Ali Sethi

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Ali Sethi
Ali Aziz Sethi

(1984-07-02) July 2, 1984 (age 36)
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Alma materAitchison College
Harvard University
  • Singer
  • musician
  • writer
  • columnist
Years active2010–present
Parent(s)Najam Sethi
Jugnu Mohsin
FamilyMira Sethi (sister)
Moni Mohsin (aunt)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • piano
  • harmonium
  • True Brew
Associated actsCoke StudioStringsNabeel Shaukat AliSarmad Sultan KhoosatZebunnisa BangashAbida ParveenHumaira Arshad

Ali Sethi (Urdu/Punjabi: علی سیٹھی; /st/; born July 2, 1984) is a Pakistani singer and writer.[1] Sethi was globally recognized for his first published novel, The Wish Maker.

In 2013, he began focusing on his music career and made his film debut as a singer in The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013) and released a cover single "Mohabbat Karne Waley" later that year. Later, he released four cover singles including his own version of Reshma's song "Kithay Nain Na Jori", which earned him critical appraisal.[2] Sethi recorded two songs "Kya Hoga Kya Hoga" and "Aah Ko" for Manto (2015) and debuted as a featured artist in the eighth season of Coke Studio.[3]

In 2016, he released his first original single "Mahi Mera", which was critically well received.[4] Sethi received his first Lux Style Award nomination as a Best Playback Singer - Male at 15th Lux Style Awards,[5] and was nominated for Best Playback Singer - Male at 2nd ARY Film Awards, both for "Aah Ko".[6] He also received a Hum Award nomination at 4th Hum Awards for "Kithay Nain Na Jorain" in the Best Music Single category.[7]

Life and career[edit]

1984–2006: Early life and education[edit]

Ali Sethi was born on July 2, 1984, in Lahore, to Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin. Both his parents are veteran journalists. His father also served as an acting Chief Minister of Punjab and chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board for one year. His mother founded Pakistan's first English-language independent newsweekly, The Friday Times.[8] Sethi has one sister, Mira Sethi who is a journalist and actress.[9]

2006–2012: The Wish Maker, and musical beginnings[edit]

"The Wish Maker, in Ali Sethi's mature and sure-handed prose, is an engaging family saga, an absorbing coming-of-age story, and an illuminating look at one of the world's most turbulent regions. Ali Sethi steadfastly resists the usual cliché's about both Islam and his native country. Instead, he offers a nuanced, often humorous, and always novel look at life in modern day Pakistan."
Khaled Hosseini reviewed The Wish Maker[10]

In 2006, at the end of his graduation Sethi started to write an English novel The Wish Maker about "the political history of Pakistan with three generations of characters who live in a middle-class, liberal enclave of Lahore."[11] After graduating he worked for four months with a magazine but soon gave up to complete the novel. Sethi finished the second draft of book in Pakistan by 2008, as per his accounts, "I was wrapping up at Harvard and so I wrote on weekends and at nights. I didn't miss classes to write – and I did graduate!".[12] The book was published by Riverhead Hardcover and later Penguin Books in 2009 and was met with wide spread critical acclaim and recognition. It was ranked on no. 8 at Vogue Top Ten Summer Books.[13] The book has been translated into Italian, Dutch, German, Hindi, Chinese and Turkish.[12]

In a review, The New York Times called it "a first-rate novel", stating that "Sethi's prose evokes the comic mislocutions of Jonathan Safran Foer and the vertiginous mania of Zadie Smith."[14] The Wall Street Journal stated "Mr. Sethi is especially alive to the emotional contours of young love, its modes of courtship, its methods of subterfuge... Mr. Sethi's prose, always lucid, often soars to illuminate the quotidian."[15] The novel was long-listed for the 2011 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature but couldn't made it to the final six nominations,[16] ultimately losing to H. M. Naqvi's, Home Boy.[17][18] It was also shortlisted for 2010 Shakti Bhatt First Book Award.[19]

