Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a world where sheer talent is met with the same magnitude of opportunities while being boosted with recognition and praise? Sure, it would. But then that can seem like a far-fetched thought. However, those with a burning fire to pursue their ambitions, do not let a few hindrances and hiccups stop them from realizing their potential. Singer Maha Ali Kazmi has definitely come a long way. With a distinctive voice and a vision to never give in or give up, she continues to stride ahead, allowing her vocals to lead the way, as she battles against forces trying to diminish her light. Speaking to Social Diary, she shared what she loves about her work, how it all began and how empathy is needed to progress in this society!
SD: When did you get your first moment of music affinity? Was there a personal experience that made you want to pursue this field?
Maha: I can’t seem to place that one moment that made me want to pursue a career in music. It was more of a gradual process of self-discovery and exploration as I continued to develop my skills. As to my affinity for music, I think it came naturally, belonging, as I do, to a family that appreciates music and I was exposed since childhood to a variety of musical styles.
SD: What kind of professional training did you take on?
Maha: I trained under Ustaad Rauf Saami as well as Abdullah Haroon. Also, I took contemporary Western vocal training in Singapore.
SD: Was there a specific genre or vocal style you wished to pursue?
Maha: I don’t like anything to circumscribe the scope of my artistic expression. The only precondition is that music resonates with me.
SD: How important was it for you to write your own songs?
Maha: I felt it was really important to convey my own emotions and ideas in my voice to remain truly genuine and authentic.
SD: Where does your inspiration for creating your singles come from?
Maha: Any number of things could become a muse for artistic expression. A song, a movie, an experience, or a place I visited.
SD: Nazar received an overwhelming response, how did it pave the way for you to explore the dimensions of music even further?
Maha: In many ways, the response to ‘Nazar’ was a validation of my creative vision. It opened up opportunities and avenues. It allowed me to collaborate with some of the biggest names in the industry.
SD: How much of your Kashmiri identity is embedded into the work you create?
Maha: I believe that my Kashmiri identity is a fundamental part of my artistic expression.
SD: What have been the major setbacks you have overcome?
Maha: Although I have not encountered any major setbacks, I have had to deal with a lot of criticisms about my singing style and genre. Additionally, I have had to deal with interruptions in my career due to personal reasons such as marriage and pursuing higher education abroad. Despite all of these challenges, I have persevered in my journey and remained committed to my passion for singing.
I always stayed true to my passion and myself. I never tried to change or mold myself into something that other people wanted me to be. Even when my career was interrupted by personal reasons, I never lost sight of my dream. I always found a way to pursue my passion, even if it meant traveling between Singapore and Pakistan or studying abroad in Melbourne.
SD: Having experienced your own share of uglies when it comes to making a mark in the music industry, how important do you feel it is to create awareness on providing equal opportunities and respect to women who are talented and have something unique to offer to this industry?
Maha: It isn’t just true for the entertainment industry, but it is a problem gnawing at the very fabric of society, tearing it apart. Yes, as a woman, I have faced what then appeared to be insurmountable challenges and barriers. Discrimination, harassment, unequal opportunities, and whatnot. The industry is plagued by nepotism. Each one of us needs to advocate for change – to provide equal opportunities and respect to all musicians.
SD: What is the one thing you wish to change in how the entertainment industries function within our country?
Maha: First of all, we need to devise policies that promote a safe and respectful working environment for all involved. A lot of work needs to be done on the legislative front. Besides that, as things stand today, there are just a handful of voices and perspectives being represented in the industry – which, in turn, limits the industry’s overall growth and capacity for innovation. We all need to support emerging artists to foster a more diverse and creative community.
SD: Any new projects/singles you are working on right now?
Maha: I’m planning to work on an album. I’ve already recorded a couple of songs.
SD: As an artist, what legacy do you wish to leave?
Maha: Ultimately as an artist, if my music connects with people on a deep emotional level, if in my work, they see a reflection of their own emotions and hidden thoughts, then that brings me immense satisfaction.
IN A GLANCE
What is your absolute superpower?
That there is no other Maha Ali Kazmi in the entire universe
Your favorite musician?
A collaboration you enjoyed?
Nazar with Farhad Humayun and Shiraz of Overload band
The one thing that is a mood killer?
Lack of empathy and kindness
Three things you have with you all the time?
Phone, Laptop, and a water bottle
A song you wished to be part of?
Phero Na Najariya by Amit Trivedi, a song from the movie Qala on Netflix.
Morning Person or Late Nights Enthusiast
Late Nights Enthusiast
Desi Wear or Western
Losing a loved one
Most Prized Possession
Someone you wish to meet
Top 3 things on your bucket list
Releasing an EP or an Album, Travel the World, and finish reading Proust
The best thing about your work
It’s my passion
Your favorite song
Both sides now by Joni Mitchell
If you weren’t a music artist, you would have been a …
A Kathak dancer
Your dream destination