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Music of Pakistan

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Music of Pakistan
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  • Classical
  • Ghazal
  • Pakistani Hip Hop
  • Sufi
  • Folk
  • Qawwali
  • Pop ( Filmi)
  • Rock ( Sufi rock)
  • Hip Hop
Specific forms
Religious music
  • Hamd
  • Nasheeds
  • Naat
Ethnic music
  • Balochi
  • Kashmiri
  • Pashto
  • Punjabi
  • Sindhi
Traditional music
  • Sufi
  • Kafi
  • Bhangra
Media and performance
Music awards Lux Style Awards
MTV Awards
Music festivals All Pakistan Music Conference
Coke Studio
Music media
  • AAG
  • Bandbaja
    MTV Pakistan
  • PlayTV
  • TM
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem Qaumi Tarana
Regional music
Local forms
  • Brahui
  • Hindko
  • Khowar
  • Shina
  • Siraiki
Related areas
  • Persian
  • Afghani
  • Turkish

The music of Pakistan includes diverse elements ranging from Central Asian folk music as well as music from South Asia, Persian music, Turkish music, as well as more modern American music influences. Pakistan is a country which lies at a crossroad of cultures from South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With the multiple influences, Pakistani music has emerged as a "fusion" of many other types of sounds together to form a distinctly Pakistani sound.

Classical music

A boy is mending a Sitar in Islamabad

Pakistani classical music has 7 basic notes (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni), with five interspersed half-notes, resulting in a 12-note scale. Unlike the 12-note scale in Western music, the base frequency of the scale is not fixed, and intertonal gaps ( temper) may also vary; however with the gradual replacement of the sarangi by the harmonium, an equal tempered scale is increasingly used. The performance is set to a melodic pattern ( raag) characterized in part by specific ascent and descent. Other characteristics include King and Queen notes and a unique note phrase ( Pakad). In addition each raga has its natural register ( Ambit) and glissando ( Meend) rules, as well as features specific to different styles and compositions within the raga structure. Performances are usually marked by considerable improvisation within these norms. It is traditional for performers who have reached a distinguished level of achievement, to be awarded titles of Ustad.


  • Sitar
  • Tabla
  • Harmonium
  • Sarangi
  • Santoor


A gharana is a system of social organization linking musicians or dancers by lineage and/or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style. A recent documentary film, Khayal Darpan, traces the development of classical music in Pakistan since 1947.

Famous Composers and Performers

  • Ustad Amanat & Fateh Ali Khan
  • Ustad Umeed Ali Khan
  • Ustad Salamat & Nazakat Ali Khan
  • Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan
  • Ustad Fateh & Hameed Ali Khan
  • Ustad Nihal ABdulla Khan
  • Ustad Vilayat Ali Khan
  • Ustad Mohammed Hafiz and Mohammed Afzal Khan
  • Ustad Barkat Ali Khan
  • Ustad Bhailal Mohammed Khan
  • Ustad Ghulam Hassan Shaggan
  • Ustad Amanat Ali Khan
  • Ustad Akhtar Ali/Zakir Ali Khan
  • Ustad Asad Ali Khan
  • Ustad Badar/Qamar-uz-Zaman
  • Ustad Chote GHulam Ali Khan
  • Ustad Hussain Baksh GulloKhan
  • Ustad Imtiaz/Riyaz Ali Khan
  • Ustad Ghulam Shabir and Jaffar Khan
  • Ustad Ghulam Haider Khan
  • Ustad Nassirudin Sami Khan
  • Ustad Nasir Ahmed Khan Khan
  • late Alam Lohar.
  • Roshanara Begum
  • Naseem Begum
  • Surraiya Multanikar
  • Umrao Bandoo Khan
  • Mohammed SHarif Poonchawalay
  • Ashraf Sharif
  • Nathoo Khan
  • Bundu Khan
  • Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Ghazal music

In poetry, the ghazal ( Persian: غزل; Turkish gazel) is a poetic form consisting of couplets which share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. Etymologically, the word literally refers to "the mortal cry of a gazelle". The animal is called Ghizaal, from which the English word gazelles stems, or Kastori haran (where haran refers to deer) in Urdu. Ghazals are traditionally expressions of love, separation and loneliness, for which the gazelle is an appropriate image. A ghazal can thus be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 10th century Persian verse. It is derived from the Persian qasida. The structural requirements of the ghazal are more stringent than those of most poetic forms traditionally written in English. In its style and content it is a genre which has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central theme of love and separation. It is considered by many to be one of the principal poetic forms the Persian civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world.

