Catching Up with Guitarist Mairah Khan

Hailing from the city of lights, Mairah Khan is one of the most astonishing musical talents to come to the mainstream this year. Khan can be seen playing guitars in the music web series Acoustic Station spearheaded by Kashan Admani. However, she isn't new to music and has been in the underground circuit for a while.

Mairah is one of the few female guitarists in the country but she isn't an ordinary one at all. What makes her stand out and pleasing to watch is her unbelievable ability over different styles and techniques.

Mairah Khan is a female guitarist in Pakistan and currently playing in Acoustic Station.

Being a fearless and technically proficient shredder, Mairah is currently making splashes in the funk, blues, and jazz music besides evolving as a musician. We got a chance to speak to Mairah Khan about her musical journey, future plans, and more.

1. Please tell us about your first guitar and how old you were when you started playing? 

I started playing guitar when I was 9 and learnt for 4 years at the Children’s Academy for Performing Arts (CAPA) from Sir Jeremy Vas. My first guitar was a very basic acoustic guitar which was quite small sized because I was small too! … I think the brand’s name was Kapok. It was more of a temporary/make-do guitar from which I had upgraded in a few months.

2. How did you approach the process of playing guitar? 

Well I had a great teacher, Jeremy Vas, who explained the concepts very well and knew how to build your interest. There were 6 to 7 other people in my class as well.He first taught us how to play on an acoustic, so mostly chords and rhythm and whichever songs we wanted to learn and then eventually scales for lead guitar. I liked being in a group class because it pushed me to do better. As I got better, I upgraded from an acoustic to a semi-acoustic and then an electric. What I liked was that he didn’t just teach you how to be good at the instrument, but also taught a bit of music theory, as well as certain skills which are essential to have as a musician; ear training and how to improvise. While learning, students also took part in concerts arranged by the academy at different venues; Base Rock CafĂ©, Port Grand, T2F and also radio. These performances were rewarding and also made me more confident. At the same time, I was very passionate about learning how to play which definitely helped.

3. What was the first song that you learned on guitar?

The first song I learnt on the guitar was actually the melody of Happy Birthday, using one string!

4. How did you find your sound? Were you always inclined towards funk, blues and jazz genres? 

I think that as you hear more and more music, you start to find the genres you particularly like and hence,your playing also becomes influenced by your taste in music. Initially, I was really inspired by Carlos Santana and Django Reinhardt, a French Gypsy Jazz guitarist from the 1940’s, and then as I started hearing more and more new music, my music repertoire expanded. This exposed me to other genres, such as funk, blues and jazz as I started hearing artists like Tom Misch and Cory Wong. Also, I specifically like these three genres because they interestingly overlap quite a bit.

Mairah Khan is a Pakistani guitarist and musician.

5. Music is about expression of feelings. What exactly is the message behind what you do and what are you looking to portray to your followers and even the general public? 

I’ve never really thought about it, I just really enjoy playing. Music is definitely an expression of feelings; whenever I am down or when I want to relax, I just pick up the guitar and start playing.

6. Do you plan to release your own instrumental album someday?  

I have composed some instrumental tracks with just guitar, but I do plan on properly composing music, hopefully with other artists!

7. Can you name your 3 musical inspirations from Pakistan? 

There are many Pakistani musicians that I really like! Veeru Shan because she’s extremely talented and amazing at what she does! Jimmy Khan because his sound is very different because he does a mix of country and Jazz, Aziz Kazi,Yousuf Kerai,Waqas Hussain, Fariha Pervez and Zeb & Haniya to name a few.

8. Where do you see yourself as a musician in the next 5-10 years? 

I hope to continue to improve and be a better musician overall. Where this journey will take me I am not sure, but at this point I’m enjoying myself!

9. Being a female artist, what was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome to prepare yourself for the world of entertainment? 

The music community has actually been very welcoming and supportive and so far my journey has been quite smooth.

10. You are appearing in Kashan Admani’s Acoustic Station. How did that collaboration happen? 

Kashan Admani had reached out to me and we met and discussed what the web-series was about. He said that he needed a rhythm guitarist and asked if I would be interested in taking part in the Acoustic Station series. I found out that some music friends had recommended me and I am very grateful that they did!

11. What one thing would you like to change about Pakistani music? 

Mairah Khan is a Pakistani guitarist and musician. I think in these past few years local music has really picked up as new artists/bands have come into the music scene and are experimenting with different genres. This can especially be seen in Lahore, since the city has a great underground music scene and also has platforms such as True Brew. I hope that this growth spurt also happens in Karachi as the city is still more on the mainstream side and there aren’t many platforms for emerging artists. That’s why I really like what Kashan Admani is doing through Acoustic Station, since it is a platform that is trying to bridge the gap between established and emerging artists.

12. You are often termed as an experimental artist. What genres would you like to try out next? 

I think since Jazz is a very vast genre, I would like to explore more of it. Recently, I have also been quite into Eastern Classical music and have been learning the Sitar for a year now at Habib University from Ustad Sajid Hussain.

13.    In the era of pop/rock, how did you develop interest in eastern classical? 

My university, Habib University, actually just started a South Asian music program which is headed by Mr. Yousuf Kerai. We have many well-known Ustads teaching us Sitar, Tabla, Violin and Vocals, Ustad Sajid being my Ustad for Sitar. Through this program, I started to develop an interest in Eastern Classical music. We now also have academic courses on South Asian music!

Mairah Khan is a Pakistani musician and guitarist.

14.    What advice would you give to young female guitarists? 

Start learning with an acoustic guitar. Try your best to learn as much as you can and do learn music theory as well, because it really gives meaning to what you’re learning and also makes you appreciate the workings of music. Most importantly, find your own sound.

15.    What has been your memorable performance to date?

I feel that all of the performances have been a learning experience in some way or the other, but I guess the most memorable performance was at Berklee with my Jazz ensemble.I was fortunate to be able to study Jazz Performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts for five weeks.I am currently studying at Habib University, but at the same time, I also really wanted to study music academically, which is why I thought applying to this summer program at Berklee would be a good idea.There were musicianship and theory classes and we were grouped in ensembles and had to perform near the end of the program. The experience was great and almost dream-like. I think the best part, more than even the academics, was being able to jam with musicians from all over the world who had also come for the program, because you’re able to learn so much from everyone. Being in an environment with like-minded musicians motivated me to be even better at what I do!


16. Please give a small message for your fans. 

Don’t ever give up on something you’re passionate about. Keep working hard to achieve your goals!

Comments

  1. Good to have a female shredding beast in our country. You go girl

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    1. Thankyou!! :)

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    2. Yes! You can follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mairahkhan99/

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  2. Love from LA

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    1. Thankyou!

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    2. You can follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mairahkhan99/

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  3. A fine talent does not need a platform to shine. She is already a star with such command over her craft.

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    1. Thankyou!! :)

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    2. Very true! You can follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mairahkhan99/

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  4. A female guitarist in Pakistan? Unbelievable. If there's ever a musical war between the two countries, I would drop the weapons straight away. You guys are so ahead of us. Love from India

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    1. That's very kind of you. You can follow Mairah on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mairahkhan99/

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    2. Thankyou! :)

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  5. Her name as well as her face both resemble Mahira Khan �� If only the latter could play guitar that good

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    1. Haha, that's correct! You can follow Mairah Khan - the mighty guitar player here: https://www.facebook.com/mairahkhan99/

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    2. Thankyou!

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  6. She should release more covers and her random jams. BTW, what's her Instagram?

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    1. You can follow me on mairahkhan_official on Instagram!

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