Crackdowns, missing persons, media outlets and journalists under siege, and vitriol and gaslighting directed towards artists like Meesha Shafi and many more for breaking their silence over an issue that has affected millions of lives. Feminists and/or activists trolled for trying to build a better tomorrow facing an eerie tirade. These are just some of the issues that hit you when you open social media every morning these days - not just because you want to be informed but because, like I said, the media is under siege.
In the digital age, we also open social media with the hope that something good will come along, particularly for those of us specifically looking for music as a soothing balm while horrified by the consistent newsfeed filled with traumatic news.
It can be something as newsworthy and nostalgia-inducing as Strings creating new music, or watching Pepsi Battle of the Bands dropping Ali Zafar and roping in Strings while keeping Meesha Shafi on as a judge.
Patari’s Dharti, created in partnership with Zeera Plus, is one of those things that has us holding on hope.
The three-part series, having introduced us to the Juman Latif & Group, fronted by Fakir Juman Shah, performing ‘Shah Jo Raag’ at the Shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Bhit Shah, in southeastern Sindh in its first episode and to the inspiring Yousuf Faqir - a blind faqir from the Thar Desert, who goes from “village to village performing Sindhi Folk music” – in its second episode, the series has concluded with a third episode featuring the miraculous Nehaal Naseem, who is now 13 and achieved virality when she was only 11 years old.
In the song episode titled ‘Piplaan Di Chaan’ which, according to the press statement, is her first “formal recording”, she is both mesmerizing with that unbelievable voice that is so endearing. And to be able to sing a cover of a Punjabi song that has been sung before with such ingenuity in itself is a sign of her talent.
In the video she is seen recording/singing in front of a mic/ recording studio and in her school uniform amidst her mates, reminding us that educating girls needs to be a top priority. There are light moments around as well as we see Abbas Ali Khan, the music producer for the project, make a brief appearance, and Nehaal, through her behavior makes the case that the innocence of children is something to be cherished and protected.
As Nehaal said in a statement about her experience with online fame, “I sang for my teacher and she placed the video online. In a very short while, it had almost 3 million views. I had no idea it would touch the hearts of so many people.”
Running over four minutes, the audio production and the video direction, both go together so well that it’s hard to not put it on repeat. Music producer, Abbas Ali Khan, who hails from famed Patiala Gharana himself, has let the music guide the song without living in the past as can be the case with many other artists.
As Patari said in a statement, “Dharti is a series where each episode uncovers a treasure trove of musicians who are the true ambassadors of a rich, culturally diverse nation.”
It is equally true that a virtuoso like Nehaal will struggle for platforms. But Patari’s Dharti has built a hopeful scenario. “Nehaal Naseem is the future of our country. For her to find a platform and reach the masses at such a young age should be an encouraging thought for every young artist; the future holds something bright for them if they choose to pursue their dream.”
At a time when jingoism in films is persistent while so much else feels plastic, Patari CEO noted, “As this voice reaches Pakistan’s nooks and crannies, we hope that it will awaken a need within us to explore more and discover the real beauty of Pakistan that lies hidden in plain sight.”