The ghazal spread into South Asia in the 12th century under the influence of the new Islamic Sultanate courts and Sufi mystics. Exotic to the region, as is indicated by the very sounds of the name itself when properly pronounced as ġazal. Although the ghazal is most prominently a form of Urdu poetry, today, it has influenced the poetry of many languages. Most Ghazal singers are trained in classical music and sing in either Khyal or Thumri.

Famous Composers and Performers

  • Faiz Ahmed Faiz
  • Qamar Jalalabadi
  • Ahmed Faraz
  • Makhdoom Mohiuddin
  • Melody Queeen Noor Jehan
  • Amanat Ali
  • Firaq Gorakhpuri
  • Ghulam Ali
  • Iqbal Bano
  • Munni Begum
  • Mehdi Hassan
  • Farida Khanum
  • Nayyara Noor
  • Abida Parveen
  • Malika Pukhraj
  • Tahira Syed

Qawwali music

Qawwali (Urdu: قوٌالی) is the devotional music of the Chishti Sufis. Qawwali is a vibrant musical tradition that stretches back more than 700 years. Originally performed mainly at Sufi shrines throughout the subcontinent, it has also gained mainstream popularity. Qawwali music received international exposure through the work of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, largely due to several releases on the Real World label, followed by live appearances at WOMAD festivals. Listeners, and often artists themselves are transported to a state of wajad, a trance-like state where they feel at one with God, generally considered to be the height of spiritual ecstasy in Sufism. The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia, however, Qawwali in the form we know it today was essentially created by Amir Khusrau in the late 13th century.

During the first major migration from Persia, in the 11th century, the musical tradition of Sama migrated to South Asia, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Rumi and his Mevlana order of Sufism have been the propagators of Sama in Central Asia. Amir Khusrau of the Chisti order of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian and South Asian musical traditions, to create Qawwali as well as the classical music tradition. The word "Sama" is used (or is the preferred name) in Central Asia and Turkey, for forms very similar to Qawwali while in Pakistan, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is "Mehfil-e-Sama".


  • Tabla
  • Dholak
  • Harmonium

Qawwali Party

A group of qawwali musicians, called a party, typically consists of eight or nine men — women are, for all intents and purposes, excluded from traditional Muslim music as respectable women are traditionally prohibited from singing in the presence of men, though these traditions are changing — including a lead singer, one or two side singers, one or two harmoniums (which may be played by lead singer, side singer or someone else), and percussion. If there is only one percussionist, he plays the tabla and dholak, usually the tabla with the left hand and the dholak with the right. Often there will be two percussionists, in which case one might play the tabla and the other the dholak. There is also a chorus of four or five men who repeat key verses, and who aid and abet percussion by hand-clapping. The performers sit in two rows — the lead singer, side singers and harmonium players in the front row, and the chorus and percussionists in the back row.

Famous Composers and Performers

  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  • Abida Parveen
  • Bulleh Shah
  • Sabri Brothers
  • Aziz Mian
  • Alam Lohar

Folk music

Pakistani folk music deals with subjects surrounding daily life in less grandiose terms than the love and emotion usually contained in its traditional and classical counterpart. In Pakistan, each province has its own variation of popular folk music.

Pakistan has created many famous singers in this discipline such as the late Alam lohar, who was very influential in the period of 1940 until 1979: he created the concept of jugni and this has been a folk song ever since, and he sang heer, sufiana kalaams, mirza, sassi and many more famous folk stories. He created the style of singing with the chimta and since his death Arif Lohar has carried on with his father's tradition alongside adopting his own unique style, such as the new acclaimed and successful album 21 Century Jugni.






