Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Maham Suhail has been creating beautiful music for a whole now and the latest from her is a masterpiece of an EP called Pari Sufna.
The record takes you on an astoundingly colorful musical journey and engulfs you in her world almost immediately and doesn't let up throughout it's 5 song course.
A traditional and worldly style, Suhail evokes lush and passionate pieces of music performed with soul and precision.
With such a wonderful EP, we had to sit down with the songstress and find out wher eit all comes from.
RAG: Let's start with Pari Sufna. The EP is rich with sound and texture and has an
incredibly cinematic feel. Where did this come from?
Maham: The studio production of my debut E.P. ‘Pari Sufna’ (Punjabi for, ‘Dream about a
Fairy’) happened after a live festival performance of 6 songs, directed/co-composed
and arranged by myself with my 24-piece ensemble during a pre-festival 5-day
rehearsal. The idea to bring together the rich folk forms, indigenous languages and
instruments from the mountains (Gilgit-Baltistan province) & the plains (Punjab
province) of Pakistan, originated for me while living in the Hunza valley as part of an
artists’ residency. I stayed on longer after the others had left upon finishing the
community work: And hence, my research started. I believe it is the result of i. having
lived within these culturally rooted communities in both regions, ii. studying the
tones, textures of each of the instruments in my ensemble, iii. Having an ongoing
interest in ancient music and regional folkloric traditions, globally, and, iv. paying
close attention to both the time-based and frequency-based arrangements within a
Modern Folk context, in all the live and studio production stages; that eventually
helped me to achieve this extent of color and texture in the final project, as a
producer, composer and vocalist.
RAG: How long have you been doing this? How did it all start for you?
Maham: I have been working as a performing and sonic artist officially since 2014, and as a
recording artist and producer since 2017. It all started for me at quite a young age,
with singing Western Classics & doing Piano classes in school, to Pop, to my
involvement with the local Rock ‘n Roll & Blues underground scene through teenage,
to Classical, Jazz and South Asian Folk music later.
My senses opened up to Avant-garde & Experimental sounds too, in 2013. This was
also the year when I gave up an arts scholarship and a film production job, to focus
full time on music.
RAG: Did this EP take a long time to complete?
Maham: My E.P. ‘Pari Sufna’, which carries my credits as producer/arranger/co-composer,
apart from being the lead and supporting female vocalist across the 5 songs, initiated
with my proposal to the Walled City Lahore Authority & Alhamra Arts Council
(Lahore). The idea was to first hold a live performance of this fusion segment (within
the larger Music programming), followed by its studio recording. I was the Producer
for the entire live Music production of this big cultural festival, and my Fusion
ensemble was the main recurring act.
From the time of its first inception, to research, to working out the proposal, to
struggling alone through months to get the production teams and the budget together
(the eventual budget received for studio production was zero, in contrast to the
earlier promise from the 2 government bodies named above), to designing the
ensemble, to rehearsing and composing for live; to self-funding and budgeting the
studio project with some reformed music arrangements and a few substituted
players, then recording 6 songs and mixing the final 5, across 3 cities…the ‘Pari
Sufna’ fusion project took 13 months to finish.
RAG: I hear so much heart in the record. Who are some of your biggest musical
Maham: Thank you so much! Yes I have put all my heart, body and soul into my work over
My musical influences are quite a few, but top of the list range from Bhai Ghulam
Muhammad Chand, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Anoushka Shankar, A.R. Rahman,
Abidah Parveen, Patti Smith, Nina Simone (as composers/performers), to projects
like The Silk Road Ensemble, Shakti the band, to production inspirations from the
likes of Nico Muhli, Hans Zimmer, Peter Gabriel, etc.
RAG: Have you played live shows before? Do you think you'll be performing live
when the time comes?
Maham: Yes, I’ve been playing live shows properly since 2015, in Pakistan, India and Europe.
And yes, I definitely look forward to performing more (‘Insha Allah’ = God-willing, as
we say), as things get smoother around the COVID crisis.
RAG: What's next for you as an artist?
Maham: To the stars! (kidding!)…I am working on finishing the edit on my next music video
(to be released around New Year’s; date to be announced soon). This song which I
produced while in Spain (titled ‘Dil Mi Ravad’) is one of the singles on my upcoming
RAG: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
Maham: Spending time with family or friends, watching a movie/series/web channel, cooking, writing (poetry), travelling.
RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Maham: I’d like to tell my fans that nothing is easy, but with an attitude of gratitude,
compassion, synergy, discipline and faith, we can bring our best potential to shine.
We just need to stay true to whatever we do, which means staying brutally true to
one’s own self-awareness and growth as an individual.