2015: The year in music

December 27, 2015

It’s been another fantastic year for music as indie acts as well as mainstream artists returned with beautiful music in the form of singles, EPs and music videos. Instep takes a look

2015: The year in music

Beginning from the mainstream, it’s hard to not notice Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam, both of whom returned to the spotlight this year with new music.  While Atif Aslam lent his voice to a few singles in Bollywood, his star shone the brightest when he sang Amjad Sabri’s timeless qawwali, ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’ on Coke Studio and stole the season. Atif’s appearance on the soundtrack of Ho Mann Jahan and the music video that accompanied the song also hit its mark. And no, he isn’t acting in a movie… yet.  Easily music’s biggest name, Atif also dabbled with EDM for the first time in his career which culminated in the form of ‘Zindagi Araha Hoon Main’. The song came attached with a music video that features Atif alongside Bollywood’s Tiger Sharoff, who showed off his dancing skills to the world.

Ali Zafar, on the other hand, stepped away from the world of Bollywood in 2015 and created a song in memory of the slain children who lost their lives in the horrifying APS attack (in KPK) in what can only be described as the most devastating terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history. The song, ‘Urainge’ featured some of Pakistan’s biggest stars like Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, Sajjad Ali, Ali and Sahira Kazmi, among many others and served as a reminder that these beautiful, brave children will never be forgotten.

Ali Zafar also staged a stunning comeback on Coke Studio with three singles. Of those, the one track that stayed with fans of the pop star was ‘Rockstar Romeo’ - a song that spoofs Ali’s movie star lifestyle - and is as colorful as it is playful.

Two of music’s biggest bands, Strings and Noori, also made their mark this year. While Strings managed a double whammy by producing Coke Studio and the soundtrack of Jami’s Moor, Noori, led by Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, returned with their third studio album, Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh after a gap of nearly a decade and had fans swooning as a result.

Ali Azmat, Pakistan’s resident rock star, also made a fun appearance on Coke Studio this season with the song ‘Rangeela’ and also lent his voice to a Bollywood film, Main aur Charles with the track, ‘Main To Yahin Hoon’.

Speaking of Coke Studio, the show’s eighth season had several OMG moments. The appearance of the legendary Farida Khanum on the show this season tugged hearts and single-handedly made it one of the most cherished moments in the show’s long and illustrious history. Strings also managed a coup of sorts by roping in, among others, Mai Dhai, the voice of the desert who has stolen all our hearts, the Mekaal Hasan Band, who made their first appearance on the show and delivered poignant numbers like ‘Sayon’ and ‘Kinara’ and last but certainly not the least, Malang Party who made a sizzling appearance on the show with their famous hit, ‘Dil Jaley’.

Salman Ahmed, Shahi Hasan and Maulana Junaid Jamshed, members of two of Pakistan’s biggest bands, Vital Signs and Junoon also got together this year for a single, ‘Chand Sitara’ that celebrates young achievers of the nation. While the idea was certainly noble, the amateurish music video featuring juvenile graphics while the band floats across Pakistan’s landmarks in a hot air balloon, was cringe-worthy and not surprisingly fizzled out from memory soon after its release.

While this VS/Junoon reunion had us disillusioned, the one band that emerged as a solid contender for all musical glory was Raahi. Starring Omran Shafique, Ahsan Bari, Sameer Ahmed and Gumby, this super-group of sorts put out two eclectic tunes – ‘Dil Ka Raahi’ and ‘Aasman Ki Oor’ - and packed a punch with the music videos that followed the songs.

Moving away from high profile names, the year has also seen music releases from some of indie music’s finest names like Shehzad Noor, who plays music under the alias Shorbanoor and put out the haunting and majestic EP called Sulphur Man, Adil Omar and Talal Qureshi who got together for the wild and curious EP, Saturday Night Killing Machine as well as Ali Suhail, who put out two EPs this year:  Desolve, which consists of four songs and Defragment, which contains five songs.

Ali Suhail is also a part of Natasha Humera Ejaz’s all-new EP, Till the End of Time, which contains four stunning tracks and comes with a beautiful music video called ‘Khwab’.

