Shahzad Ismaily is an American musician, producer and composer of Pakistani descent. His main instrument is bass guitar, but he also plays guitar, synthesiser and drum-kit both onstage and in the recording studio. He is active in the fields of rock, jazz and experimental music in the New York downtown scene.
Ismaily was born the son of Pakistani immigrants in the United States. He holds a master’s degree in biochemistry from Arizona State University and has travelled worldwide to study the music of different cultures, including visits to Pakistan, India, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, Morocco and Iceland. In Iceland, Ismaily was a key contributor to the Reykjavik music scene alongside musicians such as Valgeir Sigurdsson, Ben Frost, Nico Muhly and múm.
He plays a variety of instruments, including electric and double bass, guitar, banjo, accordion, flute, drums and electronic instruments such as Moog synthesisers. He is a member of Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog band as well as Secret Chiefs 3 and Ex Eye (with Colin Stetson and Greg Fox). He has collaborated with Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, John Zorn, Colin Stetson, Jolie Holland, Laura Veirs, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Marianne Faithfull, Elvis Costello, Faun Fables, Feist, Bryce Dessner, Dustin O’Halloran, Elysian Fields, Shelley Hart, Will Oldham, Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Guillermo E. Brown, Graham Haynes, Oren Ambarchi, Damien Rice, JFDR, David Krakow and Billy Martin among many more. He was involved in the project The Road to Jajouka, in which many well-known jazz and rock musicians perform the music of the Master Musicians of Jajouka.
In 2019, Ismaily collaborated with Merz and Laraaji for a one-off album entitled Dreams Of Sleep And Wakes Of Sound.
Ismaily regularly composes for theatre, films and musicals, including for Min Tanaka, the Frankfurt Ballet, Shinichi Iova-Koga/inkBoat and the East River Commedia. He is the composer of the soundtrack for the movie Frozen River, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Festival in 2008.
He runs the record label figureight records, which is managed by musician James Vella.