Ali Sethi Wiki, Age, Husband, Family, Biography & More

Ali Sethi

Ali Sethi is a Pakistani singer, musician, and author who has sung many hit songs and written a critically acclaimed novel. He became one of the most popular Pakistani artists after the release of his song Pasoori in 2022. He hit the headlines in 2023 when rumours of his gay marriage were circulated on the internet.

Wiki/Biography

Ali Aziz Sethi was born on Monday, 2 July 1984 (age 39 years; as of 2023) in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. His zodiac sign is Cancer. He hails from the Shergarh town of Depalpur tehsil in the Okara district of Punjab, Pakistan.

A childhood photo of Ali Sethi with his mother, Jugnu Mohsin

A childhood photo of Ali Sethi with his mother, Jugnu Mohsin

He attended the International School of Choueifat and Aitchison College in Lahore, Pakistan.

Ali Sethi (right) during his school days

Ali Sethi (right) during his school days

From 2002 to 2006, he pursued graduation at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Initially, he planned to pursue graduation in Economics; however, after attending a class about Islamic culture in contemporary societies by Ali Sultaan Asani, a Kenyan-American Academic, he changed his mind and opted for South Asian Studies. Later, he wrote a thesis on Anarkali, a woman said to be loved by Prince Salim. Since his childhood, he was interested in music, linguistics, and the culture of the Indian subcontinent which led him to pursue a career in music.

Ali Sethi during his college days

Ali Sethi during his college days

Physical Appearance

Height (approx.): 6′ 1″

Weight (approx.): 80 kg

Hair Colour: Black

Eye Colour: Black

Ali Sethi physical appearance

Family

He belongs to an affluent family.

Parents & Siblings

His father, Najam Sethi, is a noted Pakistani journalist and former Chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). His mother, Jugnu Mohsin, is a renowned journalist.

Ali Sethi's father, Najam Sethi, and his mother, Jugnu Mohsin

Ali Sethi’s father, Najam Sethi, and his mother, Jugnu Mohsin

He has a sister named Mira Sethi, who is an actress and married to Bilal Siddiqui.

Ali Sethi with his sister, Mira Sethi

Ali Sethi with his sister, Mira Sethi

Wife

He is unmarried.

Other Relatives

His maternal aunt, Moni Mohsin, is a famous British-Pakistani writer and columnist.

Ali Sethi sitting in his mother's lap with his maternal grandmother, and maternal aunt, Moni Mohsin (left to right)

Ali Sethi sitting in his mother’s lap with his maternal grandmother and maternal aunt, Moni Mohsin (left to right)

Relationships/Affairs

Ali Sethi allegedly dated many men including Salman Toor, a Pakistani-born American painter who has been his friend since his high school days. In 2022, Toor said in an interview that he and Ali realised in 2016 that they were made for each other. [1]The New Yorker

Ali Sethi with Salman Toor (right)

Ali Sethi with Salman Toor (right)

Sexual Orientation

Ali Sethi openly identifies as Queer. While studying in high school in 1995, Ali once read ‘Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man’ by Norman Mailer with his friends which compelled him to explore his sexuality. In an interview, he said that homophobia was rising in his country, and he felt a responsibility to be visibly queer. [2]SDLGBTN

Ali Sethi during a photo shoot

Ali Sethi during a photo shoot

Religion

He follows Islam.

Career

Singer & Musician

Training & Influences

Ali Sethi mentioned in an interview that his mother was the reason he took an interest in music during his childhood. He added that during his childhood, his mother introduced him to South Asian music of different genres including ghazals of Mehdi Hassan and Farida Khanum, folk music of Indian and Pakistani Punjab, and classical Indian music of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and other classical singers and made him sing complex songs and verses.

Ali Sethi playing guitar during his childhood

Ali Sethi playing guitar during his childhood

During his teenage years, Ali was drawn towards the local Sufi music of Lahore, Bollywood songs, particularly songs composed by R. D. Burman and written by Gulzar, and Western pop music. In 2008, he started training from UstadĀ Naseeruddin SaamiĀ of theĀ Delhi Gharana, and in 2012, he started learning under ghazalĀ and classical singerĀ Farida Khanum.

