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Soraya Khan: 'I was headed for a career in music'

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Theis and Khan Architects co-founder Soraya Khan contemplated a pop career before choosing architecture

The soundtrack to my early days at Canterbury College of Art back in the late 1970s and early 80s was a rich blend of funk, disco, Two Tone and new wave.

I loved dancing and having fun. Earth, wind and Fire’s Let’s Groove Tonight was the mantra I lived by. Nero’s 2000 disco in Margate and college gigs that included The Selecter, The Beat and The Specials kept me on the dance floor. I was in a band and wanted to explore the possibilities of a career in music but I also wanted to design buildings.

Malcolm McLaren asked me to contact him with a view to joining a band

My first year was a success but during my second year my natural flamboyance got a little out of hand. The final straw for the head of school was some rather over-zealous heckling of Nicholas Grimshaw at a grand, end-of-year symposium in 1979. It was seemingly so entertaining that the only way they could stop it was by inviting me up on stage, too, which succeeded in keeping me quiet.

The upshot of my constant urge to perform was that I took my year out early after second year. It was 1980 and I’d got a job at an architect’s office in London drawing up A0 plans of mega-schemes in Jeddah, sharing a flat near Marble Arch and still going dancing.

On one such night out, a friend and I ended up sitting at a table with former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and his posse. He was at the centre of the music scene in London at the time, managing Adam and the Ants, and looking to form the next pop group. We talked about how his music world worked and how he put bands together.

He ended up giving me his phone number and asking me to contact him with a view to joining a band. I spent the night and the next few days weighing up a potential pop career against my chosen path in architecture. Needless to say I never made that phone call.

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