Having made her debut in 2007, Zebunnisa Bangash is credited with seamlessly merging her training in traditional genres of subcontinental schools of music with new age sounds and techniques to create a distinct repertoire of her own.
Transcending clichés and in pursuit of her childhood passion for music, Zeb Bangash is one half Pakistan’s first ever female music duo. A mellifluous, authentic voice; over the course of her versatile and diverse career, Zebunnisa has garnered both public recognition and critical acclaim as a vocalist, and has also been recognized for her work as a songwriter and composer. Having recently been formally inducted into the tutelage of the legendary Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, Zeb is now all set to give wings to her craft and take it to the next level.
Tell us about yourself – your family, your friends, your childhood, your years at school and college.
ZEBUNNISA BANGASH: Our family finds its roots in Kohat, but we have long called Lahore home. As far back as can remember, music has always been a part of my life. From being lullabied to sleep listening to the beautiful ‘Dheerey Se Aaja Ri Ankhiyan Mein’ in Lata Mangeshkar-ji’s sweet melodious voice to singing ‘Main ne pairon may payal to baandhi naheen’ before the legendary Ghulam Farid Sabri ensconced in the warm comfort of my grandmother Bajo Ami’s drawing room just days before my uncle’s wedding, my long association with music has imbibed and embedded in me the desire to train as a singer, for it would otherwise be impossible for me to sing the songs loved. Don’t know when a hobby became a passion, and a passion became a profession but there has since been no looking back.
Father served in the army and later as a diplomat which made you spend time in various parts of Pakistan as well as across the globe – tell us about the experience and how it shaped you as a person?
ZB: are a large brood – ZB have one sister and three brothers. ZB father served as part of the Pakistan Army’s 20 Punjab Regiment till his retirement at the rank of General. He then went on to serve as Pakistan’s envoy to Turkey and Macedonia. ZB firmly believe each individual is the sum of his/her experiences. The kind of opportunities and exposure my father’s career, both as an army officer and later as diplomat, has made available to me and family has shaped each of us into who are today. Have all absorbed varied nuances of each diverse leg of the journey that ’ve shared.
“ZB” made your musical debut at a time when women artists in Pakistan were far and few – what made realise that music is what you wanted to pursue as a passion, one that went on to become a profession?
ZB: As long as can remember, ZB have always wanted to sing. Made my professional debut at the age of nine with a multi-song recording for PTV Quetta with Jamal Shah as my producer. And a year later, recorded my first ever album at the EMI Studios in Karachi with music composer Arshad Mahmood. Sadly, my endeavor never saw a release. Music is my expression, what makes me thrive as a person and makes me – a journey that defines my past, moulds my present and shapes my future.
What in your view has and continues to shape your musical sensibilities?
ZB: The glory of classical music and the technique of Khayal has and continues to shape my musical sensibilities. Now over decade long learning under the tutelage of the legendary Ustad Naseeruddin Saami has made for my evolution as a musician. As has the world around me, which continues to shape my expression and makes for it to keep evolving.
What, in your view, powers your musical narrative?
ZB: For me as a musician, it is my passion that powers my narrative – my desire to push the bar, to raise it and to keep giving it my all in a bid to excel.
Your music draws from a myriad of sources and takes a diversity of form – as a musician, how would you define your style?
ZB: At the start of my career was likened to the great Nazia Hassan, which is such an honor. ZB am beyond humbled to have been recently selected to be part of a group of artists paying tribute to the legendary Lata ji. However, as a musician, ZB am yet to define my body work as a specific style. Forever consider myself a student of music – one who continues to be overwhelmed not just by emotive and ethereal expression of the great masters but also the unmatched rig our of upcoming young talent. For me, each day is a new learning experience.
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