The Song of the Surmandal

An Interview With Niaz Khan

Niaz Khan is certainly a well-travelled, multi-talented and multi-lingual individual. He has been to many countries around the world, from Russia to India, can sing in many languages, play the surmandal and makes a variety of instruments, from the druza to the harmonium. A man of many talents, as we said before, and certainly one with an interesting backstory.

Born to an electrician, Mr. Khan grew up in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. Niaz Khan’s family, was not at all happy when they learned that he was planning to take up music professionally, but they eventually came around to it. Interestingly, his father himself used to play the flute in his spare time. Even as a child, he had a wonderful singing voice which led to his appearing on various shows for children such as Storay (which means stars in Pushto) and led to his being selected as a student of the legendary Bade Fateh Ali Khan at the age of eight. However, he emphasizes that he was not taught by only one teacher but by many, the full list of which can be found in his biography.

 He was in fact introduced to his instrument of choice thanks to Bade Fateh Ali Khan, in whose house he discovered his first surmandal, badly broken. The great singer’s family warned him against even touching it, saying that his teacher would be angry. Despite their protests, he started to play a little on the instrument, upon which he found his teacher staring at him. However, instead of scolding him, he sat him down and began to teach him the fundamentals of the surmandal. Kind of like the teacher you would love to have, right?

He in fact taught himself how to make the surmandal, which launched him into the world of instrument-making. Even though he is not an instrument-maker by profession, he proudly tells us that he can make about eleven instruments to some degree.

He speaks positively of modern technology, saying that it has helped him find many new and eager students who are ready to learn music. It also supports his endeavor, the Khushal Music School, which is an academy which teaches singing, playing music and making instruments to its students.

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