Surmaya: A musical journey

The book is a compilation of interviews and accounts given by 60 musicians.

Rafay Mahmood November 20, 2011


Literature is a dying art form in Pakistan; a country that was once known to be a hub for writers and poets. Even though contemporary writers like Mohsin Hamid and Mohammad Hanif are trying to rejuvenate the culture of Pakistani English literature, nothing substantial is being done to preserve the literary quotient of Urdu. In such times of creative chaos comes Surmaya, a compilation of interviews in Urdu which have been conducted by journalist-turned-writer Khurram Sohail. The book brings forth the personal accounts and the success stories of 60 iconic musicians.

Surmaya, which literally translates to ‘the treasure of sur’ was launched at the Japan Cultural Centre Karachi on November 17. The event was attended by myriad Pakistani artists and celebrities, who supported and encouraged Sohail’s cause. Sania Saeed, the well-known TV personality who hosted the launch, considers this book to be a positive step towards archiving the stories of iconic Pakistani musicians. Elaborating further on this, she stressed that one can’t find everything on video-sharing site YouTube, so it is extremely important to record the accounts of our legends in as many ways as possible. “Going through the pages of Surmaya, I realised two things; firstly, that Sohail is a really good writer and secondly, the more important one is that his contribution to the Pakistani music industry, with this book, will be remembered for a long time to come.”

Maestros like sitar player Ustad Rais Khan and guitar player Amir Zaki — interviews of who are published in Surmaya — were also present to share their views on the book. “Sohail is a very smart journalist, he makes you feel so comfortable that one ends up sharing more than they actually want to,” Zaki said at the book launch.

The guitar guru also added, “Sohail has covered a wide range of musicians and knowing many of them personally, I must say the accounts are very personal, honest and authentic.”

The book has been divided into eight different sections and/or genres featuring classical, semi classical, pop, rock and folk, as well as separate sections for instrumentalists, composers and lyricists. The book covers a wide range of artists ranging from Ustad Fateh Ali Khan to Ustad Rais Khan, Mohammed Ali Shyhaki to Atif Aslam, Abida Parveen to Reshma, Vital Signs to Mizraab, Arshad Mehmood to Waqar Ali Khan and Amir Zaki to the Grammy award-winning Vishwa Mohan Bhatt from India.

Ustad Rais Khan appreciated the effort put in by the author and considered this publication to be a milestone in Pakistani
musical literature.

“Amir Khusro created the sitar from a piece of wood, I played the sitar and Ravi Shankar made it popular all around the world. This book is as genuine as that piece of wood that gave birth to the career of so many musicians,”
stated Khan.

Journalist and broadcaster Raza Ali Abidi was also present at the event and after skimming through the book asked the author to write his biography as well. “Sohail’s hard work for this book reminds me of Farhad’s ardour for Shirin (characters from the folklore of Shirin and Farhad). Needless to say, Sohail is the Farhad of Urdu literature and it’s a huge achievement,” said Abidi who has also written the preface of the book. The cover flap of Surmaya has been written by renowned Indian
poet Gulzar.

Sohail has dedicated his book to his wife, who according to him, had asked for this book as part of her meher. Surmaya will
be available in Urdu Bazaar as well as the local bookstores next
week onwards.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2011.


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