It may seem like a paradox but E Sharp’s third LP, Choti Khushiyan is both ambitious and their most approachable record to date. Leaving the days of their preceding conceptual LPs (Bahadar Yar Jung; 600 Saal) behind,
E Sharp release their most amicable and ambitious album, Choti Khushiyan.
Artist: E Sharp
Album: Choti Khushiyaan****
‘Here Comes the Sun’
It may seem like a paradox but E Sharp’s third LP, Choti Khushiyan is both ambitious and their most approachable record to date. Leaving the days of their preceding conceptual LPs (Bahadar Yar Jung; 600 Saal) behind, the Karachi-based music group has taken things a notch above the usual – by making a (37 minutes) film that accompanies the album. It is what takes the album in ambitious territory.
Their third album, featuring 8 songs, with the film shot on a rooftop, is not the first time that an artist has released a record with a film, even in Pakistan. Shooting on rooftops is a popular cultural vernacular that has been done by bands ranging from The Beatles to Coldplay. But their film puts the songs in some context. It’s part performance and part conversation, making it a reckoning of sorts.
After the concept album 600 Saal, E Sharp has also taken a risk by not presenting a smorgasbord of songs sung during Pepsi Battle of the Bands last year. Inspired by bands such as The Beatles, the film showcases the group sharing their thoughts on a variety of subjects such as whether there is a future in music, a purpose to their ideas as well as banter common between close friends.
Being on a rooftop and not on the streets is an idea not lost on anyone, as we’re heading into a (smart) lockdown as this piece is being written.
The album is embedded within their film, directed by Maaz Harris, so conversations follow songs and vice versa. But the album itself isn’t derivative and works as an audio-only experience as well.
‘A Day in the Life’
The good news for E Sharp is that their latest LP is backed by cleaner, crisper production than their previous releases that sounded somewhat raw in comparison to this specific LP. Choti Khushiyan isn’t the most cutting edge sound you will hear coming out of Pakistan but it is not needlessly nebulous either. In fact, the strong melodies and the subliminal lyrics collectively make this a piercing work for E Sharp. Why, you may wonder? Choti Khushiyan not only contextualizes the ideas behind songs or what the band talks about but echoes the voice of an industry, a generation of musicians, where many are struggling to keep afloat, much more so now that we are living in the times of a pandemic.
Ahmed Zawar, Anwaar Ahmed, Qumber Kazmi and Rajil Anthony find that mix of an uncertainty that is looming as well as hope - creating what is an encouraging environment rather than a corrosive one. The outlook is not always obscure even on melancholic tunes. The songwriting is more metaphorical than in-your-face. E Sharp has also released individual music videos minus the banter between band mates who double as friends.
As for the sonic production, this package is much more refined and polished. The 39 seconds opener, ‘Subha Aayi’ begins slowly but as the guitars, keyboards, bass come in, building up to a gradual crescendo, you know it’s an ode to the early morning love-drenched dream of creating a new world together.
‘Khuda Ki Basti’ - that automatically brings to my mind the novel of the same name by Shaukat Siddiqui, which went on to inspire the critically acclaimed television series years later – is nowhere near the book. It is recorded as a choir song but is also very rock-esque with the drums and electric guitar played with fierce energy. I say choir song because Anwaar Ahmed and Ahmed Zawar, who sing on the song, give 5 choir singers the mic who add that choir vibe, almost like a gospel.
The song like most of E Sharp songs does have a narrative and this one edges on the spiritual but it is the drum snare, and the up-tempo playing of all the instruments to weave a rock song-meets-choir song that makes it a smart, sharp and surprising recording.
The mellow ‘Oonchay Se Ghar’ that begins with keyboards/synths is about materialism being non-existent but a love that is true and a world blessed with love alone. What makes it a great song is how the rest of the instruments follow with gorgeous basslines you can hear and restrained drums even though Qumber Azmi can do great wild things with drums. This is the potent elegy in the album that is asking the listener to think about a world that is empathic and what matters most is love, ahead of everything else.
While Choti Khushiyan is not the most cutting edge album as an audible odyssey, it does make for a polished pop-rock effort. It is what you call a good album. Partially, the sizable role of Anwaar Ahmed as co-writer of two songs (‘Khuda Ki Basti’, ‘Bhaag Re’), co-singer on a song or two as well as producer has worked in the band’s favour.
From a Beatles-inspired cover band, the pendulum swing of Choti Khushiyaan is miles ahead of bubblegum rock despite drums, guitars, ukulele, synths, keyboards and bass. It is mature and approachable enough that it can be appreciated by a maximum group of people. With the potential to move the band from underground to the mainstream, it has the goods to deliver. And there’s nothing wrong with such an ambition after three LPs, EPs, a film and several indie music videos.
*Not on your life
* ½ If you really must waste
** Hardly worth the bother
** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon
*** Good enough for a look see
*** ½ Recommended listening
**** Don’t miss it
**** ½ Almost perfect