Siraiki is spoken by 13.9 million people in southern Punjab and northern Sindh. It has its own culture and life style and most speakers of [Siraiki] love to listen to the Music in their native Language as would the speakers of any other language. Atta Ullah Essa Khelvi is one of the most famous name in promoting [Siraiki] Songs and Music. Essa Khelvi belongs to Essa Khail, a part of district [Mianwail] and originated his music from the city of Mianwali. Recent media developments have now brought more talent into the field of entertainment specially the channel The KOOK TV broadcasted locally has been a major contributor of Siraiki language into National Media. The Seraiki language is often considered the sweetest of all Pakistani languages. Other channels in same field includes Rohi TV and Waseeb TV, which are broadcasting in saraiki language.
Also, the great late Pathany Khan, who belonged to city of Multan, did considerable work in the field of Saraiki music. His songs such as Mera Ishq Vi Tu or Charakay de are still loved by masses and equally appreciated by other languages' speakers. Another star of this language is world renowned folk singer Reshmaan. She rendered some beautiful songs in her mother tongue, Saraiki, along with in Punjabi for which she gained more fame.


Persian is spoken mainly in the North West of Pakistan but there are also considerable Persian speaking inhabitants in Pakistan's major urban centres of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. During and after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and subsequent arrival of millions of Afghan refugees to Pakistan, much of the Afghan (Dari/Persian) music industry was kept alive by performances and recordings made in Pakistan. After more than 20 years, Persian folk music has made considerable and often subtle contributions the overall Pakistani music industry. singers from Afghanistan regularly perform throughout Pakistan particularly at weddings and other formal functions.


The predominant language found in Pakistan's Northern Areas has an extensive oral history which dates back several thousand years. With the increase in tourism to Pakistan's Northern Areas and increased domestic as well as international awareness of the local folk music, the Shinha folk traditions have managed to stay alive and vibrant.


A dardic language with considerable Persian influence is found in Pakistan's Chitral region in the North West of the country. Khowar folk music had considerable patronage particularly during the rule of the Mehtars in the last century. Folk music in this region has remained relatively pure and unscathed by modern influences due to the relative isolation of this district. The arrival of many refugees from the adjacent Nuristan province of Afghanistan and the subsequent increase in commercial activity in Chitrali bazaars allowed this local form of music to flourish in the past few decades.

Filmi music

Pakistan's film industry known as " Lollywood" is based in Lahore. One of the most famous singers of the Pakistan film industry is Madame Noor Jehan (Malika-e-Tarranum). Noor Jehan had a brief and successful acting career before devoting herself completely to music. She sang extensively for Pakistani films and also sang Ghazals, folk songs and patriotic songs (milli naghmay) for Pakistan television.

Until the 1960’s Pakistani film music enjoyed a robust period of creative activity with a great number of songs acquiring popularity across the sub-continent. The major music directors of this period (with the noted exception of Khawaja Khurshid Anwar) were mostly rababis. Some of the great names were: Ustad Inayat Hussain, G.A. Chishti, Rashid Attre, Ustad Tasadduq, Master Abdullah, Firoze Nizami, Tufail Farooqi and Ustad Nazar.

During the early 1960s Urdu film and music quality declined as the result of various factors. The dominance of trend-setting music directors who had experience of seasoned pre-partition artists declined and they were replaced by a new and younger generation who tapped the Punjabi film market. Most of Pakistani music or musicians is now played in Bollywood.

East meets West

As the new century began, so did a new type of music in Pakistan, which has become popular not only in Pakistan, but also in many other parts of the world too such as UK, USA, Canada, Iran, Middle East and India. This new type of music had a rich blend of classical/folk with western sounds leading the music industry to rebuild and re-establish itself. The industry really began to pick up in late 2003, when media laws in Pakistan became more relaxed, and resulted in a mass explosion of private Pakistani television channels. While many "fusing" bands have produced genuine and equilibrium music, there are some who just managed to produce native language charbas (Pakistani slang for media meaning ripoff) of Western songs. Most old-school Pakistani music lovers deride this fusion as charbas and remain loyal to the classic ghazal and qawwalis.

