The nightingale of ghazals

By Sumeha Khalid
Tue, 12, 17

This week, You! talks to iconic ghazal singer, Tina Sani about her passion...

This week, You! talks to iconic ghazal singer, Tina Sani about her passion...

We know this charming and statuesque crooner for her heartfelt and poignant singing. Gifted with beautiful vocals, Tina Sani is nothing less than a legend. She is one big name in our industry, which has always made people swoon over her singing talent. It is interesting to know that the melodious Tina, who has always loved music, never thought that she would make a career out of her passion.

Sani grew up in a house where the emphasis was mostly on English. “No knowledge regarding Urdu literature was imparted to me. My dad was an oil company man who did like music but we were never stepped into classical music,” she shares.

Sani was only 11 years old when she moved to Kabul along with her family for a five year stint. She was studying at the American International School and was the only Pakistani there. “I was fully aware of the political situation at that point in time which also contributed in my growing up. In my early teens, I witnessed a war in which we lost a part of our country. There was a sense of embarrassment yet, I was a proud Pakistani wanting to represent my country. I guess that’s when the seeds were sown of finding my roots,” enthuses the true patriot.

Born to a set of loving parents, Sani’s dad was more of a friend than a parent who always advised and encouraged her to try out new avenues and use her potential to the fullest. Her mother was a loving soul who often worried about the independent natured Sani, but nevertheless supported her in all her decisions. “My relationship with mom had been an emotional one. She was a great mother who was never involved in my work.”

“I enjoyed singing to myself but it was in the ‘80s that people around me started suggesting that I should think about singing as they believed I was gifted.” Soon after she went to record a jingle and found herself thoroughly enjoying the experience. “It was fun and I really liked the atmosphere. That’s when I took up singing seriously and started taking classes in classical music. My dad encouraged me to go for it,” she reminisces.

However, Sani’s mother was not enthusiastic about this decision of hers. “She was being a typical mother. She was initially unsure if I was on the right track, but since dad was with me all the way, she didn’t oppose. She did, however, say that, ‘Tina, how you behave will determine the path for lots of girls who will follow in your footsteps.’ And that is something which has stayed on with me,” recalls Tina with a gentle smile playing on her lips.

“My father was someone I could talk to about anything and everything in life. There were restrictions though like in any other middle class family; for one, recordings had to end early. But since I lived near PTV, that made things much easier,” she adds.

Abiding by the rules set by her parents, Tina immersed herself in musical activities and her hard work soon won her fame. “I was never comfortable calling myself an artist or a singer. I never sang publically nor did I do concerts. I was way too shy and unsure of myself. I stuck to television and was content being a TV artist.”

While Sani became talk of the town because of her unmatched vocals, her dressing sense too did not cease to impress the viewers. At a time when the buzzword was ‘dress to impress’, Sani created her signature style for her television appearances. Having spent her early years abroad and in American International School, Sani was most comfortable in her white tees and blue jeans. However, when it came to a dress code for television, she wanted to project a traditional, smart yet conservative look. “I wanted to create an image that would blend with the society. I did not want to stand out, as I didn’t want anything opulent for me. Because I was already in the limelight, I wanted to deflect attention from myself. I was not a jewel or flower person. My favourite attire was a simple cotton kurta and kolapuris.”

When asked whether her children are also interested in music, Sani says, “Music is my life and this passion has also been passed on to my talented son, Naseer. He is a very good musician, an avid guitarist, and both Tahir and I encourage him all the way.”

Sani’s love for classical music is such that she is also writing a book on it. People like Shoaib Hashmi, Arshad Mahmood and Zia Mohyeddin have played an important part in shaping Sani’s outstanding language skills. “Zia Mohyeddin helped me with my version of ‘Shikwa’ and ‘Jawab-e-Shikwa’, especially with the pronunciations.” However, she has found inspiration in anything and everything around her. And it continues. “Recently I have been inspired by the terrific Egyptian singer, Umme Kulsoom. I would say hers is the voice of the nation. That is the kind of sound I am looking for. Words that would inspire people and a nation. Poetry and music have that power.”

While singing on television in those days, Sani was uncertain what path to take. She gives credit to her husband Tahir, who steered her in the direction that she was to take for life. “Tahir is a very supportive husband. He made me realise that I was not doing what I was meant to. He always told me that I was a gifted singer but was not utilising my potential completely. As it is, I was absolutely bored singing frivolous songs. Tahir was of the opinion that I was good with words and should get into classical music. He made me listen to music by great legends and inspired me to delve into the classical arena. Next, he advised me to do concerts as that’s where real learning would begin. He said if you don’t break into the live audience you will not be tapping your potential. It was tough going live. But I developed an interactive style of performing where I would interact with my audience,” shares the graceful lady. The audience lapped up her rendition of ‘Shikwa’ and ‘Jawab-e-Shikwa’ the first time she sang it live. “It is also one of my favourite renditions. I still recall I performed ‘Shikwa’ at the PM House, where I also sang Faiz. Moreover, Rumi’s ‘Masnavi’ is a new addition to my repertoire and is always a great selection to present among audiences,” she enunciates.

On how she met Tahir, is no fairytale. It was a business meeting that later changed Sani’s life completely. “Tahir was a banker and I first met him when he came to our house to meet my dad for some business project. While we took a loan from Tahir’s bank for a studio I was putting up, we ended up becoming very good friends. There was no romance involved whatsoever in our relationship. However, that friendship soon turned into a lifelong commitment and a beautiful bond, which continues getting stronger with the passage of time,” explains Sani.

Not many know that besides being a brilliant singer, Sani is also an artist who paints beautifully whenever she gets the time. “I love to paint but I am too lazy to exhibit my work,” she laughs. It was this love for art that resulted in a couple of stints as an Art teacher at the American International School.

However, she refused a full-time job as a teacher in favour of her musical career. “I thought to myself, do I want to get up early in the morning every day for the rest of my life and go to school to teach art or do I want to focus on music? And of course, I opted for music,” signs off the lady who is rendering her beautiful voice to the music industry for more than thirty years. And Tina Sani’s fans can rest assure that she will continue revolutionising the music scene with her unmatched melodies.