After graduation Sethi also wrote reviews and articles for several local and international publications including The New York Times, The Friday Times and Dawn News for two years.[20] Sethi has written reportage and literary criticism, most notably an eyewitness account of the Indus flood of 2010 for The New York Times.[21] a revisionist essay on the life and legacy of Urdu short-story writer Saadat Hassan Manto for The New Yorker.[22] and a groundbreaking profile of the Pakistani ghazal singer Farida Khanum for The Caravan.[23]

He first performed a ghazal "Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Naa Karo" on stage at Harvard. Sethi professionally started his singing career by training himself during his second year, in an interview with The Express Tribune he stated that, "I just knew I was to become a singer; so, in my second year in college, I bought myself a harmonium. Then, I started to look for an Ustad who could teach me."[24] In 2008, Sethi started his training in classical music from Ustad Naseeruddin Saami. He recorded a few Reshma songs in London with musicians Tsivi Sharett and Natalie Rosario, which were then uploaded on the video-sharing website and received a great response. From 2009 to 2012 he received training and consistently released covers on SoundCloud and YouTube, with record producer Saad Sultan.

2013–2015: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and singing[edit]

In 2013, Ali recorded a song "Dil Jalannay Ki Baat" in Mira Nair's political-thriller film The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which brought Sethi to recognition as a singer.[25][26] The song was named the "highlight of the album".[27] He recorded several covers including "Mohabbat Karnay Walay", "Kithay Nain Na Jori", "Haal Aisa Nahin" and "Yaad Mein Teri" with recorder and producer Saad Sultan. In 2014, he was hired to playback in the film Manto by Jamal Rahman of True Brew who previously worked with the Ali on The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Sethi recorded two songs, a duet "Kya ho Ga" with Zebunnisa Bangash and solo "Aah Ko Chahiye". Both songs achieved him a critical praise and recognition.[28] Sethi went on to receive a Lux Style Award nomination as a Best Playback Singer - Male at 15th Lux Style Awards,[5] and was nominated for Best Playback Singer - Male at 2nd ARY Film Awards.[6]

In February 2015, Sethi also released his first music video "Kithay Nain Na Jori" at Karachi Literature Festival featuring Sethi himself, starring Sania Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui and Ali's sister Mira Sethi as a tribute to Reshma. Sethi said, "Reshma ji's song is so powerful that today everyone is ready to do anything to bring it back." explaining his tribute to singer he expressed, "It's been a miraculous journey. All of us who have worked on the song have been touched by something really special. Everything – from recording to finding musicians and the shooting – came together at the end and it's because of our love for the song. The song belongs to Reshma ji."[29]

The video was directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat with whom Sethi works on film Manto and produced by his long time friend Saad Sultan. Video received two nominations at the 4th Hum Awards including Best Music Video for Khoosat and Best Music Single for Sethi.[7] Sethi made his professional screen debut from the eighth season of Pakistani music reality show Coke Studio as a featured artist.[30]

2016–present: Music and future ventures[edit]

Currently he is making a documentary on singer Farida Khanum[29] and planning his second book as a "tragedy".[1] On February 5, 2016, Sethi released his original single "Mahi Mera" featuring farmer turned folk singer Jamaldin as co-singer. This is Ali's third collaboration with record producer Saad Sultan who previously worked with him on music videos "Layian Layian" and "Kitay Nain Na Jori". The video is directed by Umar Riaz and shot entirely in Jamal's and Sethi's ancestors village Shergarh and Hussaingarh.[31] Speaking about his collaboration with Jamaldin, Sethi said, "I first heard Jamal at a wedding three years ago in Shergarh, my maternal grandfather's ancestral village and I responded immediately to the lehk and soz in his voice - he is a very charismatic singer and I knew I had to record Jamal in a studio and bring his music to a wider audience! I thought of Umar for the video because I wanted his eye - a curious but sympathetic eye! I wanted the video to enact the mood and temperament of the song without becoming sentimental or resorting to formulas of 'rural landscaping'".[4] Talking about Jamaldin, Sethi said, "I saw this man dancing and singing while using techniques of voice projection and angulation that were charming and didn’t seem familiar to me at all,." Sethi brought Jamaldin to his mentor Ustad Nasir-ul-Din Sami to trained him, who was eager to work with him after listening Jamaldin's voice saying, "We must work with him because his voice represents the old Arab influence in the country,."[32]

