“I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred/ Heard a song that made some sense out of the world/Everything I ever lost now has been returned/The most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.” – ‘The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)’ by U2
Before the rise of social media, tracking music was simpler. Just buy a cassette or its follow-up, in the form of an audio CD, from a shop close to home and voila, you had exactly what was being churned out by a handful of artists.
It started changing, though.
For instance, in 2009, Overload released their second album, Pichal Pairee, online. During those days, Pakistan had (give or take) about 17.5 million internet users.
In fact, Overload was not the only music act to do so. Mekaal Hasan Band first dropped their second album, Saptak, online via CDbaby.com and then released the same on iTunes and Amazon.
With a population of nearly 180 million, it was a period when artists, not trapped by monopolistic record deals, were taking baby steps towards embracing the digital world.
Fast forward to 2024 and the numbers tell a radically different story. If a report by Statista - which provides detailed insight, figures and analysis into more than 150 countries and across more than 100 industries – is to be believed, the numbers game has changed and risen to a whole other level.
In 2024, households with internet stand at 17. 11m.
Internet usage through mobile phones stands at 28.38m in 2024 while internet users in Pakistan amount to 68.84m in 2024.
In conclusion, market penetration of the internet in Pakistan is estimated to be at 28.07 percent in 2024.
These figures easily explain how music has moved from analog to digital. It has allowed social media, from YouTube to TikTok to Spotify to Google, to officially become a part of the market. You don’t need to mask your steps to track just how far Pakistani music is going.
The entry of socials also gave hundreds of artists a platform - with or without a record deal backing them - to make music. And many have made music, earned popularity and led to the birth and reconfiguration of dozens of record labels.
This shift has also allowed an increase (and a sizable one at that) in the number of artists that currently exist and make music in and of Pakistan.
Long gone are the days where we could count influential pop musicians on our fingers or by the decade. You can most certainly try but it is not possible anymore.
This shift also means that there are hundreds of songs that release each year with most going unacknowledged by publications such as this one.
So, here, then, is an effort to track some of the most exciting artists and songs to have released in the first month of the new year.
We admit that while we cannot do justice to every single artist and every song, these are just some artists that are bound to go very far, in the months and years to come.
“I get so many things I don’t deserve… All the stolen voices will someday be returned.”
‘The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)’ by U2
We must begin with a boy named Kaifi Khalil. Is he most well-known for his collaborative Coke Studio debut, ‘Kana Yaari’ (with Eva B and Abdul Wahab Bugti) from 2022?
The music series did put him in the spotlight because prior to the 2022 debut, he uploaded music he made online. However, his follow-up singles post Coke Studio such as ‘Kahani Suno 2.0’ and ‘Mansoob’ have convinced us that there is so much more to him than one hit song.
In January, Kaifi Khalil dropped a song called ‘Jurmana’ which he wrote, composed and produced himself and collaborated with Lil AK 100 on the music and lyrics. Lil AK 100, to be clear, is someone he has collaborated with before and is an artist and producer who hails from Lyari.
Now moving to the song, the audio alone will grip you with the first listen. Not one to hold back or get pigeonholed to one genre, this song shows another side of Khalil as he sings about being given the sadness and the crime in a hypocritical world and admits that he, too, is merely an actor in it. The production is not over-the-top thumping and full of beats but one that lets the vocals and the words define it. It is an excellent song and will reach your soul because it is exactly the kind of song that makes sense in an increasingly violent world.
When you get past this song, you will unearth another gem by the most original voice in rap music right now. If you guessed Eva B, you are absolutely right. She has collaborated with some of the most well-known names in music, but ‘Qasai’, a collaboration with Mudassar Qureshi, is a bold effort. In hip-hop and rap music, it is never easy to take on others head-on but Eva B and Mudassar Qureshi do just that and remind us that they will take on every challenger in the game and show confidence in each other that is enough to call out anybody who feels that they’re the best in this genre of music. As Eva B arrives on the mic, she is more than happy to make you realize that they may just annihilate you if you don’t take them seriously without sounding over-confident.
In other words, the old bosses have been replaced and we need to welcome the new wave, which has explosive verve and the talent to take it forward. Out of all songs that Eva B has released – as a solo artist or in a collaboration – this is the song where she leaves doubt behind and aims to be the gladiator we’ve been waiting for. To be a woman in a man’s world and to get this contextual rap just right will make you feel like there is no school of music that she cannot conquer. And equal props to Qureshi for delivering like a king to his queen. The energy alone is like two superheroes rising and flying over everyone else. True grit.
Among those who also released music in January and convinced us that they’re more than one-hit wonders include Bilal Ali and Maria Unera who joined forces for ‘Jeena Nahin’, a song which asks you if what you have done is so cruel that the will to live has faded away. Both of them sing with such emotion that you, too, will be forced to look in the mirror and question yourself on days that are tiresome, grief that has replaced joy and beauty, depression that refuses to leave and an unkindness to another. Maria Unera is among the most talented female voices and no song makes you realize this more than this collaboration with Bilal Ali. He too, knows just how to balance his voice with his music group, Kashmir, and as a solo artist.
Sounds of Kolachi and Ahsan Bari take us to a spiritual world with ‘Bayrangi’ which doesn’t mean happy days are here again but builds from a quiet sadness to appealing to the spiritual for some hope, some light, and invokes the spiritual in a world blemished by those who pretend to be spiritual but do not possess their light. With every listen, you find new context. And the vocals of Ahsan Bari in particular rise in a way they haven’t before. It is the journey of a thousand miles that is delivered within one song. You must surrender to find the spiritual depth within this song, or to be fair, an elegy.
And there you have it; these are the three songs that defined the best of the first month of the New Year. Given the state of the country, the world and civilization at large, these are the songs that provide solace, poetry, explosive verve and a glimpse of just how much potential Pakistani music truly contains.
Given the state of the country, the world and civilization at large, these are the songs that provide solace, poetry, explosive verve and a glimpse of just how much
potential Pakistani music truly contains.