The soulful Zeerak Ahmed, who plays music under the name Slow Spin, is one of indie music’s brightest and most breathtaking stars. This November, she returned with her third EP, Between Shadows in Water, which also features gorgeous artwork by Samya Arif and Humayun Memon. Released by Ziyad Habib’s Hear Now Records, this hypnotic, ambient EP contains seven tracks and is written and produced by Slow Spin herself.

This record, like all of her previous releases, serves as a form of self-expression for this bright, courageous artist. Emerging from her personal space, Slow Spin’s Between Shadows in Water is as honest as it is moody. She sounds vulnerable on this record and leaves you yearning for more.

Other brilliant artists that had us playing their songs on repeat because of their sheer honesty, hard work and an inviting, engaging musical universe include Red Blood Cat, Janoobi Khargosh, Khumariyaan, 6LA8, Sikandar Ka Mandar and Nawksh (Danial Hyatt) who can be obscure, absurd and haunting, all at the same time.

Lussun TV, spearheaded by Nadir Shehzad Khan, still remains indie music’s finest show. This year’s show saw performances from Shajie Hassan who returned to the show with the song, ‘Bhoot’, Khumariyaan who made their first appearance on the show with ‘Mahal’ and   Shamoon Ismail who conjured up the song, ‘Tuntuna’.

Ziyad Habib, who plays music under the alias, Noahs Heark was the only artist from Pakistan to participate in this year’s Red Bull Music Academy workshops, which took place in Paris. Previous participants from Pakistan include Tollcrane, Smax and Dalt Wisney.

Meanwhile Karachi’s coolest indie music collective, Forever South (FXS), spearheaded by Bilal Nasir Khan and Haamid Rahim, released their third compilation album this summer with electronic richness featuring the likes of Alien Panda Jury, Al Ak, Block-2, Eridu, Jofu, Dynoman, Friedi, Leo’s Trip, Rudoh, TMPST, Tollcrane, Ympress and Smax.

Forever South’s Bilal Nasir Khan, who plays music under the name, Rudoh as well as TMPST, the musical ID of Asfandyar Khan, also represented Pakistan at this year’s Magnetic Field Festival, held in Rajasthan, India.

Zohaib Kazi, one of Pakistan’s most intelligent artists, made a comeback to the musical spotlight with an ambitious and thrilling project called Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher, which contains twelve tracks, a brilliant music video (directed by Kamal Khan) and a graphic novel, written by Kazi himself. Published by Kiran Aman’s Markings, the music-book album should go down in history as the first project of its kind. 


It must be added that not only 2015 served as a good year for music releases, it also stands out because of the number of music festivals that also took place this year.

The first edition of I Am Karachi Music Festival, spearheaded by a core committee that included Nida Butt, Hamza Jafri, Mekaal Hasan (who moved to Karachi for a few weeks to work on the festival), Shallum Xavier and Emu of Fuzon and  Wajiha Naqvi and Amar Sham (from KYI), took off without a hitch earlier this year. Divided into several components, the festival offered music aficionados an affair to remember with performances from an eclectic line-up of artists that featured, among others, Zoe Viccaji, Natasha Humera Ejaz, the Sketches, Sikandar Ka Mandar and Rushk. The festival also offered music mentorship program with the likes of Natasha Humera Ejaz, Omran Shafique, Amir Azhar, Taha Malik, Aahad Niyani among others.

Other festivals such as Storm in a Teacup, Lahore Music Meet, as well as Music Mela, held in Islamabad, brought the focus back on music in an intelligent, thoughtful manner.

2015 is also the year of birth for Salt Arts, a creative movement (founded by Raania Azam Khan Durrani and Junaid Khan) which helped in reinventing the artist we know as Zoe Viccaji and her striking looks in the song ‘Jaanay Do’. Since coming to the limelight, this team of bright and creative individuals, has managed to curate two superb live shows, one featuring Sounds of Kolachi and the other, which took place earlier this month, starring the disco fever girl, Zoe Viccaji. Salt Arts is also backing the release of the music group, The D/A Method’s album, The Great Disillusion.

And as the year closes, we are happy to report that Patari, the first music streaming site of its kind to originate from Pakistan, has lived up to its promise and actually paid musicians. Not only is it a great place to find all sorts of music, Patari is also actively engaged in collaborating with artists for live music shows. And though, the website isn’t endorsed by every single musician in Pakistan, it is a potential game-changer for the music scene.

2015: The year in music