Pop music

Artists such as Nazia Hasan, Zoheb Hasan, Muhammad Ali Shehki, Alamgir and the Benjamin Sisters were pioneers of Pakistani pop music in the 1980s, but the real breakthrough for the music industry came with the hit song Dil Dil Pakistan by Vital Signs (band) which gave birth to the current music scene in Pakistan. Dil Dil Pakistan was voted the 3rd most popular song in the world by a BBC poll. Some very popular Pakistani music acts include:

  • Abrar-ul-Haq
  • Adnan Sami Khan
  • Ahmed Jehanzeb
  • Ali Zafar
  • Annie
  • Atif Aslam
  • Ali Haider
  • Faakhir Mehmood
  • Jal
  • Javed Bashir
  • Junaid Jamshed
  • Junoon
  • Hadiqa Kiyani
  • Kraze - The first all-girl Pakistani band from Michigan, USA
  • Sajjad Ali
  • Strings
  • Vital Signs
  • Zeeshan

See List of Pakistani pop singers

Rock music

Rock music in Pakistan has become very popular not only in Pakistan but across South Asia. All these groups have millions of fans across the world including in other parts of South Asia. A landmark event occurred in 2003 when the Pakistani group Strings's song, Najane Kyun became a featured single on the Urdu Soundtrack for Spider-Man 2. Rock music has developed so much in Pakistan, that it already has two sub-genere's. The Pakistani band Junoon popularised a genre of music called Sufi rock (influenced from legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) that blended traditional Pakistani folk and Sufi music with western rock. Also Arif Lohar made a huge success with a rock folk album in 2006 called 21st century Jugni: this album was successful worldwide, and in India won 3 awards at the Alpha Punjabi Awards ceremony for best International punjabi vocalist and best remixed and best folk rock album. Pakistani black metal has just recently begun, with many underground bands in cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and even Peshawar. Popular Pakistani Rock Bands are:

  • Ali azmat Band
  • Aaroh
  • Aunty Disco Project
  • Call
  • EP
  • Fuzon
  • Junoon
  • Karavan
  • Anesthezia
  • Mauj
  • Mekaal Hasan Band
  • Mizraab
  • Noori
  • Arif Lohar
  • Jal

Underground Rock Scene in Lahore: There are number of Underground Bands in Lahore, some of them proved themselves to be a complete rock bands. EP, Call and Noori have been integral in revitalizing the rock culture in Pakistan, but many now feel that the future of rock music is in the hands of underground bands like Black Warrant, Paranoid, Kain, Lithium, Drainage, Cultural Jukebox, Genocide, Hypnotix-2000 and many more.

Moreover, Bands like Mizraab, have played a big role in promoting Metal Music in Pakistan. Headed by Faraz Anwar, this Band is probably the first Metal Band in Pakistan, with their Songs Meri Tarha and Insaan being the favorites of many Metal Fans. Moreover, the upcoming rock band Anesthezia has alot in the offering in their debut album SAKIA.

The Aunty Disco Project are an underground band that has crawled, climbed and dug their way from the trenches of dark coffee houses, private gigs and colleges onto the spotlight of the mainstream Pakistani rock scene.

The band, collectively, is Omar Bilal Akhtar (vocals, guitars, bass and keyboards), Imran Lodhi (vocals, bass, guitars), Yasir Qureshi (darbuka, backing vocals and percussions) and Omar Khalid (drums and backing vocals). Though influenced by classic rock, they unanimously agree that it is Junoon that has influenced them from the local scene.

For all the information and video, audio and picture galleries of the Underground rock bands at Lahore visit: The Underground Act:Lahore

The West Connection

There are more than 10 million expatriates who live outside of Pakistan mainly in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia and many other countries. With this large population lots of musical talent has been produced, some of which is world recognized!

