As we head into the month of July with its scorching heat, we check out what the season brings with it, musically.
Our story cannot, will not, must not begin, without a mention of the Disney Plus series, Ms. Marvel, the new series from Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that has picked up songs from Coke Studio 14 and as it turns out, a number of Pakistani songs from the indie music front. One of them, as Instep revealed, is ‘Cpt. Space’ by Janoobi Khargosh.
Watch the episodes and see what music you can recognize. It includes - among others - Talal Qureshi and no, we don’t mean ‘Peechay Hutt’. Another is a pioneering voice from Pakistan’s early pop days. What also needs to be said is that Coke Studio 14 has now taken the show to such a degree that we wonder if a new season could compete. Until then though, watch the last season again. The numbers are still rising. Also, watch the series to find out what role the incredibly talented Nimra Bucha plays - apart from Fawad Khan - who has fans swooning because of possible appearance by the actor.
Moving on, Bilal Maqsood, who made an album of music for children and released his debut single, ‘Naya Naya’ earlier this year to mark a new chapter in his musical journey, has dropped a cool, colorful, experimental song called ‘Zalima’. If ‘Naya Naya’ was about easing into the role of a solo artist after 33 years as Strings (with Faisal Kapadia), ‘Zalima’ shows the musical range of Bilal Maqsood, who composed, wrote and performed the song, and backed it by an eye-popping music video with props, artsy design aesthetic.
If the music video suggests anything, it is that the 51-year-old can experiment and tap into a new market while enjoying loyal Strings fan brigade that is watching Faisal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood develop their voice as solo artists respectively.
Speaking to Instep about his newest release, Bilal Maqsood noted, “I really enjoyed making it. Even though it’s a cry of a lover, the tongue-and-cheek lyrics make it a very fun song.”
He further reiterated, “I’ve written the lyrics myself and explored the side of lyric writing that I think people will find exciting. Even the song structure is very new. It’s not the typical verse chorus, verse chorus, bridge and chorus. The whole thing came to me very organically. It started with the line ‘Dil me jagah hai’ and then everything else started pouring out. This is my song number two. My third one is also ready, which will be out soon. InshaAllah.”
If Bilal Maqsood is rolling out his third solo
single after ‘Naya Naya’ and ‘Zalima’ in his first solo outing, another band with great music is back in the limelight. Yes, yes, we can all rejoice in harmony
as Poor Rich Boy x Umer Ahmed (the younger brother of Janoobi Khargosh’s Waleed Ahmed) have dropped a new single called ‘Saal’. It isn’t PRB’s first Urdu song, and fortunately won’t be the last.
Zain Ahsan from the music group confirmed as much to Instep and said, “Trying to finish up the Urdu album this summer. More coming soon.”
Poor Rich Boy has released a number of Urdu songs preceding ‘Saal’ including ‘Kaghazi’, ‘Samun-dar Ki Teh Mein’ and ‘Yakeen’. The newest track is Poor Rich Boy collaborating with Umer Ahmed. The singer and lyrical mind behind Poor Rich Boy, Umer Khan spoke to Instep about the newest release and working with Umer Ahmed.
Noted Umer Khan, “I’ve worked with Umer Ahmed pretty regularly, since we’ve both been part of Janoobi Khargosh and Poor Rich Boy. And we do muck about a lot with ideas we have for songs. Last year, Umer released a single called ‘Kashmakash’ that was pretty much the result of playing/ singing whatever popped into our heads first, spontaneously, sort of like a psychological experiment more than a song. And there are a couple of other songs we’ve worked on that may or may not ever see the light of day, but are pieces we return to whenever we meet. It’s like we’ve been painting a picture for years, and we add a brush stroke every now and then, and then forget about till next time.”
Umer Khan further added: “‘Saal’ was slightly more planned. Umer had been working on an EP that would feature about three to four songs. In fact, his song ‘Deewana’, also released last year. It was the first single from that EP, and was his debut as a singer. Last summer, he showed me a few tracks, stuff he had come up with musically, and I liked everything and would’ve wanted to sing on any of them, which is rare because I don’t usually want to do anything, except he had saved the saddest sounding track for me. Apparently, writing sad lyrics is what I’m good at. He said he wanted something sort of nostalgic.”