Ali Sethi's music trainer, Farida Khanum, playing Sarangi while her daughter looks

Ali Sethi’s music trainer, Farida Khanum, playing Sarangi while her daughter looks

Early Music

He sang his first song in 2012 titled Dil Jalannay Ki Baat Karte Ho which was featured in Mira Nair’s film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. He made his debut in the 8th season of Coke Studio Pakistan in 2015 and sang Asad Amanat Ali Khan’s folk song, Umran Langiyaan. He later sang many songs in different seasons of Coke Studio including Aaqa with Abida Parveen, Tinak Dhin with Ali Hamza and Waqar Ahsin, Ranjish Hi Sahi, and Gulon Main Rang.

Ali Sethi singing in Coke Studio Pakistan

Ali Sethi singing in Coke Studio Pakistan

In February 2015, Ali released his first music video for Kithay Nain Na Jori song. He also collaborated with several international singers and musicians for several projects including Mahi Mera in 2016 with Pakistani folk singer Jamaldin, Resident Alien in 2017 with American Dhol player Sunny Jain, and five songs in 2019 with American music producer Noah Georgeson including Chandni Raat and Dil Lagaayein. In September 2021, he composed and sang the musical narration of Jungle Nama: A Story of the Sundarban, a book written by noted Indian author, Amitav Ghosh.

Ali Sethi with Jamaldin (left) during the launch of his song, Mahi Mera

Ali Sethi with Jamaldin (left) during the launch of his song, Mahi Mera

Pasoori & Afterwards Popularity

Ali Sethi gained worldwide popularity with his song Pasoori in the 14th season of Coke Studio Pakistan in February 2022 which he sang alongside Shae Gill. The song made many records including the fastest song of the season to gain 1 million views on YouTube, the first song of Coke Studio Pakistan to feature on Spotify’s Viral 50 global chart, the most-watched Coke Studio Pakistan music video of all time, the most-streamed Pakistani song globally, the most-streamed song in Pakistan in 2022, and the most-searched song in the world in 2022. The song was also ranked number 1 in Spotify India’s Viral 50 chart and Spotify’s Viral 50 global chart.

Poster of Ali Sethi's viral song, Pasoori

Poster of Ali Sethi’s viral song, Pasoori

Following this song, he became one of the most popular Pakistani singers and was invited to perform at the first Coke Studio Pakistan live concert held at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, UAE in June 2023. In July 2023, he released his first EP titled Paniya.

Notable Live Performances & Tours

Ali Sethi has performed at various popular venues and programs including at Sanders TheaterĀ for Harvard University’sĀ Arts First festival in May 2019, atĀ Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2019 which was later shown on twoĀ NASDAQĀ billboards atĀ Times Square, three performances in September 2022, first at Saxena Center for Contemporary South Asia atĀ Brown University in Rhode Island, U.S.A., second at Harvard University’s ’75 Years of Azadi: A Celebration of South Asia’ event, and third at theĀ O2 ArenaĀ inĀ London, and at theĀ Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2023, which made him the second Pakistani to perform at the prestigious musical event.

Ali Sethi during a live concert

Ali Sethi during a live concert

From November 2022 to February 2023, he did a North American Tour, performing in eleven cities in U.S.A. and Canada. In June 2023, he announced his World Tour from October 2023 to November 2023, with performances in many cities including London (U.K.), Dublin (Ireland), and Dallas (Texas, U.S.A.).

Poster of Ali Sethi's 2023 World Tour

Poster of Ali Sethi’s 2023 World Tour

Musical Styles & Goals

Sethi is renowned for modernizing the ancient ghazal singing style, receiving praise for his fresh take on iconic ghazals. He’s drawn to reviving forgotten poetry and music forms, aiming to blend tradition with experimentation. Despite ghazal’s declining popularity, he sees it as a genre for young people. In live performances, he discusses the evolution of ghazals, classical ragas, and the origins of Urdu words. In an interview, he said that his goal is to increase awareness and appreciation for classical music and South Asian poets through his work.

