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Wednesday July 06, 2022

The ‘Pasoori’ phenomenon

June 23, 2022

There is absolutely no doubt left that Coke Studio 14, curated and produced by Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, better known as Xulfi, has broken global barriers. One of the songs has landed as a score on the end credits of Ms. Marvel. Eva B, who participated in Coke Studio 14, has also landed on the score of Ms. Marvel during the end credits with a song called ‘Rozi’.

‘Pasoori’, a song first conceptualized by Ali Sethi who started writing it from a place of frustration when cross-border collaborations between artists “were barred.” However, Ali took the frustration and used it to fuel his artistic ideas.

“He wrote two lines of the song – one inspired by the need to celebrate artistic self-expression, and the other a fun quote he had seen on the back of a Pakistani lorry,” said the press release.

A song about “acceptance” and embracing the “the artist in all of us,” the journey of ‘Pasoori’ began from these ideas.

A director hailed by Pakistan’s two-time Oscar winner, Kamal Khan, helmed the video, while production designer Hashim Ali created “a communal space where artists can celebrate every dimension of humanity - not just through ethnicity, but also through variety in emotion, style and spirituality.”

With Shae Gill as co-singer, the spirit of the song is about transcending boundaries. Noted Associate Music Producer Abdullah Siddiqui that the track is of “a ground-breaking new hybrid genre.”

The iconic Sheema Kermani and a mix of “Seraiki jhoomar-style dancers” were featured in the Coke Studio 14 video of ‘Pasoori’ and it had a clear ideology that was followed: “Everyone looks bohemian, glamorous and ethnically ambiguous, and that’s the point. This is Pakistan as it is today: aware of its traditions, but also looking miles ahead into the horizon.”

People may or may not fully realise the concept behind the song and the intricacies that went into it, but there is something about the song that has addictive properties.

As this compelling song dropped, its rise and transcending boundaries became a reality. It gained 100 million viewers in three months - something previous Coke Studio hits like ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’ took years to achieve. As this article goes to print, the numbers have almost doubled.

Apart from finding a spot in the global viral charts on Spotify, the song has inspired videos ranging from dance ones (and a great deal of love from across the border) to instrumental ones featuring different instruments.

Dance, as an art form, is looked down upon in Pakistan but with ‘Pasoori’, this very art form has been embraced, both at home and cross-border. In fact, there are so many videos ‘Pasoori’ has inspired and influenced as its success grew that you will find it overwhelming to find just one. We did a little homework and found some of the best ones - according to our taste.

Among music-based videos, there is a ‘Pasoori’ flute (traditional bansuri) instrumental by Fluting Is In Our D.N.A from across the border that is soothing and expertly performed. Another really cool flute instrumental is by Indian artist Lakhinandan Lahon. Unlike the aforementioned covers that charm with the flute - minus the vocals - but not the music, the purely enchanting one is by Anic Prabhu, who plays ‘Pasoori’ in an instrumental fashion (violin, piano) following the original tune but not actually using the song in any way.

A major Pakistani musical comes from Gilgit-Baltistan where a handful of students play the song using eastern instruments, including the distinctive rabab. Another beautiful instrument comes from Adnan Mazoor, who plays the song on rabab, without the vocals and somehow it works.

In terms of dance videos, ‘Pasoori’ has spawned include dance videos (available on YouTube) by Hridi & Noozhat, Shachi Biswas, Ravi Varma and Kabita from Dhaka, Bangladesh. And yes, these are just some of the many. It’s quickly become a wedding favourite as well. But our favourite comes from Choreography by Rohit Gijare, performed by Amita Batra, Anjali Mehta, Bhumit Patel, Deepa Kurian, Karishma Motwani, Manav Gulati and Rohit Gijare. Their timing is impeccable, Gijare is at the top of the game, and along with the rest of the dancers, the combined video is both visceral, showcasing a form of dance that has elements of the east and the west.

The interwebs will tell you just how quickly a new dance version on ‘Pasoori’ will come up if you spend a day watching just YouTube. The love for a song borne out of frustration has broken both: all Coke Studio past records and geographical, man-made boundaries. Point, ‘Pasoori’.

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