“So, in about twenty minutes we had everything down. A demo track was ready. We knew we had a pretty decent Urdu pop song on our hands. We showed what we had to our bandmates and Zain, as always, insisted that we let him help with upping the audio quality and adding a bit of this and that to make the whole thing sound, well, crisp. He’s produced all the songs for PRB over the last decade, so he’s got the experience and he knows, more or less, what sort of sound we want.
“Moving forward, I know Umer’s got more ideas for future collaborations, and I really enjoy working with him and with Janoobi on their projects. It’s hard to pin down exactly but there’s an element of relaxation involved here that I find absent in my work in PRB. Each band taps into a very different aspect of my personality and I need all of them to have the balance I need. On the other hand, all of the people I work with are insufferable perfectionists, and it’s a chore trying to get them to let go of a song and just release it. They’re all too self-critical and Umer’s no different. And really, it’s a good thing, till it’s not. Time’s all we have. No point in wasting it.”
In addition to Bilal Maqsood and Poor Rich Boy x Umer Ahmed, there’s one other music-based story that needs to be highlighted. It is a musical called ‘The Bobbles’ with an original script by Nida Butt and original songs by Hamza Jafri. Currently being performed at The MAD School, Nida Butt and Hamza Jafri spoke about it in an exclusive conversation with Instep.
Nida Butt, director and original script-writer for the musical explained that The Bobbles is an ensemble that specializes in producing children’s theatrical content as well as digital content. “The idea behind The Bobbles is that there is a need in Karachi for year-round performances for theatre that children can go and watch. Currently, we don’t have any live content prepared for children. Even as there are plays, they are mostly adult in nature or content. However, there is a huge market in need for there to be children’s content. The Bobbles is year-round performances that audiences can come and watch.
So, for example, once our summer shows wrap up in August, we will then prepare for Halloween (October), and do a month of shows. Once Halloween is done, we will move onto Christmas, the next time there are holidays for kids and do a Christmas special and so on and so forth. The idea is to keep producing theatrical content for kids and adults.”
Running from Monday to Friday at MAD School, revealed Nida, The Bobbles will be running on weekends (Saturday and Sunday), at 3 pm.
“The last two weekends of the month, we will do two shows on the weekends: 3 pm and a second show at 5 pm because we anticipate that by then we will be selling out.”
The script, revealed Nida, is written by her with help from Faraz Lodhi. “When I was sitting down to write the script, I took a lot of inspiration from being a mom to two small kids: a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. And, a lot of the content I put in were things I had become familiar with due to my kids loving them. We chose a very simple plot for the story. It was simply The Bobbles going to the beach and their adventure. We wanted to choose the beach because Karachi kids can identify with it and the beach is Karachi’s landmark. The story is very simple, there are six songs interwoven into it. All the songs are written and composed by Hamza Jafri and they have each been designed for the story in mind.”
Speaking about the six original songs, Hamza told Instep, “They are songs for children but they are written like regular songs. They are not like nursery rhymes but proper songs, feel-good stuff.”
Hamza’s association with writing songs that would appeal to children (and adults) comes from his experience as a music teacher as well as being a father. He used to teach at The Guitar School in Lahore in 2009 so his interaction with teaching children is a bonafide skill. From toddlers to children under 12 and teenagers. “There’s a certain way to communicate with children to get through to them. I have a lot of experience in that and obviously teaching at The MAD School in Karachi as well. So, when it came down to writing songs for kids, it came naturally because I have my own kids as well. I play and sing for them and what resonates with them is sort of like a good marker for what would work with other kids as well. The stuff I came up with happened really fast. Nida would come and say that we need a song about The Bobbles going to the beach. So, it happened quite fast and it was a good flow of ideas and vibe around the creation process.”
As for The Bobbles soundtrack, it will be released on major music platforms such as Spotify and as Hamza explained, “We’ll keep adding more songs as we do more shows like Halloween, Eid, Christmas.”
For Hamza Jafri, a terrific musician, known for his work with Co-VEN and past association with Mauj, the inspiration for the songs came from his own childhood as well as being a parent and a music teacher. “I grew up watching a lot of Sesame Street. There was an old English show called Rainbow so some inspiration has come from there, especially with the music and the styling of a song and whatnot. These are old shows from the seventies.”
– Tickets for The Bobbles are available at The MAD School and a slew of places. You can show up at the venue and buy tickets or purchase them beforehand. The Bobbles is running at The MAD School and is open to the public.