Ali Sethi singing a ghazal on guitar

Ali Sethi singing a ghazal on guitar

His early life was surrounded by journalists, artists, activists, and politicians, due to his parent’s professions, creating an environment filled with diverse and dissenting voices. Growing up in a home with jail-going writers and activists, he attributes these experiences to shaping his perspective. This background strongly impacted his musical philosophy, inspiring him to address social issues through his songs and music videos. In his musical work, Sethi delves into the intersections of art, philosophy, scripture, and music. He’s a strong advocate for pluralism and tolerance and often challenges societal norms around gender identity and sexuality with his music and videos.

Poster of Ali Sethi's song, Chandni Raat, which revolves around social issues

Poster of Ali Sethi’s song, Chandni Raat, which revolves around social issues

Praise & Acclaim

Ali Sethi has been praised by several noted musicians and music reviewers. Renowned Indian classical singer Shubha Mudgal, in a 2015 column, described Sethi’s voice as a blend of disciplined training (Taaleem and Riyaaz) and a unique touch of heartbreak. She noted that this quality sets his singing apart, unattainable through training or cultivation, attributing it to an inherent, unexplainable gift.

RJ Haroon Rashid of BBC Asian Network once described him as The King of Modern Ghazal. Many people have praised him for blending traditional Urdu poetry and ghazals with modern genres of pop, jazz, reggaetĆ³n, hip hop and salsa, popularising it among the younger generations. Indian actor-singer Ayushmann Khurrana praised Ali’s singing in an interview, and the Indian singer-rapperĀ Yo Yo Honey Singh compared him to the legendary Indian singer Mohammed Rafi.

Writer & Author

Novel

Ali Sethi published his first novel titled The Wish Maker in 2009, which contained themes of Pakistani identity and middle-class society. He wrote the novel over the span of three years, with the first draft at Harvard University in 2006, and later in New York, U.S.A. and Lahore, Pakistan. His novel was praised by many book reviewers for its originality and depiction of emotions. It was later translated into many languages including Italian, Dutch, German, Hindi, Chinese, and Turkish.

Ali Sethi during an interview after the release of his novel, The Wish MakerAli Sethi during an interview after the release of his novel, The Wish Maker

Ali Sethi during an interview after the release of his novel, The Wish Maker

Articles & Essays

He has also written essays and articles for many newspapers and articles including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New York Review of Books, and The Caravan. He has mentioned the need for an inclusive Pakistan, open to the practices and beliefs of all communities, in his writings. The Express Tribune, a Pakistani Newspaper, has banned two of his articles from being published, claiming them to be very controversial.

Ali Sethi in early 2010s when he used to write columns

Ali Sethi in the early 2010s when he used to write columns

Controversies

Accused of Plagiarism

In October 2021, a fan named Ali Hyder expressed his dissatisfaction on social media because his artwork was used without his permission, and upon finding out that his artwork had been used for such a long time, he became more disappointed. This artwork had been used as the cover for Ali Sethi’s song Chan Kithan since 2018. Ali Sethi’s response was that they didn’t ask for permission because they couldn’t find the artist on Instagram.

Ali Hyder's artwork which was used by Ali Sethi in his song, Chan Kithan

Ali Hyder’s artwork which was used by Ali Sethi in his song, Chan Kithan

Hyder was unhappy with Sethi’s explanation of not being able to find him on Instagram and pointed out that he had posted the art cover in 2018 and even tagged Sethi’s sister, Mira Sethi, in the tweet. [3]Runway Pakistan

Rumours about gay marriage

On 11 August 2023, rumours started circulating on social media claiming that Ali Sethi reportedly married his long-time friend and Pakistani-American artist, Salman Toor, in a private ceremony in New York City. Nor any official confirmation or details about the wedding were available on social media, and neither party confirmed the news. The news stirred a reaction on Twitter, with congratulations and dissenting opinions.