Ali performed at Lahore College of Arts and Sciences on April 29, 2016 for an event held by Kuch Khaas,[33] where he performed his new single "Mahi Mera" for the first time along with various cover singles.[34][35] Sethi re-appeared as a featured-artist in Coke Studio season 9[36][37] under the team of music director Shuja Haider.[38]

In 2017, Sethi co-produced and co-directed “Chan Kithan”, which has over a million views on YouTube. The music video features Ayaz Jokio, Jimmy Khan, Saba Khan, Mira Sethi (Ali’s sister), Mikaal Zulfiqar, and other popular Pakistani figures. This song is Sethi’s version of ‘Chan Kithan Guzari Aayi Raat Vey’ (translation: Where Were You Last Night, Love). The musical arrangement displays traditional folk ditty from rural Punjab, Pakistan with electronica and indie-rock to create what Sethi likes to call ‘Punjabi Gothic’ music. The music video is based on the Cinderella story which takes place in contemporary Pakistan.[39] It showcases Studio S’ Seher Tareen’s fashion designs which were inspired by Southern Punjabi craftsmanship.[40] In July 2017 the video crossed 2 million views on YouTube.[41]

Ali's return to the tenth season of Coke Studio was met with high praise,[42] where he sang two songs, a rendition of "Ranjish Hi Sahi" as a tribute to Mehdi Hassan and an original "Tinak Dhin" in a trio of Ali Hamza and Waqar Ehsan. Indian singer and rapper Honey Singh praised Ali's performance in both songs and said, "[yo]u can have a glimpse of Rafi Saab in his texture."[43][44] Sethi frequently appears in various music festivals, gatherings and fashions shows across the country.[45] Ali collaborated with American dhol player Sunny Jain, on a project called Resident Alien and performed renditions of seven folk songs in Joe's Pub in New York.[46]

Ali and Grammy Award-winning musician and singer Noah Georgeson, announced that they will be collaborating for an album.[47] Ali said, "I’ve admired Noah’s work for years, and I’m thrilled to be working with him."[48][49] Georgeson also responded saying, "Beyond my excitement in working with Ali, and his transcendent talent and voice, I’m looking forward to applying my approach to an unfamiliar tradition of music."[50] Sethi returned to playback singing in 2017, where he recorded a romantic ballad "Yunhi Rastay Mai" for 2018 film Saat Din Mohabbat In.[51][52]

Sethi rejoined Sunny Jain's Red Baraat for album Sound The People where he contributed song "Kala Mukhra" (a rework of the traditional "Gora Mukra").[53] On June 28, Sethi released two songs, "Waasta" co-written by Sethi featuring rapper Faris Shafi and renditions of "Dil Karda Ay" and "Agar Tum Mil Jao" for season three of music series Cornetto Pop Rock with Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch.[54]


Sethi has sung following songs in films, television and music programs.


Year Title Song Notes
2013 The Reluctant Fundamentalist "Dil Jalanay Ki Baat Karte Ho"
2015 Manto "Aah Ko Chahiye"
"Kya Hoga" co-singer Zebunnisa Bangash
2018 Saat Din Mohabbat In "Yunhi Rastay Mai" co-singer Aima Baig
2019 "Superstar" "Bekaraan" co-singer Zeb Bangash


Year Title Song Notes
2015 Ye Mera Deewanapan Hai "Ye Mera Deewanapan Hai" title Song
Coke Studio Pakistan (season 8) "Sohni Dharti" promo song for season
"Umraan Langiyaan" duet with Nabeel Shaukat Ali
2016 Coke Studio Pakistan (season 9) "Aye Rah-e-Haq Kay Shahedo" promo song for season
"Aaqa" duet with Abida Parveen
2017 Coke Studio Pakistan (season 10) National Anthem of Pakistan promo song for season
"Ranjish Hi Sahi" solo
"Thinak Dhin" trio with Ali Hamza and Waqar Ehsin
Teri Raza "Muhabbat Karne Wale" Originally sung by Mehdi Hassan
2018 Noor ul Ain "Dil Ko Bhoolay" co-singer Zebunnisa Bangash
Coke Studio Pakistan (season 11) "Hum Dekhenge" promo song for season
2019 Coke Studio Season 12 "Gulon Main Rang" ghazal by Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Cover singles[edit]

