Harvard graduate Ali Sethi, who is also a singer trained in Hindustani classical music and is a disciple of Ustad Naseeruddin Saami of the Delhi Gharana, has decided to pay tribute to Pakistan's renowned folk singer, Reshma, through a song set to launch at the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) on Feb 8.
Titled Kithay Nain Na Jorin, the song has the original lyrics of Reshma's record with improvised melody and beat and has been shot in Wajid Ali Shah Haveli near Mochi Gate (Mochi Darwaza) in Lahore.
Directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat and produced by Saad Sultan, the video features Sania Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui and Mira Sethi among others.
Speaking to Dawn, Ali Sethi talks about how the idea of a tribute to Reshma ji evolved.
"Many years ago (when I was a student at college), I was visiting Lahore during summer holidays and there was this beautiful set of audio CDs by the name of 'Music Pakistan' – a compilation from the radio archives of the best of Pakistani music by Shalimar Recording Company," shares Sethi. "That CD had the original record of Reshma ji's song."
Sethi said he used to hum the song all the time and was also simultaneously receiving training in classical music in Lahore. "I used to play the song on my harmonium at times and play around with the scale and melody."
He adds that he used to sing the song whenever he was performing, whether formally or informally: "I used to sing it at my friend's place or at literature festivals and people always responded really well to it because it's a folk song with a soul."
He then went to London where he met two musicians – cellist Natalie Rosario and pianist Tsivi Sharett – and shared the idea of playing Reshma's song with different musical instruments.
"We did a few jams and posted an informal video on YouTube in the summer of 2013," said Sethi. "The response was great and a lot of people wanted to see a studio version of the song."
Taking up the advice, Sethi, with the help of friends and musicians in Lahore, finally managed to put the song together.
"Once the song was ready, I met Sarmad Khoosat and shared it with him, who instantly said he wanted to make its video."
Sethi said he always wanted to work with his favourite TV actors – Sania Saeed and Adnan Siddiqui – who, after listening to the song, instantaneously agreed to become part of the video.
"Reshma ji's song is so powerful that today everyone is ready to do anything to bring it back." he adds.
|Behind the scenes of 'Kithay Nain Na Jorin': Adnan Siddiqui (L) and Sania Saeed on the set. – Photo by Alee Hassan|
Talking about the extravagant wardrobe, Sethi shares: "Fahad Hussayn has done the wardrobe for Sania, Adnan and myself. Mehrunnisa Khan (who works for Nickie Nina) has designed Mira's outfits."
|Mira Sethi (L) wearing an outfit designed by Mehrunnisa Khan and Sania Saeed wearing Fahad Hussayn. – Photo by Alee Hassan|
With photography by Alee Hassan, Kithay Nain Na Jorin has Ghulam Abbas on cello, Asif Ali Goga on percussion, Moon Anthony on piano and producer Saad Sultan on guitar.
Talking about his experience, Sethi recounts: "It has been a miraculous journey. All of us who have worked on the song have been touched by something really special."
"Everything – from the recording to finding the musicians and the shooting – came together in the end and it's because of our love for the song," Sethi adds."The song belongs to Reshma ji."
Ali Sethi is a great singer: Adnan Siddiqui
Speaking about Sethi, Adnan Siddqui said he was shocked by the way he (Sethi) was singing: "I thought 'how can a Harvard graduate sing?' I was shocked by the way he was singing."
"The reasons Sania, I and everyone else decided to do the song was because it is so great and has been beautifully sung," he adds.
Adnan further said that the cello is non-existent in the country and only two artists in Pakistan can play the instrument here.
With such an extravagant set and wardrobe – not to forget a stellar cast – we'll soon find out whether Kithay Nain Na Jorin has the potential to be on a par with the original record.