Ali Sethi: Not just a voice – a feeling

There are so many singers out there, with brilliant voices and great hits. We listen to most of them, but what makes the song alive is the voice of the singer and how much soul they put into it to make it come alive. Read more about the legendary singer Ali Sethi and what is so special about him.

Saakshi Priyadarshini | BeatCurry Team

Music has its own language that might not be something that everyone could understand literally, but everyone is able to absorb it. The songs have a way of reaching the hearts of the listeners if the music and the singer have rendered their soul in the song, thus making it alive.

Music makes people feel things that they might otherwise not have felt. It’s divine, above every border, language, ethnicity, enmity, or politics. Such is the music and voice of the illustrious Pakistani musician and an author too, the one and only Ali Sethi.

Picture Courtesy: Facebook: Ali Sethi


We all must be knowing Ali Sethi as a singer from the famous Coke Studio, right? Well, there is so much more to it! Ali was brought up in Lahore, Pakistan and born to the exemplary award-winning journalist couple Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin. The handsome lad was involved and surrounded in music from a very young age but he entered classical singing only after he went to study at the Harvard University when he discovered how his will to learn classical music, making music a medium for transcending boundaries can draw attention to the Pakistani diversity, culture and music.

Back in his first semester, he was quite indulged in and pushed over to know more about the cultures and how the Muslims and their faith were always associated with art and music, as a form of conveying love, divinity, and peace.

Soon after, he began learning classical music and khayal gayaki from Ustad Naseeruddin Saami and Ghazal gayaki from Farida Khanum. This was just the beginning. Sethi then turned his path to pursue classical music and literature. He also went on to author a novel called ‘The Wish Maker’.



After graduating from Harvard, the ever soulful Ali Sethi worked rigorously on his classical training despite being a natural in the voice department. He was a born singer and was correctly identified and polished by his mother, who left no stones unturned to embed Ghazals, Qawallis, and old classics from poets and mystical Sufi saints in his DNA.

This later helped him shape into something that has made people crazy and fall in love with his voice and his work, all over the world. There is just something so special about the songs sung, composed, or covered by Ali Sethi that makes them irresistible and a favourite in people’s loop list, no matter if they hear him for the first time or for the umpteenth time. Here are some reasons that are a part of the magic that the prolific Ali Sethi weaves.

Ranjish Hi Sahi by Ali Sethi. Enjoy:



Ali’s mother sowed the seed of a tree which is today known in the world for rejuvenating and infusing life into the forlorn world of these regional, old and classic music forms from India and Pakistan that talk the language of human emotions through themes ranging from unrequited love, sorrow, loss to divinity.

These forms that combine poetry and music to tell a mystical tale of their own, were brought out by Ali Sethi from the archives of some ardent old collector of such music. He gracefully combines the old classics in contemporary settings to serve an invigorating drink of music that only warms the souls by quenching their thirst for viable, deep, and meaningful music.

Sethi kept singing the Ghazals in his voice in different styles from a young age and now he’s doing that as a musician, singing in his raw, rich, and youthful voice, the renditions of ghazals from Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mirza Ghalib, Mehdi Hassan et cetera. Because of Ali, now the youth who wants to trace its roots can connect to Ghazals as an intellectual youth genre in a world that is polarised and highly fast-paced.



Ali Sethi is one of those musicians who love to experiment with music but what sets him apart from the others in the occupation is that he never goes out of the basic composition or rules of classical singing. All his compositions and renditions are so soulful and melodious because he maintains the basics of Raag and Taal. Most of his songs are original experiments but are defined by tune within the boundaries of Raag. ‘Ishq’ fuses Raag Kalyan and Bhoop, while ‘Dil Ki Khair’ is an amalgamation of Raag Darbari and Desi. For Ali, it’s the principle of his songwriting and composing.




“Chan kithan guzaari aayee raat ve

Menda jee dalilan de vaat ve”


These lines are from the beautiful song ‘Chan Kithan’, whose lyrics are from an old Punjabi folk song. That’s the aim of Ali’s music, to transcend borders and include whatever flavours he can from the original music.

From what Ali Sethi himself discovered, Sufi songs, Qawallis and Ghazals were the form of music that combined poetry from various Sufi saints and poets, individuals who always talked about inclusion and rose above gender and identity politics, religion and ethnicities. The music preaches tolerance, seeking the divine within ourselves and pluralism.

When you listen to his music, you don’t feel it’s someone else. It’s like meeting yourself all over again in some faraway parallel universe, where there’s no division. The music is inclusive for all, for the poetries use metaphors that are subject to perspective, and when Ali’s phantasmagorical voice tempts you to submit yourself to the war of love, who can refrain from falling in?

Chan Kithan


Na khule akh, agar khwaab hai, to khwaab sahi


Reads the lines of ‘Chandni Raat’, a single from Ali Sethi. That’s how you feel when you listen to Ali’s voice with closed eyes as you venture into a dreamy world of symphonies, high and low notes, all kinds of feelings hidden in your soul beautifully brought out by the variation and mystic texture of his voice; and you never want to open your eyes for something like this is hard to exist in reality.

His voice would feel like a smooth ride on a bumpy road, such expertly he adapts and slides his voice over difficult compositions. The variation also includes the transition in emotions. He can easily sound plaintiff, nostalgic, happy, mesmerised, in love in a matter of seconds, thus taking you on an emotional rollercoaster. 




It’s just that something inexplicable how they make you feel deep into your soul. Listen to his version of ‘Ranjish Hi Sahi’ from Coke Studio Season 10 and you will know what we or any Ali Sethi fan is talking about. 


“Maana ki mohabbat ka, chupaana hai mobabbat,

Chupke se kisi roz jataane k liye aa ”


His rendition channelled the yearning of a lover so well, we couldn’t help but fall in love with that love all over again. Not only this song, but his voice can even make a stone develop feelings. Ali’s velvet voice would feel like warm honey against your throat and a soothing balm on your difficult days. The warm, fuzzy feeling that you get when you hear him, is simply unprecedented. 



Ali Sethi is a feeling that might be irresistible once you get lost in his voice. Undoubtedly, listen to any of his records and one can be sure to submerge in all these sensations and feelings washing over you.


Gum hue, gum hue jo raaste, mera pata dene lage.

Ishq ki chingariyo ko, fir hawa dene lage”


Just feeling the abyss deep meaning of the lyrics from ‘Ishq’, sums up how one should feel about Ali Sethi’s music, the feeling of finding the hope of love or life, while being lost somewhere, in a journey of finding yourself and meeting the real you, and falling then and there, stupefied and overwhelmed. 

Cover photograph courtesy: Instagram-Ali Sethi


Articles you may also want to read:

This Famed Music-Duo Is Planting Asian Roots Globally

One Man, Many Hats-Viveick Rajagopalan

The Revival Of Punjabi Folk Music Tradition In Coke Studio


If you’d like to know more about such unique and versatile forms and flavours of music,

Log on to, subscribe and never miss another update from us.