Original singles[edit]

  • "Mahi Mera" (2016)
  • "Waasta" (2018)

Featured Artist[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Category Nominated work Result Ref(s)
2010 Shakti Bhatt Awards Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize Awards The Wish Maker Nominated [55]
2016 Hum Awards Best Music Single "Kithay Nain Na Jori" Nominated [56]
ARY Film Awards Best Playback Singer - Male "Aah Ko Chahiye" Nominated [57]
Lux Style Awards Best Playback Singer - Male Nominated [58]


  1. ^ a b "Hottie of the week: Ali Sethi". The Express Tribune. December 10, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  2. ^ "'Kithay Nain Na Jorin': Ali Sethi's tribute to Reshma set to launch at KLF". Mahjabeen Mankani. The Express Tribune. February 4, 2015. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  3. ^ "Coke Studio Season 8 Songs & Artists Revealed!". Pakistan Advertisers Society. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Wattoo, Sahar (February 2, 2016). "'Mahi Mera' : Ali Sethi launches his latest single". The Daily Times. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Nominees for the LUX Style Awards 2016 have been announced and for many designers, directors, musicians and stars, it's going to be a very joyous Eid". correspondent. Dawn News. May 30, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "The nominations for the ARY Film Awards are out, with many stunning debut actors, directors and musicians vying for the coveted awards". ARY News. February 7, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "The awards will be held in Karachi on April 23rd and the voting lines are open till April 6, 2016". HIP. April 6, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  8. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on July 2, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2012.
  9. ^ "Actress Mira Sethi Brief Biography". Pakistan Mind Updates. June 12, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  10. ^ ""The Wish Maker" by Ali Sethi". Vanguard Books. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  11. ^ Taylor, Catherine (July 25, 2009). "The Wish Maker By Ali Sethi". The Guardian. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Bhatia, Samita. "The write choice – For Pakistani author Ali Sethi, writing a book was a bit like joining the family business, says Samita bhatia". The Telegraph. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  13. ^ O'Grady, Megan (June 12, 2009). "The Hot List: Our Top Ten Summer Books". Vogue. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  14. ^ Callahan, Tess (July 23, 2009). "Fiction Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  15. ^ Dhume, Sadanand (September 3, 2009). "A Peek Into Pakistan - A new novel offers a worm's-eye view of the kinds of lives that rarely make their way to the pages of a newspaper". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  16. ^ "Jury Members and Longlist for DSC Prize for South Asian Literature announced". DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. September 21, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  17. ^ Ipsita Basu Dasgupta (July 8, 2011). "Karachi has more stories than New York: HM Naqvi". DNA India. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  18. ^ "Shortlist Announced for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature". Asia Writes'. October 25, 2010. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  19. ^ "The Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2010 - Winner". December 2, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  20. ^ Austen Soofi, Mayank (August 9, 2009). "Capital Interview – Ali Sethi, Pakistani Novelist". The Delhi Wala. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  21. ^ Sethi, Ali (August 25, 2010). "Pakistan, Drowning in Neglect". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  22. ^ Sethi, Ali (August 30, 2012). "The Seer of Pakistan". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  23. ^ Sethi, Ali (April 1, 2014). "The Djinn Of Aiman Farida Khanum returns to sing in Calcutta". The Caravan. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  24. ^ "Ali Sethi: A new stylus in an old groove". Faiza Rehman. The Express Tribune. May 3, 2015. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  25. ^ Haroon, Asad (April 30, 2013). "Ali Sethi – Dil Jalaane Ki Baat OST Reluctant Fundamentalist". Dispatch Desk News. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  26. ^ "The Reluctant Fundamentalist Music". Sam. White Green. August 12, 2015. Archived from the original on March 21, 2015. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  27. ^ "The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Radio Mirchi Music Review". Times of India. May 24, 2013. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  28. ^ "Manto packs soulful soundtrack". Geo Music. April 20, 2015. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  29. ^ a b "Ali Sethis tribute to legendary singer Reshma Ji". Brand Synario. February 16, 2015. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  30. ^ "Coke Studio Season 8 Artists' List Released". The Daily Times. June 20, 2015. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2015.
