Instep traces musical activity as the first half of the year comes to a close
It’s been a long and formidable first six months of the year for music. Some mainstream artists returned to the music fold while their supremely talented indie counterparts continued with their own DIY efforts.
Post Kill Dill, Ali Zafar took a step back from acting this year and created a tribute song called ‘Urainge’ – dedicated to the memory of the children slain in the horrific Army Public School attack, which took place in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. The music video, with a message of hope and peace, was released earlier this year, and featured over two dozen high profile stars including Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Sajjad Ali, Meesha Shafi, Fahad Mustafa, Sanam Saeed, Ali Azmat, cricketer Shoaib Malik, and many, many more.
Another prolific comeback in music belonged to Atif Aslam who scored a huge hit with his new song, ‘Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon Mein’. According to Atif, the song was a departure from his usual romanticism and pushed him out of his comfort zone. "Electronic dance music (EDM) is something I haven’t done before," Atif told Instep in an interview.
Both Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar, according to various media reports, are making a comeback to Coke Studio, later this year. And the wait, we hope, will be worth it.
The other popular comeback of the year is that of Noori. Brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza staged yet another comeback, but this time, they seem pretty serious about sticking around. The comeback is marked by a new song and a music video called ‘Aik Tha Badshah’. Directed by Mandana Zaidi, the video shows Ali Hamza in the guise of a power-hungry King, and follows the story of temptations that can be seen spiralling into evil. It’s a beautiful song and proof that Noori can still pack quite a punch. More good news for Noori fans is that the boys have announced their third (thematic) studio album called Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh (BGBS), which is slated for release come September.
Festivals and Conferences
In March, a music contingent from Pakistan flew thousands of miles away to the United States and made its presence felt at the annual music festival/conference called SXSW (South by Southwest) held in Austin, Texas. According to reports, at least seven acts from Pakistan participated in the music conference as part of a Pakistani showcase. The playing bill included Sain Tanveer Brothers, the magnificent folk magic of Mai Dhai, the folk-fusion genius of Khumariyaan, the subversive, haunting indie tunes of Poor Rich Boy, the eastern rock fusion of the inimitable Mekaal Hasan Band, the electric rap sensation Adil Omar with longtime friend and fellow musical cohort Talal Qureshi and pop sounds from old-school Pakistani pop star, Haroon. By all accounts, this particularly eclectic lineup of musicians had the audience captivated and made for fantastic ambassadors for Pakistan, which is just a bonus for us.
Storm in a Teacup, an indie-music festival spearheaded by True Brew Records in collaboration with 141 Schools Project, the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, CityFM89 and Lotus PR, returned for a second year this April and showcased some of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad’s finest indie music names. Red Blood Cat, Basheer and the Pied Pipers, Keeray Makoray, Shorbanoor, Slowspin, Nawksh, Rudoh and Omar Farooq played this year’s festival.
Music Mela, a three-day music festival, spearheaded by Zeejah Fazli and Arieb Azhar, and featuring music conferences, workshops, panel discussions and concerts by various artists, was held in Islamabad for a second, consecutive year.
Lahore Music Meet, dedicated to the cause of music is a two-day event that aims to "bring together enthusiasts, artisans, artists, patrons, industry representatives and academics to initiate dialogue on the developments in music and their shortcomings" also had a successful run this year with participation from artists like Omran Shafique, Sara Haider, Ali Suhail, Asrar, Jimmy Khan, Shajie Hassan, Ali Gul Pir, Zoe Viccaji and many others.
In bands, the relatively recent super-group Raahi, featuring music’s coolest names such as Omran Shafique, Ahsan Bari, Sameer Ahmed and Gumby, have quickly carved a place for themselves.
Their strength may be live music but listen to both of their songs, be it the slow-burning ‘Dil Ka Raahi’ or the rock ‘n’ roll goodness of ‘Aasman Ki Oor’, and you’ll find lots of reasons to root for this musical outfit. Both songs have been released in 2015 with music videos and it’s a commendable effort on both counts.
If ‘Dil Ka Raahi’ captures the band in its performing element, the video of ‘Aasman Ki Oor’ will have you laughing with joy. Since coming together, Raahi has played a few shows together; the band is consistently upping its game and has plans to put out an album as well.
Another band, although dramatically different than Raahi, but equally brilliant is Khumariyaan. Comprising of Sparlay Rawail, Aamir Shafiq, Farhan Bogra, and Shiraz Khan, this instrumental act from Peshawar, is possibly one of the best musical groups in Pakistan today.
"Khumariyaan was born in the age of Talibanisation, sectarian violence, military operations and neo-imperialist expansions, in the region which is a gateway to Central Asia, in the city of Peshawar," says their band profile.
Listen to their songs and you will find a hypnotic and extraordinary blend of musicianship filled with rabab, guitars, synth and other instruments.
In a recent piece for a local newspaper, music journalist and critic Ahmer Naqvi described the band’s music as "both an articulation of grief and a revolt against repression; both a call to arms and a final prayer". Their songs and music can be found online, including an appearance on the indie music show, Lussun TV, circa 2015, with a gem of a song called ‘Mahal’ and a lovely music video to go with it.
Indie Music Richness
From Islamabad, Adil Omar and Talal Qureshi released their collaborative EP – Saturday Night Killing Machine - this year and the boys are still going strong with it. Moving between dance, industrial, hip-hop with a slightly darker edge, the record is simply put, fantastic. Adil’s individuality is obvious in not just the lyrics but the sound as well. The five-track EP also features other artists including Quratulain Baloch, Hard Target and Riz MC. You can also find Adil making his directorial debut with the music video of ‘Nighat and Paras’.
From Karachi, the Forever South crew, spearheaded by Bilal Nasir Khan (Rudoh) and Haamid Rahim (Dynoman,) put out their third compilation album with electronic goodness featuring the likes of Alien Panda Jury, Al Ak, Block-2, Eridu, Jofu, Dynoman, Friedi, Leo’s Trip, Rudoh, TMPST, Tollcrane, Ympress and Smax.
She’s ethereal and he’s an ambient genius of sorts. Together, Slowspin and Nawksh often create music magic. The two artists from Karachi released their trippy new song, ‘Golden’ just a few months back but it still remains one of the best tunes to come out of the music scene this year.
Indie artists are on a roll this year and releasing some gorgeous tunes. You can find new music from Natasha Humera Ejaz, Tollcrane, TMPST, Nawksh, Ali Suhail, 6LA8 and Basheer & the Pied Pipers via Facebook, Bandcamp and other social media sites.