Samra Khan’s affinity for music began when she was still a very young girl. Years before taking it up more seriously, and with no formal training she started actively participating at events during high school and university.
A financial analyst by profession, she derives her inspiration from bigwigs such as Reshma, Nayyara Noor, A.R. Rehman and U2. She has so far recorded several singles, television commercials and some playback singing for PTV Awards.
Samra Khan made her debut on Coke Studio, Season 8, in a duet featuring Asim Azhar, on a track that’s catchy and melodious and really compliments her soulful style.
Ink recently caught up with the talented singer for an exclusive in-depth interview:
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself – family life, educational qualification, where all you have you lived etc.?
A Karachite to the core, I was born and raised in Karachi, where I did my primary and secondary schooling at Beacon House and City School, ‘A’ levels from Avicenna and then my BBA/MBA from IoBm (CBM). We are five siblings (two boys, three girls) and I am sibling number two. Straight after my MBA, I got married and moved to Perth, Australia, where I started working as a banker. I spent most of my years in Australia working at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
2. How did you develop a passion for music?
I have been singing since I was 5. I realized quite early on that I had a good voice and then family and friends encouraged me to perform at school events and family gatherings, which was all for good fun. It was only when I was in university that I started thinking of music seriously and started collaborating and building friendships with like-minded musicians. Amongst these were Zohaib Kazi and Jaffer Zaidi, who I became friends with at CBM. We started jamming together, performed at a few ‘underground gigs’ (which was a common scene those days) and recorded music.
Even though my dad was in showbiz himself, our parents always wanted us to focus on our education first and then pursue any other passion. For me, music became more like an extra-curricular activity while I was studying and a part of me always wanted to do more. I kept writing songs for many years, and every time I visited Pakistan I would try to do some music or any project. This is how I became part of Zohaib Kazi’s album “Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher” and recorded 3 songs for it. I also did some small projects to keep fueling my passion to continue doing music, whenever possible.
Back in Australia, I was busy with the typical work-home-work life and even started doing my second post-grad degree in Finance in Australia and then one fine day I got a call for Coke Studio, which was just the ‘push’ I needed to get into the music scene professionally. And I’m so glad it happened that way.
3. How was the experience of performing on Coke Studio and collaborating with Asim Azhar like?
It was exceptional, to say the least. The most exciting part was that I was new and didn’t really know what to expect, which made it all so fresh and enticing! I met with Bilal Maqsood and team for the briefing of “Hina Ki Khushbu” and it was fantastic. I then met with Asim who is such a fun guy; we became friends instantly and I think this helped with our performance together. On the recording day, I was so nervous going on that huge set with a 100 cameras (OK maybe 20), but as we started singing, we were just having a good time. We had three takes and we were done…..it felt GREAT.
4. It’s a highly commercial world we live in today. Everything is a trip to profitability. Have you ever faced pressure to produce commercial music and to put out only a money-making album?
I guess I feel a little bit of self-inflicted pressure to produce good music, especially after Coke Studio. For a newcomer like me, whose first ever performance was at a giant like CS, it puts some pressure to make sure I only take it upstream in terms of quality of work I do from now on. This makes you very selective as an artist. For me, it’s also about making sure I balance my music career along with my banking career and family life.
Living away from Pakistan has its pros and cons, and one of the pros is that you are not constantly being evaluated by the industry in terms of how much work you’re doing. I do want to produce an album, but not due to any pressure, but for the sake of putting out good music and giving my fans more to listen to.
5. Can you describe to us what a normal show day for you would be?
I have only performed at very numbered gigs. Thinking about the latest one, a normal day would start off with making sure I get plenty of sleep the night before, having a good breakfast, do ‘riyaaz’ during the day, one final rehearsal with my band, attend final sound check at venue and then relax back stage with some tea to clear my head before the performance.
6. What has been your favorite city from all the cities that you’ve visited?
Perth in Western Australia. It’s my second home after Karachi and I miss it a lot ever since I moved to Dubai last year. I have learned so much in this city, have grown as a person, made so many friends, it’s a beautiful city with beautiful people. For a city that I have visited briefly, I love New York, because it’s so ‘larger than life’.
7. On your days off, what do you like to do?
I spend time with my 4-year old daughter, we go swimming or go for some outdoor activity. I love making plans with my friends which could be for sheesha or breakfast or just a ladies night out. I try to play squash or badminton whenever possible.
8. How many gigs do you roughly do a year?
4-6 gigs a year
9. What can you say to the people out there who are aspiring singers or musicians?
Be true to yourself and keep doing music you really believe in. Don’t let other tell you what you want, YOU decide what you want and then make a plan to get it. Networking is key but it’s nothing if you don’t have the talent and the drive to pursue your goals.
10. People will always judge, no matter what you do. The downside of social media is that anyone can say whatever they want to without any accountability – how do you cope?
I actually love reading comments on social media! I am wise enough to know that fame comes with a cost, and the biggest is that your life is not entirely yours and no longer private. I read all sorts of comments from people, some of them I take up constructively and some of them I just shrug off. It’s as simple as that. People judge and people talk, you just have to deal with that.