Pretend for a second or 10 that you know very little about Natasha Noorani’s immense contribution to music. And buddy, it is a lot.
If we remove all of it (even her last EP), and just pay attention to her new LP, Ronaq, it will take one listening session without procrastination or monkey mind chatter, to become a fan.
If you’re simply following Natasha Noorani as a terrific artist with music that will uplift your spirits with catchy pop melodies tucked within electronic layers, you are going in the right direction. If you’re invested in the lyrical wordplay that could be stirring or playful, you will still encounter a new voyage past our weeping reality. If you haven’t done so, change tracks and move with the melodious current, because it will give you – not just songs – but music that will stay in your head and will add to your identification of what Pakistani music is: more than just what it was. Moving away from personal conjecture, this is how the story goes.
“I saw it different, I must admit/I caught a glimpse, I’m going after it.” – ‘Yes I’m Changing’ by Tame Impala
Ronaq, Natasha Noor-ani’s debut LP and its predecessor (an EP called Munaasib) have one thing in common, they showcase a personal and transformative side of Natasha Noorani in the shape of music. But Ronaq and Munaasib cannot be confused as one giant body of work.
Ronaq is a deliberate effort, an entirely new body of work, and when you hear it, you realize that emotions behind the record have changed. How so? Here’s how…
If you ask Natasha about the style of music, she will rightfully say that the genre the record is swimming in is Lolly-pop, a genre she has mastered. But listening to the six new songs in addition to the four that were released earlier, is something else entirely and much more than words can say, although we are trying.
If you delve deeper into the production side, it will become obvious that some of the brightest names in music are involved with the album. If the production credit belongs to Natasha, Talal Qureshi and Abdullah Siddiqui, each track has its own component of contributors (from writers to producers).
There is a reason the album is so gripping. Natasha has invested years to make this debut LP.
Perhaps the only way to understand is absorbing each song on its own as well as understanding Natasha’s openness to collaborative work.
If ‘Choro’, ‘Baaz’, ‘Laiy-an’ and ‘Matlabi’ were known to us, the six songs that are brand new paint a clear picture that this is an artist who knows what she wanted to accomplish and has done so, in beautiful fashion.
Out of the six brand new songs, it is hard to pinpoint which song is the best, just like how it is impossible to pick one from the early releases from the same album. If they were obvious in the Lolly-pop depiction, the rest are not random musings and show what music can be when an artist spends time making sure there is a cohesive and connected album as well as one where each song has standalone power.
Our story, due to finite space, therefore must begin with the unreleased songs. ‘Haan, I know’, written by Natasha Noorani & Zeerak Ahmed, opens with a hilarious one-liner (I really like Natasha Noorani/Okay Natasha is Haan/I Know) and goes straight into an electronic pop layer that is not thumping but shines because of its simplicity. It also shines equally because of the lyrics and the way in which Natasha has sung it. It asks you why you are upset with yourself, goes into a love-sphere and becomes playful with the line: “Cham cham cham mera toot gaya button” before admitting how different she is. You cannot put this song in a corner. There is also something to be said about its consistent production value that stays true to the style of music and Talal Qureshi deserves a big round of applause, much like Natasha.
An introspective musing appears with ‘Thandi’, which notices the struggle of not knowing how to say what the heart needs to. If you’re missing the Lollywood element, this is one that takes off like a rocket towards the stars from its production by Talal Qureshi and words by Natasha Noorani and Zeerak Ahmed. In fact, the introspection has a unique flavor because if you were wondering what the term Lolly-pop means, it is here that it flies so high that you begin to understand. This is where Clark Kent becomes Superman, and we’re hearing a song that we didn’t think was even possible in the modern music era.
‘Nishana’ also carries Lolly-pop layered with electronica. Written by Natasha Noorani & Ashir, this is a song that is thoughtful and speaks of the emotional heart, with colors of romance and love unabashedly and with great courage. The groovy production shows how skilled the producers on this record are with a voice that has the range to match it. As with the rest of the songs, it also stays true to the album’s larger theme, which Natasha is a pioneer of in the current age of music, and which separates Talal Qureshi as the wunderkind who can produce more than a thumping electronic club song.
His production shines here. The golden age of Lollywood is not forgotten, but given an explosive verve none of us thought was possible. ‘Raazi’ has a slightly similar emotional undercurrent and includes a slew of writers (Natasha Noorani, Bilal Baloch, Maanu & Zeerak Ahmed) who collectively accomplish something special. But what elevates it is Natasha Noorani – who often reminds one of Naheed Akhtar’s flair though she makes no effort to copy the former – who shows what a compelling singer she is. There is no song in the album like this one, and to me, it falls into electro-pop lo-fi. The effort is not to make you dance and forget but one that offers her diverse character as a vocalist as well as production that makes the album come together.
In fact, each song has a unique character that doesn’t make the album long but full of an individuality like the sun rising, like reaching for the stars and have them within your grasp, like a record that may have been conceived on earth but has it own solar system and each song is a planet enveloped by a different beat, a different feel and a love that refuses to falter. Part of it has to do with the production style, and part of it has to do with the lyrics. But the biggest reason why Ronaq feels the way it does is because Natasha has passed the Rubicon with her voice. It is a voice that is so distinct that you will recognize it anywhere and one that has grown by leaps and bounds over the years.
This album is one that offers light in a time of darkness, a garden where flowering felt like a sparse idea but in Natasha’s company, it is blooming with flowers.
There is so much to this album that defining it by credits alone does not do justice to it. But given the space, the conclusion I have reached after listening to the whole album is that it is one of those few albums where every song has a pulse and is alive and not relying on one thing alone. There are catchy melodies and hooks, an octave-range that is indecipherable because the voice is coming straight from the heart with an openness that you can see in the album credits, collaborations and each song coming up like the sun.
Apart from Natasha Noorani, several individuals deserve - based on merit - a round of applause. On the production side, it must go to Talal Qureshi and Abdullah Siddiqui.
In the writing section, apart from the driving force that is Natasha Noorani, an applause for Zeerak Ahmed, Ashir, Bilal Baloch, Maanu, Salor and Annural Khalid is necessary.
Natasha noorani's many accomplishments as a vocalist, songwriter, musician and producer haven't taken away from the album in any area, but have lent it the depth of history and knowledge. And she has emerged with a record that is a voyage we will never forget.
Speaking about her album, Natasha said in a press release that it didn’t happen overnight or even a single year but is the result of an amalgamation of years.
After getting hooked to it, Ronaq will remind you that the music is not oversaturated. It will bring back your faith in the power of music at a moment when life feels broken, and love seems a hopeless idea, accessible.
The losses will get dimmer to a point that it will make you question the idea that darkness is your only and forever friend.
As you listen to Ronaq, you will run faster, jump higher and look at the sun rising with a smile and remember what it is like to dream again.
How you view this album will be an individual experience but an experience nonetheless. This record is joy, love, beauty, introspection and so much more. It is also an album that will reaffirm your faith in producers like Talal Qureshi and Abdullah Siddiqui and the co-writers who truly are the voice of a new generation even as they hold space for the past.
Natasha noorani's many accomplishments as a vocalist, songwriter, musician and producer haven't taken away from the album in any area, but have lent it the depth of history and
knowledge. And she has emerged with a record that is a voyage we will never forget. As you listen to Ronaq, you will run faster, jump higher and
look at the sun rising with a smile and remember what it is like to dream again