Ali Sethi talks ‘Pasoori’, forthcoming album


In a world where borders seem to grow taller by the day, Ali Sethi’s music makes one move past the chasms of politics and nationalism – if only in YouTube’s comments. Born in Pakistan but now a resident of Manhattan’s East Village, Sethi is still riding the high of his 2022 global hit, Pasoori.

In an interview with The New York Times, Sethi reflects on the inspiration behind Pasoori and its significance in today’s world. “It’s a love song, a bit of a flower bomb thrown at nationalism, a queer anthem, a protest song, a power ballad, a song of togetherness,” he shares, emphasising the multifaceted nature of his creation.

With its infectious beats, performed as a duet with Shae Gill, the song showcases Sethi’s eclectic style. By this point, most are familiar with its blend of flamenco handclaps with a reggaeton rhythm, creating a sound that defies categorisation. But beyond its catchy melody lies a deeper message – one that has ignited conversations about love, identity and the power of music.

The genesis of Pasoori traces back to a thwarted collaboration with an Indian organisation, a consequence of the strained relations between India and Pakistan. However, Sethi’s vision transcends geopolitical tensions, aiming to bridge divides through the universal language of music. The song has amassed a staggering 850 million views on YouTube, resonating with audiences far beyond its original cultural context, including a significant following in India.

At 39, Sethi stands as a master of microtonal singing, honing his craft under the tutelage of renowned Pakistani artists Ustad Saami and Farida Khanum. Despite societal expectations to pursue a conventional career, Sethi followed his passion for the arts. His debut novel, The Wish Maker, offered a glimpse into Pakistani society, navigating themes of adolescence, globalisation and cultural identity. Yet, Sethi acknowledges its limitations in capturing the complexity of his homeland, especially amidst periods of political turmoil and sectarian violence.

His journey took a serendipitous turn when he collaborated with acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair on The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Sethi’s rendition of a classic ghazal caught Nair’s attention, propelling him into the world of music. Since then, the singer has become a vocal advocate for the inclusive nature of South Asian music, using his platform to promote unity and understanding.

With his forthcoming pop album, he continues to push boundaries, blending English, Urdu and Punjabi lyrics with contemporary beats. For Sethi, music is not just about entertainment but a means of cultural exchange, a conduit for dialogue between diverse communities. As he gears up for the release of his new album, his message remains clear: “The power of music to draw people together is an old story. But what they are drawn into, I hope, is a willingness to shape-shift.”

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *