Catching Up with Sana Gilani Zain - Singer, Actor and Model

Actor, singer, and model, Sana Gilani, is an multi-talented artist with a fierce determination to achieve big things on her own terms. Having already collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry, Sana is well on her way to becoming a star and definitely someone to watch out for in future. For someone who is yet to release an album, she has surely put together a solid resume of accomplishments in a short span of time.

Sana Gilani Zain is a Pakistani singer, actor, model, and writer.

In this interview, she talks about her life as a musician, current projects, views about the current state of the industry, future plans, and more.

1. Please tell us about your musical journey. 

Ah, it's a long question. I will answer it in a summary because if I could go on to answer it, it will take pages. My musical journey started when I was a little kid. I was in school and everyone was asked - I know it's very cliche but it actually happened - what they wanted to be when they grow up. Everyone wrote the same basic answers but I was the only one who wrote singer. I don't know why I wrote that but I did. I always wanted to sing and my tells me that even when I was a kid, I used to be humming songs. Those were really grown up songs - Sufi songs that she listened to and I just sung those. I also had those sing along cartoons that I used to play in the VCR. Disney for example, it was my favourite and I still remember those. That's where I started singing. I was always roaming around in the house. It isn't the case with me that I realised suddenly after growing up at the age of 20 that I want to be a singer. It's a part of who I am.

2. An actor, writer, singer, and model – you wear many hats. How do you manage all of this so gracefully?

I don't know if its gracefully or not (laughs). I was always an artist and since I was born in a family where my dad was doctor and my mom was a housewife/beautician because was really into art. She used to make paintings. She had very delicate paintings and she also used to do embroidery. She was a student of Home Economics. Once she told me that she even sang in school and she had a lovely voice. I was inspired by her and I said to myself 'if she can do it, I can do it too.' I wasn't able to follow it because I was the older one and I had to take care of other important things happening in my life. But I have been experimenting. It was a mixture of everything actually that I was discovering about myself. Writing; I was always a reader and I would read books - lots of books. I was 10 years old when I was hooked on to Coast of Fair Street and later I moved to Stephen King and all. I was always a horror movie / horror book fanatic. That's how I started writing because I was always inspired by all those horror genre writers. So, it was a mixture of everything basically. I still want to write. I want to write a book once in my life and I am struggling towards that also. I think for art, you don't really need a special degree but it comes from inside. If you have in it, you can go without the basic training for that. You can always go on to learn it in the field.

3. What music were you into as a kid that propelled you into making music a career?

As a kid, it doesn't matter what music I'm into because the trends kept changing with time. As I mentioned earlier, I used to love Disney in my childhood but later on in my life, I moved on. In my teens, I was socializing a lot and met few people who introduced me to Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones, and other classics that you needed to hear. For me, music was always in me and I know even if I don't make it to the grandest level, I would be satisfied because I would be doing music.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in the initial stages of your career? 

I think I am in the initial stages of my career and I believe that I haven't made it to any level. I think it would take me 10 years to make it to the level that I want - if I live that long. The biggest obstacle I feel is facing people because everyone out there is cutthroat competition and they want to tear you down. There's a monopoly in the industry who don't let new people come and prove their mettle. So I think that was the biggest obstacle because I was an introvert and I don't really like socialising. All the musicians and actors hangout with each other and that's how they find more work. But I have my limitations and boundaries and I want to be consistent. This is what gets you somewhere in your life.

5. Over the years you’ve been working so hard at your craft, how did you find your sound? Was it a conscious search for you, or an unconscious evolution? 

It was conscious and unconscious at the same time. Because consciously I choose my songs that I want to cover and unconsciously I make a sound that people find amazing later on. For instance, I covered Ali Azmat's Na Re Na that got a lot of recognition. Nadia Hussain, Mahira Khan and even Ali Azmat the great himself shared it, which was the like the highlight of my life in those weeks. I'd say it just came from inside me like we had a choice of 4,5 songs and my producers told me to sing the other ones. But I kind of had the vibe that I would really feel this song and wanna sing this more so they agreed to it. So, whenever I want to sing, I close my eyes and I try to delve into the song and think of all those things that happened in my life and bring those in my songs. This is how I feel grateful when people message me that my songs made me feel them this way or that way. And you know when they are sad they make them happy and they feel that my voice is so deep. So, I think it all really give you back what you have invested in. This is the real beauty of art!

6. What genres of music are you comfortable with? Do you wish to experiment your voice with other genres? 

I am definitely going to experiment my voice with other genres. I am working on a couple of projects at the moment and I plan to experiment with EDM because I really like that these days. And I always wanted to do rap so maybe that too someday. I am not that person who just sticks to one genre. A lot of producers and musicians told me to stick to one genre and excel at it but I don't believe in it. I think music is just to vast to just stick to one genre. It is beautiful and you should experiment as much as you want because you never know genre comes out kickass in the end.

