Mai Dhai

By Wallia Khairi
Tue, 06, 24

Let’s get to know more about this unique artist…

Mai Dhai

you & me

Mai Dhai, a classical singer from Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan, is renowned for her captivating performances and her significant contributions to folk music. She leads the Mai Dhai Band, featuring Jamal Shab on harmonium and Muhammad Fakir on dhol. Mai Dhai’s music gained international acclaim when she performed at SXSW (South by Southwest) Music 2015 in the US, receiving an enthusiastic response.

Rising to national prominence on Coke Studio’s eighth season, she performed unforgettable songs like ‘Aankha li Pha ookai’ and ‘Kadi Ao Ni’ alongside notable artists. A proud member of the Manganiar community, Mai Dhai’s journey began with Lahooti Live Sessions, where her collaboration with Saif Samejo and The Sketches highlighted her distinctive Rajasthani style.

Despite cultural challenges, Mai Dhai remains steadfast, voicing her heritage and inspiring future generations. Her accolades include the Nigar Award for Best Playback Singer for the film ‘Ho Mann Jahaan,’ further cementing her legacy in Pakistan’s musical scene. Recently, she was named as Spotify’s Ambassador of the Month for EQUAL Pakistan. Her song ‘Koyal’ is featured on the EQUAL Pakistan playlist, celebrating her artistry and providing her a platform to reach even wider audiences. Let’s get to know more about this unique artist…

Mai Dhai

What inspired you to pursue music?

Music is a deeply rooted tradition in my family, which belongs to the Manganiar tribe. This tribe has a rich heritage of storytelling through music that spans centuries. Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by this vibrant culture, listening to songs about various facets of life, from human emotions to nature, and the quest for salvation. Music is in our blood, passed down through generations. I believe it was my destiny to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors and continue this beautiful art form.

What is your specialised genre of singing?

My singing is primarily focused on folk music, deeply rooted in the cultural traditions of our region. I perform in languages such as Dhatki, Marwari, and Sindhi, which are integral to our storytelling traditions. My technique is that of a throat singer, which involves using my entire throat along with the support of my diaphragm. This style allows me to produce a unique and resonant sound that is characteristic of our folk music.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am involved in multiple projects, including singles and albums. I am collaborating with Silent Roar Media, with whom I am signed under their Talent Management Division. This partnership has allowed me to explore contemporary music styles while working with renowned producers like Ahsan Bari and Malik. Ahsan is also helping curate my live performances, ensuring that they resonate with both traditional and modern audiences.

Mai Dhai

How does it feel to be the Ambassador of the Month for EQUAL Pakistan?

Being named the Ambassador of the Month for EQUAL Pakistan is an amazing feeling. Recognition at this stage in my career is profoundly meaningful, and I am incredibly grateful to for highlighting my work and efforts

How important do you think such initiatives are for women artists of our country?

Initiatives like EQUAL Pakistan are vital for empowering women artists in our country. Pakistani women are immensely talented and capable of achieving greatness in every field, including music. These initiatives provide much-needed support and visibility, helping to break down barriers and create opportunities for women to shine. I wholeheartedly appreciate and support such efforts.

Tell us about your song that is being featured on the EQUAL Pakistan playlist.

My song ‘Koyal’ is featured on the EQUAL Pakistan playlist. It is a heartfelt track about yearning for a loved one and calling out to your beloved. The song was produced by Ahsan Bari, and I am thrilled to collaborate with him again on another song. This collaboration is especially exciting as we will both be contributing as singers.

Who is your icon in the music industry?

Mai Dhai

Abida Parveen is my icon in the music industry. She is an incredible artist and a significant source of inspiration for me. Her mastery of Sufi music and her powerful voice have had a profound impact on me and countless others. She represents the pinnacle of musical excellence and spiritual depth.

What was the role of music in your early years of life?

Music played a central role in my early life. Being born into a musical family, I was constantly surrounded by songs and instruments. This environment nurtured my love for music and instilled in me a deep appreciation for its beauty and power. The joy and comfort I found in music during my childhood continue to influence my life and career today.

What was the first instrument that you learned to play?

The first instrument I learned to play was the dholak. This traditional drum is a staple in our music and has been a foundational part of my musical training. Learning to play the dholak connected me to our cultural roots and deepened my understanding of rhythm and musical expression.

What is your favourite music nowadays?

Although I don’t have much time to explore new music, I remain deeply appreciative of various musical styles. I often perform at local festivals, which gives me the opportunity to experience different genres and appreciate the talents of emerging artists. While my tastes remain somewhat old school, I enjoy the diversity and innovation present in today’s music scene.

Do you agree that it is important to learn and understand old music and its history?

Absolutely. Understanding and preserving old music and its history is crucial. This music offers insights into our cultural heritage and human nature. By studying and appreciating traditional music, we can keep these art forms alive and ensure that future generations continue to benefit from their richness and wisdom.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I prefer to live in the moment, taking each day as it comes. However, I do have aspirations for the future. One of my primary goals is to have my music reach a global audience. I hope to travel the world, performing and representing my community, country, and the musical traditions of my ancestors. Sharing our art with the world and connecting with diverse audiences is a dream I am committed to pursuing.