Saarey Music Has Brought South Asian Classical Tracks to Your Phones
Thanks to Faraan Ahmed Irfan’s app (called Saarey Music), South Asian classical music that was almost impossible to get a hold of is now at the tap of a finger for users across the world.
Often heard live or on poorly recorded videos floating across the internet, classical music in Pakistan (albeit a resilient artform) is not something you’ll stumble across readily on Spotify or Deezer. With little to no recordings within easy access, the divide between listeners and the treasure trove that is South Asian classical music seems to have widened.
However, there are a handful of people working towards not only preserving it but reviving it as well – founder of Saarey Music, Faraan Ahmed Irfan, being one of them. With his app, classical music recordings that were almost impossible to get a hold of are now at the tap of a finger for users across the world.
We caught up with him to learn more about Saarey Music and how he’s working towards re-introducing the genre of South Asian classical music to a global audience.
Q) What inspired the making of Saarey?
Saarey was inspired by a deep desire to revive Pakistan’s classical music, re-introduce it to younger audiences, help our amazing artists get the worldwide attention they deserve and to continue a 61-year family legacy.
“Saarey was inspired by a deep desire to revive Pakistan’s classical music”
Classical music is improvisational and spontaneous. Every raag is reinvented every time it’s performed, so when you compare a raag performed in the 1960s vs the 2020s, while sounding the same, will feel different. It evolves with the times; for example, you can hear Ustad Sharif Khan play Raag Kiravni on the sitar from 1961 and then his son Ustad Ashraf Sharif Khan play Raag Kirvani on the sitar in 2012 and then Akmal Qadri play the same on the flute in 2019 – all similar, yet different, all live, and all available on Saarey Music.
“Every raag is reinvented every time it’s performed”
Q) Tell us a bit about the interface and the challenges it presented.
Classical music is an amazing genre. The only reason it has fallen out of the wider public imagination is due to lack of access, so we thought long and hard about the best way to provide easy access in today’s age. Since the primary method of content consumption today is digital, the natural decision was the development of the app. We wanted the interface of this app to be modern and easy to use and to appeal to all ages.
“The only reason classical music has fallen out of the wider public imagination is due to lack of access”
We actively rely on users sharing their valuable feedback with us. This is incorporated into the product pipeline and we regularly publish new updates to the app. Many of the features in the app that you see today are based on what users shared with us. Our interface continues to be a work in progress as we work towards making Saarey Music better every single day.
“Many of the features in the app that you see today are based on what users shared with us”
Q) Tell us about the decision to include Ragamala paintings.
Classical music is deeply rooted in our land, in our culture, in our heritage and who we are as a people. We continue to try and find ways to incorporate this into the Saarey Music experience. Paintings on raags were made all the way from the 1500s to the 1800s and made into several collections of paintings all called Ragamala. When I stumbled onto some Ragamala paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, I just knew they had to be included in the Saarey Music experience.
Q) Currently, how many tracks does Saarey feature?
Saarey arguably holds exclusive access to 85-90% of all digitally available recorded Pakistani classical music content and we’ve only released 10% of this on the Saarey Music app.
We are talking to Radio Pakistan and Lok Virsa to share their amazing libraries with us so we can share them with the world. With that, users will have access to 99% of Pakistan’s classical music in the Saarey Music app.
“Saarey arguably holds exclusive access to 85-90% of all digitally available recorded Pakistani classical music content”
Q) Can new musicians’ approach Saarey? Or is it meant to be archival?
Absolutely! New music is added all the time. The content covers recordings all the way from the 1960s to the 2020s. We have special sections for both the Legendary Ustads and the Living Ustads and we release new exciting content on a regular basis.