7. Do you intend to release an EP or an album? If yes, when?  

I do intend to release an album - I'm not sure when it's going to happen but it's going to happen InshaAllah in less than a year or so I guess. I am working on a couple of projects with some people, I'm not going to disclose it as yet because I'm very superstitious. So let's see how that goes. There's a couple of things lined up - music is always going to be there and I tell people to stay tuned.

Sana Gilani Zain is a Pakistani singer, actor, model, and writer.

8. What is your notion of music? 

Well music for me is 'life'. It is the most important thing in art. For example, you know in painting exhibitions, restaurants, and gyms, there's music being played that makes you kinda enjoy what you are doing. Music is like an integral part of everything we do in life and where words fall short, music starts to speak from then onward. Whenever I feel overwhelmed and I can't put it in words or write it down, I start playing music on my piano and come up with new compositions that I never knew were inside me.

9. Can you name your three musical inspirations from Pakistan? 

Ali Azmat, Junaid Khan from Call, and my brother Mehroze Gilani.

10. If you could change one thing about the entertainment industry, what would it be and why? 

What I would like to change about the entertainment industry would be how people don't really let new comers come into the industry and make their mark. It's a little skeptical when it comes to newbies and the amateur artists who are there to learn. It is very important to differentiate between those who have a lot of money and can pay producers to make music and then those who are actually into music but don't have money that producers want.

11. You have been an active part of the underground music scene. Do you think that the current state of the music industry is progressive? 

Yes, I think it is definitely progressive. I have met a couple of artists in Lahore and Karachi and I think they are doing absolutely amazing work. I hope to work with them pretty soon - I have been meeting up with a few. There are a lot of things going on but I do believe we still need more platforms and appreciation for the kind of music that I like. Most of the people here like classical, sufi and drama OSTs. But nobody wants to listen to English lyrics and we are a little skeptical when it comes to electronic dance music and the new vibe basically. I think it should all be introduced and people should be getting a feel of other kinds of music and not just same old. I still think it has a long way to go.

Sana Gilani is a Pakistani singer, actor, model, and writer.

12. What songs are in your playlist these days? (Pakistani) 

My playlist always has Angraizi music. But three Pakistani songs that are always in my playlist are Call The Band's Sab Bhula Ke, Mehroze's Aarzoo and Khuwahish and Ali Azmat's Na Re Na. 

13. Your brother Mehroz is also a very promising young artist. Do you have any plans to collaborate with him someday just like the great Nazia and Zoheb Hassan? 

Mehroz is definitely going to go places. He's amazing and I'm not even half the musician that he is. He's done amazing work out there. He has put in a lot of effort - lots of sleepless nights. I still see him 24/7 practicing music and missing out on social events because he's so engrossed into it. Alhamdolillah he's going to go places InshaAllah. All my best wishes to him. I do have plans to collaborate with him but not like Zoheb and Nazia because they were singing songs together, appearing in videos together. Maybe in the future, yes! But right now I want to establish myself as a solo artist and I do look to collaborating with my brother because two is obviously better than one and we are in talks - let's see what comes!

14. What is the best part of playing live? 

Looking at the audience looking back at you thinking "Oh, okay. Is she going to sing?" And when you do, they start to enjoy it. So, I think that's the best part because it never looks like I'm not going to give it my all out there. The first time I sang in front of an audience live at X2 Lahore. It was for a launch for a shoe company and my brother forced me to sing and he disappeared. And, I was forced actually to sing live. The guitarist just kept on asking "do you know this song, do you know this song" and I was like "yea yea yea". So, he just kinda pumped me to sing and I did. It was an ethereal experience - I loved it. It's always fun to communicate and look at the audiences rather than just recording in studios. But recording in studios has its own charm since I'm an introvert by nature and I like spending time one on one with people.

15. Where do you see yourself as a musician in the next 5 years? 

I have planned to take my music further obviously. I'm not sure where I'm going to be but I hope people tell me the same things they tell me now. Because there're a lot of messages that come like your music has healed me or I was listening to your music on a side day and it made me feel better. So, what better thing than healing people? I have also heard people say that my voice is very deep or it heals or all those things that musicians get to hear very often. So, I plan on doing that in the next five years and collaborating with music companies for music or whatever comes my way.

16. Please give a small message for your fans.

Stay tuned for more music, stay tuned for more acting - in dramas - and just keep struggling like I am. I'm also one of you and I'm also doing daily struggles in my life so I can inspire people out there to do better and be better versions of themselves. This is just my journey and I have an unknown future, I don't know what I'm gonna do next but I'm just living life one tier at a time!