Hip Hop

Although hip hop and rap have not taken root in Pakistan, many musicians of Pakistani origin have begun to enter the hip hop industry. Some popular Pakistani hip-hop & rap artists includes:

  • Farhan Khan - An Islamabad based immensely talented rapper who raps in three languages inlcuding English, Urdu & Punjabi. Farhan's hit single "Kar De" has received great admiration from all over Pakistan and overseas Pakistanies. It received more than 50,000 downloads in a span of two months as it was available on all famous web ezines of Pakistani music including PMR, PMX, J4Jumpy, Paksound, Apniisp etc etc. A blend of Punjabi and English, "Kar De" makes you dance even unintentionally. He's working on an album at Studio 051 where Asad Kamal is producing his debut Hip Hop Album. His upcoming singles include "Party Starters", "Can You Hear Us", "Ali Maula" etc etc [] []
  • Desi Ji - The King Of Desi Rap the Creator of Desi Rap From Germany Website
  • DJ Aphlatoon - A DJ based in New York City, has produced two hip hop Pakistani remixed albums.
  • 8T2 - This Pakistani MC is making waves all across the UK
  • Aky - Hip Hop Artist from London, Uk
  • Bohemia - Roger David (Raja da Punjabi Rapper)
  • THE PAK The Original PAKMAN"Da Desi Rapper"®™ PAKMAN From Los angeles/Punjab. PAK


  • Mr. Capone-E - Website
  • Faz MC - Hip Hop Artist from Australia
  • Jihad - Rapper from Cerritos, California. Beat Jin in a 2002 freestyle battle Website
  • Kostal - Urdu R&B artist from Sugar Land, Texas Website
  • Lazarus - Kamran Rasheed Khan from Detroit, Michigan Website
  • RZK - Hip Hop Artist from Australia
  • ShahRick - Produces and Hip Hops in French, from Geneva, Switzerland Website
  • Sir Aah - Website
  • Waqas Ali Qadri - A member of Outlandish; the fastest Urdu rapper in the world from Copenhagen, Denmark Website
  • PakArmz - New recent Hip Hop artist hailing from Queens, New York Website
  • Metz & Trix - Website (From Manchester, UK, their first album Danger (album) was an international mega-success, and was produced by RDB).

UK Bhangra

The UK Asian music scene is full of talent and the most popular is often referred to as UK Bhangra, is a rich blend of Punjabi sounds with western beats such as hip hop and techno; some popular UK Bhangra artists include:

  • 8T2 - This Pakistani MC is making waves all across the UK
  • Riz Ahmed - Rizwan Ahmed, also known as Riz Ahmed or MC Riz, is an MC and British Actor

8 [[Omar Khan}} - Omar Khan is a British born MC/Producer, who formed a peace group called World Riderz

  • Khiza - Owner of Khiza Records from Birmingham, England Website
  • Legacy - Tariq Khan from Manchester, England - Website
  • Notorious Jatt - Website
  • Bona Fide - Maz & Ziggy from Manchester, England Website
  • Angrez Ali - UK Pakistani vocalist from Coventry
  • DJ Vix aka DJ Vips - Famous DJ from London, UK
  • Gupsy Aujla - UK Sikh DJ from Bradford
  • Aman Hayer - DJ and Producer from Coventry
  • Hunterz - Producers of the "Streets of Bollywood" 1 & 2
  • Jinx - Successful Producers and DJs from the Midlands
  • Kray Twinz - Desi, Bhangra and Grime/Garage Producers, produced for Lethal Bizzle, Twista and Gappy Ranks
  • Northern Lights - Producer Duo from Glasgow
  • Tanveer Gogi - Punjabi Vocalist from Glasgow

Pop, Rock & R&B

Pop & Rock music hadn't seen many Pakistani artists until of late. Some popular Pakistani pop & rock artists include:

