Peshawar recently served as the backdrop for stylist Amna Niazi’s latest project, a fashion film for designer Munib Nawaz starring city native, musician Aamer Shafiq. As lead guitarist for the critically-acclaimed band Khumariyaan, Aamer is part of a quartet that has been credited for re-imagining traditional Pashto folk music by merging it with a distinctly modern sound. The band has toured extensively across USA and Europe, playing at the prestigious SXSW Music Festival in Texas as well as festivals in London and Dublin. As part of its Peshawar special, DESTINATIONS goes behind the scenes at the two-day shoot, discovering yet another fascinating aspect of the city through the lens of the stylist and the star, both native to the region.

Amna Niazi, Stylist

Was this your first time doing a shoot in Peshawar?

I have been to Peshawar many times as a kid, since my ancestral city Mardan is close by, but yes this was my first shoot in Peshawar.

What were the logistics involved, as far as wardrobe, photography, production team and travel were concerned?

Since we were shooting in the city for the first time we didn’t know exactly what would be available, so we made sure other than the BTS team, who were hired from Peshawar prior to our visit, we took everything from Lahore. The wardrobe was done by Munib Nawaz, I made sure I learnt how to do Aamer’s hair and make up, Team SiddySays member Areesh Zubair was behind the lens and Dawer Khan was making the fashion film. We had a great road trip from Lahore to Peshawar, travelling on Daewoo, quite reminiscent of college days.

Where did you stay?

We stayed at the Peshawar Club, and what an amazing place it is.

How did the day of the shoot unfold? What were the main locations that you filmed at?

Since it was a fashion and personality feature, we wanted Aamer to be the hero of the shoot. The purpose of going to Peshawar was that we document his looks in his city. We shot at the Sethi House, Qissa Khwani Bazaar and his farmhouse in Charsadda.

What was the most challenging aspect of the shoot?

The heat. Shooting outdoors in July was a killer, especially for Aamer as he was the one who had to don the jackets, but he was an absolute sport. Also, being the team leader, calling the shots as a woman amidst dozens of men was empowering.

Did the music of the band serve as inspiration for the styling and direction?

It did absolutely as did Aamer’s personality, which is quirky, edgy and spunky. We experimented with the cuts and the combos, trying to bring out the passionate, big-hearted and fun person he is. In one word, he is fearless and he carried everything off with much charisma.

What did you like most about Peshawar?

Ahhh… the food! The Chief ka Burger and the dumba karhai. Also, the hospitality, especially by Farhan Bogra (of Khumariyaan) and Aamer’s family.

Any recommendations/tips for others who want to visit the city?

Go without any preconceived notions, go to explore, eat, connect and understand that it is a city that has suffered, been misrepresented and misunderstood, but it still is a place that has so much good to offer. And again, do not pass on having the dumba karhai.

Aamer Shafiq, Guitarist, Khumariyaan

What was it like growing up in Peshawar? Describe some of your fondest childhood memories?

I was born and raised in Peshawar so all my most treasured memories are associated with this place. No matter far I delve back and take a trip down memory lane, from my school days to my family and friends, you’d see me either climbing trees, sliding in the mountains, hunting and fishing because I’m an outdoorsy sort of a guy, and Peshawar has played quite a part in my journey up until now.

How did you venture into music? Tell us about the journey so far.

Music has played a significant role in my life. I’ve constructively used music as the ultimate channel to express my feelings and emotions. However, never did I imagine in my wildest dreams that those casual and fun jam sessions with my friends in college and university would grow to a national and international scale. Our audience started out small within the community, but with time it grew exponentially, and I’m absolutely grateful for it.

Peshawar has produced a number of brilliant young musicians in recent times, associated with a wide variety of musical genres, be it Sajid & Zeeshan or Zeb & Haniya, and now Khumariyaan. Is music intrinsically linked to Pashtun culture?

Music is a binding force in any culture; no matter which era or part of history you dive into, there will always be a mention of music and arts. Moreover, Peshawar is a small place where we’re all connected to each other. So, all the names that you’ve mentioned, we know each other and they are a true inspiration for us because of the quality of their sound. The kind of music they produced through sources that did not exist in Peshawar is commendable. And that is the greatest inspiration of all, to be able to make something out of nothing.

Khumariyaan made its Coke Studio debut this season; tell us about the experience.

Coke Studio has truly been a humbling experience because it is a platform for top artists and musicians from all around Pakistan to come together and produce iconic music. The entire experience has been nothing less than surreal. We not only got to live a moment of a lifetime, but we also got the chance to be able to learn and explore new dimensions of how things work by connecting with some amazing people. The team behind Coke Studio definitely brings out the best of you in every way possible.

What is your favourite place in Peshawar?

I love Peshawar in its entirety, so I can never pick a place that I would not want to hang out at. However, when I want to escape from life in general, I usually head out to the outskirts of the city. I love spending time in my village in Charsadda, and travel to the mountains and open fields with vibrant orchids.

Any local food joint recommendations?

Whether you visit Peshawar for the first time or visit it frequently, there are two places that you just can’t miss – Chief Burger and the ever-famous Charsi Tikka. As a citizen of Peshawar, I must tell you that your visit to Peshawar is incomplete without paying your respects to these iconic places.