Instep Today

The heavyweights return

December 6, 2017
By Maheen Sabeeh

2017 is proving to be a spectacular year for music, with many significant moments worth celebrating.

From Strings to Ali Zafar, Atif Aslam and Ali Azmat, a look at new and upcoming music releases.

2017 is proving to be a spectacular year for music, with many significant moments worth celebrating. Apart from consistent new music releases from newer and/or edgier artists throughout the year, it is also good to see some of music’s heavyweights getting back in the ring, so to speak.

Pakistan’s longest standing music group, Strings (featuring Faisal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood), is all set to take the stage in Karachi this weekend. After taking a backseat as studio artists for four years in order to spearhead Coke Studio, Strings will be celebrating 30 years come 2018. A glimpse of their immeasurable popularity can be gauged from the fact that tickets for their gig, presented by Salt Arts, have sold-out twice now (as additional tickets too went on sale and were bought just as quickly). They are also active on Instagram where fans have been sharing stories of their first memory of Strings which tells you about their pioneering role in pop music history.

Also back in the spotlight is Ali Azmat, who is gearing up to unveil a brand new music video. A teaser of the video was released recently and it looks like Azmat is one artist whose work is improving with age. It is also apparent that he is noticing the discontent outside and within and using it to fuel the narrative in this video just like he’s done it in the past with records like Social Circus and Klashinifolk. With a voiceover from Randeep Hooda, the black and white toned music video is directed by Amaan Ahmed. The single, ‘Main to Yahin Hoon’ is also featured on the soundtrack of Main Aur Charles, a Bollywood film, starring Hooda. The video’s timing is also important given the simple but powerful belief that art is beyond borders and can bring people together in these divisive, difficult and maddening times. 

Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar, modern music’s two most revered names, have also released new material. In the former’s case, the song ‘Dil Diyan Gallan’ is from the soundtrack of the upcoming high profile Bollywood film, Tiger Zinda Hai starring Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif. And though most Atif Aslam-sung Bollywood tunes blend into each other, this one is quite pleasant and has potential to grow on one with each listen. The song also tells you about the invincibility of Atif Aslam. While so many cannot collaborate with their Indian counterparts, for instance Fawad Khan, without it becoming a matter of patriotism and multiple news-cycles on both sides of the border, Aslam continues to lend his voice to Hindi films while staying out of the spotlight.

Moving onto Ali Zafar, pop star and movie star in equal parts, he has been showcasing his humanitarian side a lot more these past few months.

He raised one million dollars for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre from a five-city tour of the United States and also released ‘Kuch Tou Ghalat Horaha’ video that encapsulates life as it stands (with poetry written and recited by Zafar).

Zafar’s latest, a collaboration with Patari, Pakistan’s largest audio streaming platform, and Lightingale Productions is just as significant. As part of Patari Funkariyaan (whose earlier releases have featured the likes of Abid Brohi, Kashmir, Ali Hamza, Ali Sethi, Mahira Khan and Haroon Shahid), Zafar has performed a live and raw version of ‘Julie’, a song that appeared on the scene earlier this year when Zafar sang it on Coke Studio.

Unlike the original, this version of ‘Julie’ stripped down and has a brilliant performance-based music video as well which features Zafar alongside a number of musicians including guitar god, Asad Ahmed. Running over 5 minutes, the track is a complete departure from the Coke Studio style. Sitting on a sofa and belting out the verses, this jazzy-bluesy version is just as effective as the original and more to the point does a great job of highlighting Zafar’s vocals and his ability to shift styles, something you don’t see every day.

At a time when Patari is backing some of the most innovative ideas and artists from the new generation, it is important for industry icons to show support and Zafar’s collaboration, will hopefully, inspire others to do the same.