  • Raasta - An Australian Pop Rock duo from Perth produced by Glenn Bidmead and sound engineered by Daniel Jones of Savage Garden. The Raasta project is aimed at the Pakistani and Indian markets. Raasta has recently acquired major record deals with The Musik Records (Pakistan) and HOM Records (India). Their debut album titled Pehla Safar is expected to be released with music videos at some point in 2008. Website
  • Kraze - The first all-girl Pakistani band from Michigan, USA
  • Imran Khan - Imran Khan-Niazi from Holland
  • Deeyah - Deepika from Oslo, Norway Website
  • Josh The Band - Qurram Hussain from Toronto, Canada and Rupinder Magon from Montreal, Canada Website
  • CarMa - A Rock/Alternative act based in Toronto, Canada Website
  • Nadia Ali - A former member of ilo from New York City (popularized by the hit single Rapture)- The Next Pakistani Electronic Diva Website
  • Tariq Hussain - A Canadian singer-songwriter and radio personality from Cowansville, Canada Website
  • DJ Stormz - From The Uk,DJ/Producer and Radio Show Presenter, owner of Toofan Entertainment, Website
  • Falak The Band - A South Asian fusion rock band from Toronto, Canada Website
  • Kashif - An upcoming English R&B artist based in Montreal, Canada Website
  • Zameer - The band is based out of Toronto and consists of three brothers, Zameer, Hussain, and Ali who have been writing and performing together from a very early age. They were previously known as Dead Shyre, and independently sold over 2000 copies of their CD Poet of the Season. Website
  • Zzen - A Progressive Rock/Metal outfit coming out of Toronto, Canada Website

Music Producers

Music production seems to have stayed in the shadows in the Pakistan music industry. Behind the successes of some of the top talent in the country, there were almost always music producers who never got their due credit. Some of them include:

  • Rohail Hyatt - Member of the Band Vital Signs. He has produced all the Vital Signs albums and various other artists like Awaz, Rahet Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Azmat to name a few. He has worked with big names such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ustaad Saami and Fareed Ayaz. His production 'Jiya Dhadak Dhadak Jaye' for the film 'Kalyug' with Rahet Fateh Ali Khan on vocals, went to number one on the Indian charts for 6 weeks in 2005. He has also produced the background score and main score of the film 'Khuda Kay Liye'(In the name of God) Website
  • Meekal Hassan - Band Manager of The Meekal Hassan Band and the most talented of all the musicians in Pakistan. He has produced great hits like "Aadat" for Jal The Band, "Sampooran" & "Andohlan" from his own band's album.
  • Asad Kamal - An immensely talented musician plus singer who has been greatly under-rated throughout his whole life and hasn't had much of commercial success but things are different now and he is producing the best Pop, Rock & Hip Hop music out there. He's probbably the only musician in Pakistan who is producing Hip Hop professionally with Artists like Farhan Khan, Waleed and Abbas Ali Khan working in his Studio called "STUDIO 051" [] [Website]
  • Zulfiqar aka Zulfi One of the best out there who produced hit albums for different bands like E.P in which he was a member as well, Call (current member), Jal's first album except the single "Aadat", RoXen's album "Roxen-e-Deewar"

Music Journalism

Music journalism in Pakistan has grown tremendously over the years, especially with the growth of the country's pop music industry and underground rock culture. Popular music journalism was uncommon in the country till about 1985 when Karachi's tabloid, The Star started printing reviews written by Farrukh Moriani who is also considered to be the country's first ever pop music critic. At the end of the eighties and with the coming of the Liberal government of Benazir Bhutto in 1988, the once repressed and frowned upon (by the Islamist dictatorship of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq), Pakistani pop music emerged from the underground and started gaining mainstream popularity. With this came another pioneering Pakistani music and fashion critic Fifi Haroon who was amongst the first in the country to undertake full features on the growing local music scene. Another frontrunner in this regard was Mohammed Ali Tim, but it wasn't until the arrival of the iconoclastic Nadeem F. Paracha in 1990 that music journalism started to be taken as a serious form of journalism in Pakistan. With Paracha was Farjad Nabi (at The The News International) and Aysha Aslam (at The Herald). Streaming Pakistani music online.

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