Ali Sethi with Salman Toor (left)

Ali Sethi with Salman Toor (left)

While some congratulated Ali, others expressed strong dissent and trolled him. [4]India Today On 12 August 2023, Ali Sethi denied the marriage rumours in an Instagram Stories post. He clarified that he’s not married and doesn’t know who started the rumour. He humorously suggested that if they wanted to help, they could promote his new song Paniya. [5]Hindustan Times

Ali Sethi's Instagram Stories post denying the marriage rumours

Ali Sethi’s Instagram Stories post denying the marriage rumours

Awards and Achievements

  • Nominated for Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize Award at Shakti Bhatt Awards in 2010 for The Wish Maker
  • Nominated for Best Single Music Award at Hum Awards in 2016 for Kithay Nain Na Jorin
  • Nominated for Best Male Playback Singer Award at ARY Film Awards and Lux Style Awards in 2016 for Aah Ko Chahiye
  • Included in TimeĀ magazine’sĀ Time 100 Next list in September 2022

  • Nominated for Top Internet Sensation Award at Hitlist OTT Awards Season 4 in 2023

Facts/Trivia

  • Sethi’s favourite authors and literary inspirations include Mirza Ghalib, Daagh Dehlvi, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz from the realm of Urdu poetry. He also draws influence from Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, V. S. Naipaul, Alan Hollinghurst, and Arundhati Roy.
  • He is proficient in many musical instruments including keyboard, harmonium, and piano.

    Ali Sethi playing harmonium

    Ali Sethi playing harmonium

  • In May 1999, when Ali Sethi was just 15 years old, the police entered his family’s home and arrested his father, Najam Sethi. His father was accused of giving a speech in New Delhi, India which was deemed as anti-nationalist. Ali Sethi and his mother later campaigned together to seek his father’s release during this challenging time.

    Ali Sethi when he was 15 years old

    Ali Sethi when he was 15 years old

  • In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a global lockdown, Ali Sethi initiated a series of virtual concerts on Instagram, collaborating with Indian artists including Rekha Bhardwaj, Vishal Bhardwaj, Shilpa Rao, Varun Grover, and Zakir Khan, aimed to showcase the shared heritage and culture of India and Pakistan while promoting peace between the two countries. The initiative was cut short in April 2020 due to a directive from the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) which warned Indian artists against collaborating with Pakistani individuals, resulting in the conclusion of Sethi’s cross-border musical efforts.

    Snippets of Ali Sethi's Instagram Live with different Indian artists during the onset of Covid-19 in 2020

    Snippets of Ali Sethi’s Instagram Live with different Indian artists during the onset of Covid-19 in 2020

  • His song ‘Pasoori’ completed 100 million views on YouTube in 90 days. As of 10 August 2023, the song has more than 600 million views on YouTube. [6]YouTube – Coke Studio
  • In April 2023, fans shared Ali Sethi’s performance at Coachella Music Festival, many fans criticised his costume, a white angarkha (a traditional robe with long sleeves), and called him Pakistan ka Ranveer Singh, comparing him to the Indian actor, Ranveer Singh, known for his unique fashion sense. [7]Hindustan Times

    Ali Sethi's costume in Coachella 2023

    Ali Sethi’s Costume in Coachella 2023

  • In January 2023, he pulled back from singing the anthem of the 8th season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) after the request of his father to avoid any controversy. [8]The Indian Express
  • In June 2023, when the remade version of Pasoori, sung by Arijit Singh, was released in the film Satyaprem Ki Katha, many people criticised the rendition. During that time, old videos of Ali got viral in which he was heard praising Arijit Singh’s voice and style of singing. [9]The Free Press Journal
  • He likes shoes and has a collection of many fancy shoes.

    A few shoes from Ali Sethi's shoe collection

    A few shoes from Ali Sethi’s shoe collection

  • He has worked under many music labels including True Brew and Mainstage Productions.
  • He is a dog lover and has a pet dog.

    Ali Sethi playing with his dog

    Ali Sethi playing with his dog

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