UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH: SARA HAIDER

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USMAN AHMED CHATS WITH VOCALIST AND ACTRESS SARA HAIDER ABOUT GETTING HER FIRST BIG BREAK, BEING PART OF THE COKE STUDIO FAMILY AND OVERCOMING NERVES

Tell us how you ended up choosing music as a career. Have you always wanted to become a Singer?
I started singing around the age of sixteen. It wasn’t something that I thought I was good at, but I was always fiercely competitive and pushed myself to be as good as I wanted to be. I worked hard, stayed focused, made lots of mistakes and learnt from them, and somehow, by the time I graduated college in December 2014, my ‘career’ had begun!

Do you have any formal training?
I studied Eastern Classical for short stints with Ms. Saffia Beyg. Most of what I’ve learned in terms of music theory has been on the job; working on projects with Arshad Mehmood and Zia Moyeddin of NAPA, Ahsan Bari, Shahi Hassan, Omran Shafique, Faisal and Belal… The list continues to grow. It was always difficult for me to dedicate the kind of time and focus needed because until very recently, I was still studying full time. My formal music training begins now!

How would you describe your sound? Do you have a specific genre you gear towards?
I’m still discovering it. I love the blues and the sensibilities and freedom that blues vocalists and composers employ, but I have equal appreciation for Hindustani classical music. Where I end up in terms of sound will probably be somewhere in the middle of the two.

What are your musical influences? What kind of music do you listen to?
Gosh, great music is everywhere. From Simon and Garfunkle to Louise Armstrong to Derek Trucks and Bill Withers, to Geeta Dutt and Madam Nur Jahan and Nayyara Noor, to Mohammad Rafi and RD Burman to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (and back to Eddie Vedder) there are too many to list! I grew up listening to everything from Strings to the Spice Girls, so everyone has influenced me in some way.

Your latest single Sahara has been on the radio for sometime. How did you feel the first time you heard it?
Sahara has a great story behind it. The best things really just appear out of thin air. I went into Zohaib’s studio one day for a short recording for an OST we were working on. We spent maybe 20 minutes on that and then Zohaib showed me a snippet of a song he had written. Next thing I knew, I left the studio thirteen hours later with a complete song, recorded, written and mixed from scratch. It was an incredible feeling.

As you started out your career in the music industry what steps do you plan on taking to reach your goal?
I think focus and hard work have helped me so far. I just need to keep at that. It’s very important to not get distracted, and to stay true to yourself no matter how shiny and exciting this world may seem. I have my family and my mentors within the industry, but ultimately, my next step is always driven by my instincts and gut feelings. Each step is a learning opportunity.

Have you found that as you are starting out your career in the music industry there are aspects that have taken you completely by surprise?
Yes! I walked the ramp last week at the TDAP fashion show – a world I never thought I’d experience. There are no labels or boxes anymore; a musician can be an actor and a politician and a doctor and a talk show host… You can be whatever you want to be! The world expects more, and people expect more.

From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging aspect about being a woman in this industry? And how are you dealing with it?
I think people judge you a lot more harshly if you’re a woman, and they’re a lot less forgiving than if you were a man. There are certain stereotypical things people think about models, actresses, and female musicians. The challenge is to brush it off and keep going. Work hard, don’t settle and always challenge the boys!

We first saw you on stage performing in Grease by Nida Butt, where you stole the show. Do you consider yourself both an Actress and a musician?
Grease was an incredibly amazing experience and really exposed me to the limelight. There are people who still consider me more of an actor than a musician, but music is something I’m always going to be passionate about. Acting just sort of happened, and wasn’t something that came very naturally to me. I have to thank Ali Junejo and Nida Butt for that opportunity.

Tell us about working with Coke Studio.
Coke Studio is fantastic! Imagine, you get to basically live and make music with all the big musicians you grew up to. It was a lot of fun, and being the youngest in the Coke Studio family, it felt like everybody was trying to teach me something and push me to be better. It was a really rewarding and a dream come true, and I loved every second of it.

What is working with Jimmy Khan like?
Jimmy is a friend of mine and works very hard. I respect him a lot as a musician and consider him one of my contemporaries. It’s nice to see one of us out there doing so well.

Do you still get nervous when performing?
Oh yes! Every. Single. Time! Whatever I’m doing, whether performing for a bunch of kids or a huge audience, I get nervous and shy, and just before going on stage I don’t talk to anybody for ten minutes. But I think there is a thrill in being nervous and then getting on stage and getting over your fear each time. Once the applause comes, you know it was all worth it. That’s the thrill I’m going to be chasing all my life! It’s a great feeling! If I wasn’t nervous I wouldn’t love it as much!

What has the proudest moment in your career so far?
I think there are a couple. My first original work Barishoon Mein is doing really well. It’s still something I can look back on be proud of and secondly, the opening night of Grease, I remember performing in front of so many people for the first time. It felt like I had a super power and it was the greatest feeling in the world.

What is the best advice given to you?
A dear friend of mine, Zohaib Kazi, always says, “don’t aim for the momentary heights, lambi race ka ghora bano.” So every time I think something is not working out and things get difficult, I always take his advice and think I’ll be there till the end.

How have your family and friends reacted to your fame?
When I sang in college my parents had no issues, but after I got media attention and people started recognizing me, it has overwhelmed them a bit. They are a little scared for me but their support makes me feel very lucky. I weed away people who bring negative energy in my life because when I go home I want to be surrounded by positive energy. G

LIFESTYLE:

Fav. vacation spot: Anywhere with a beach. India and Thailand were fantastic
Perfume you wear: Ascent by Issey Miyake
Addicted to: CHEESE!!
If you could change one thing about yourself, it would be: I would be more disciplined and wake up early in the morning!
Secret talent: I’m an excellent swimmer
You like your coffee with: I’m more of a tea person
What makes you impatient?: When people are complacent and like to get things done quickly
Brain or brawn: Brain
Love or money: Love

FASHION:

You hate it when you see people wearing: Things that do not suit their body types
Your closet is a shrine to: I love jackets and long dresses
Favourite designer(s): Right now it’s Adnan Pardesy
Oldest item in your closet: A green sweater that my mom knitted when she was my age
Necessary extravagance: Traveling

AT HOME:

Fav. piece of furniture in your home: My coffee table that’s from Hunza
In your DVD player: Birdman
Most typically Pakistani thing about you: I’m a rash driver.
When are you happiest? When I’m in the water, I’m a sea creature

 

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