The rise and fall of an artiste is anathema to his soul.
The work that got you noticed also fed the ego that comes with recognition; what you leave unfinished follows you like a shadow. And somewhere in between the two lies the present, a pendulum swinging between achievement and unrealised potential.
Perhaps, this is where guitar maestro Aamir Zaki dwells. He feels his “full potential” is being utilised for the first time in the shape of a collaboration with UK-based musician Sarah Sarhandi.
“What I am doing right now is a lot deeper than pop music,” says Zaki with a lazy smile. “I feel my full potential is being utilised and it’s very liberating.”
Sarhandi is a well-known British composer and violist who first heard Zaki two years ago and immediately approached him for collaborative projects.
“I have collaborated with many musicians before, but I connected with Aamir on a very sympathetic level. I heard the sound of his guitar and just loved the way he moved from one note to another. I fell in love with that sound,” says Sarhandi.
This explosive duo has revamped ‘Minuet in G’ by Johann Sebastian Bach, calling it ‘Dotted Walls’. They have also worked on the score for a Polish film which ended up being showcased in a Polish museum for two months. These projects have been punctuated by a lot of experimental music, both eastern and western classical.
Sarhandi received a grant from Arts Council UK/British Council (Artists International Development Fund) in March this year for a collaborative project in Pakistan with Zaki. Their first live performance will be held at T2F (The Second Floor) on Monday, April 27.
“What we are putting together is a fresh sound that doesn’t fall under a particular genre. The audience shouldn’t expect Mera Pyaar or anything like that,” says Zaki. Sarhandi seconds him.
“I am always very confused about labelling music,” she says. “I have studied Western classical music, written songs for opera, and collaborated with artists from all other disciplines. I think our music is a hybrid; it has plenty futuristic feel with elements of electronic music and eastern classical influences as well.”
Zaki is confident the audience at T2F will comprise seasoned listeners who will be able to understand what he is doing and, more importantly, where he is coming from.
The guitar player says he owes his understanding of writing a melody to Mehdi Hassan’s music and his own diverse experiences, such as spending the first seven years of his life in Saudi Arabia.
“It is the amalgamation of my entire journey that is culminating into this project,” he says.
It is easy to see that both Zaki and Sarhandi are very excited about the project and have been tirelessly rehearsing and recording for the past three weeks.
They even plan to apply for a bigger grant to take this project to the UK and eventually all over the world. But one question still lingers, and is eventually asked of Zaki: what about his mercurial personality that his peers have so often bickered about.
“Complains about discipline issues are a plan lie,” he says flatly. “I come on time, but they don’t. I just don’t wait for them to show up,” he adds.
Citing his teaching stint at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) and his current commitment with the MAD School in Karachi as proof of his endurance, Zaki makes it clear: “I have always kept the deal. Rumours about my discipline issues are generated by artistes who are musically insecure.”
Sarhandi, too, appeared to be shocked to hear of these rumours about Zaki. “All I can say is that I have not* experienced this problem. I don’t want to control what he does musically and neither does he want to control what I do. I have complete confidence that he is not out to crush me as a musician.”
Zaki has plans beyond this collaboration too. He is all set to release a double album, which according to him, will contain new and old music that was hampered by major record labels in the past ten years. “The audience has been mistreated and so has the artiste. Right after this show [at T2F], I’ll be working on two to three videos,” he shares, but not without adding, “with grey hair.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2015.