  31. ^ "Ali Sethi set to launch his latest single "Mahi Mera" with folk artist Jamaldin". Pakium. February 2, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  32. ^ Saeed, Mehek (February 4, 2016). "Ali Sethi's new single gives voice to Hussaingarh's Jamaldin". The Express Tribune. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  33. ^ "Back to School-Ali Sethi Live in concert for LACAS Main Kuch Khas". Press Release - DT. The Daily Times. April 26, 2016. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  34. ^ Malik, Myda (May 26, 2016). "Seamlessly integrating education and creativity - The new venture hopes to add to the cultural and academic landscape of Lahore through the mediums of dance, music and performance". The Daily Times. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  35. ^ "Seamlessly integrating education and creativity - The new venture hopes to add to the cultural and academic landscape of Lahore through the mediums of dance, music and performance". Pakium. April 30, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  36. ^ "Coke Studio 9 artists list revealed". The News Teller. June 17, 2016. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  37. ^ Rehman, Maliha (July 4, 2016). "Here's what to expect from Coke Studio 9". Dawn News. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  38. ^ Sengupta, Arka (June 17, 2016). "'Coke Studio Pakistan' undergoes major revamp in Season 9; artiste line-up revealed". International Business Times. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  39. ^ "Ali Sethi on art, life and the story behind 'Chan Kithan'". Something Haute. June 29, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  40. ^ Saeed, Mehek (June 29, 2017). "The Ali Sethi and Studio S project". The News International (Pakistan).
  41. ^ Sabeeh, Maheen. "Ali Sethi's 'Chan Kithan' crosses 2 million mark". The News International. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  42. ^ Sabeeh, Maheen. "The rise and rise of Ali Sethi". The News International. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  43. ^ "Ali Sethi's part best in Coke Studio's Tink Dhin, says Yo Yo Honey Singh". The Nation. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  44. ^ "Rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh compares Coke Studio singer Ali Sethi with legendary Mohammad Rafi". The Indian Express. August 29, 2017. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  45. ^ "Ali Sethi talks about mixing classic music with "hoity-toity" fashion!". Something Haute. October 21, 2017. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  46. ^ "Resident Alien (Ali Sethi & Sunny Jain) made their debut at Joe's Pub (pics, video)". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  47. ^ "Ali Sethi is collaborating with 'Narcos' producer, Noah Georgeson - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. January 27, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  48. ^ Desk, Instep. "Ali Sethi is working with Narcos producer Noah Georgeson". The News. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  49. ^ "Ali Sethi to collaborate with Grammy-winning record producer Noah Georgeson". Something Haute. January 24, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  50. ^ "Ali Sethi to collaborate with Grammy-winner Noah Georgeson". Pakistan Today. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  51. ^ Staff, Images (May 10, 2018). "Ali Sethi and Aima Baig's track from 7 Din Mohabbat In is out!". Images. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  52. ^ "'Yunhi Rastay Mai' song from '7 Din Mohabbat inn' released". Daily Pakistan Global. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  53. ^ "stream Red Baraat's new LP ft. Heems, John Hodgman & more". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  54. ^ "Ali Sethi and QB's duet: did it really pack a punch? - Entertainment - Dunya News". Dunya News. Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  55. ^ "Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize Nominee (2010)". good readers. December 2, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  56. ^ "Fourth HUM Awards will take place in Karachi next month". Rozina Bhutto. HIP. April 6, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  57. ^ "ARY Film Awards 2016 to Hit Dubai in February". Branndsynario. January 17, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  58. ^ "Lux Style Awards 2016 nominations revealed at star-studded event". correspondent. The Express Tribune. May 30, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2016.

External links[edit]

External Link: External Link Saykar, Satish. 'Portrayal of Mother in Samina Ali’s Madras on Rainy Daysand Ali Sethi’s The Wish Maker. EUROPEAN ACADEMIC RESEARCH ISSN 2286-4822