if you belong to a well known and rich family you can do whatever you want, I am not talking about feudal I am talking about English speaking so called educated liberal elites, you can be author, painter, singer, curator, actor and above social activist, at the same time, they select their friends regardless of merit and then whine about in equality on social media and hypocrites treat their servants like dogs. Recommend

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