June 21, 2020

Update: Who is ‘Kakkya’, explains Ali Hamza; Leo Twins present the best cover of ‘Aadat’ so far and an ethereal Meesha Shafi-Mahmood Rahman concert lands on YouTube.

Ali Hamza explains how
Marre Kakkya’ was born

Before Noori became one of the biggest bands in Pakistan, Ali Hamza was supposed to be the original singer for Noori. He was a student at LUMS when, as Noori, he made compelling classics such as ‘Gawalmandi’, ‘Ek Adhuri Suhaag Raat’ and ‘Marre Kakkya’.

As Noori remains on a hiatus with Ali Noor and Ali Hamza working on solo albums, Hamza has been dropping singles, ‘Marre Kakkya’ being the first one. Since then, he has released a stunning version of ‘Rabba Meray Haal Da Mehram Tuu’n’. There is a masterful version of the former by Mekaal Hasan Band.

There are live versions of other songs such as ‘Gawalmandi’ as well as some fun covers by Ali Hamza, all available on his YouTube page.

An artist such as Ali Hamza, a singer-songwriter, bass and guitar player, merits an album review so as we wait for him to drop more original singles until the album is complete, we did ask him just who ‘Kakkya’ is and what is the baroque history behind it.

Hamza explained that ‘Marre Kakkya’, written during his days at LUMS, refers to a senior at college whose nickname was ‘Kakki’. The exact name of that person will not be disclosed due to his wishes for privacy, noted Hamza.

Kakki heard ‘Gawalmandi’ and told Hamza how he writes about girls and should make a song on him as well.

“The thought stuck to my mind,” recalls Hamza, “and somehow the song was made. In those days things happened very spontaneously, so I can’t say there was much of thought process behind it. But, yes, creativity was oozing.”
The new version of ‘Marre Kakkya’, the first single off Ali Hamza’s upcoming debut album, also features sitar nawaz Rakae Jamil and drummer/percussionist par excellence Kami Paul.

– Ali Hamza photo by Mobeen Ansari

Leo Twins release an instrumental
version of ‘Aadat

Aadat’ has a strange and beautiful history. It was the first song released by Jal and just one single later, Atif Aslam separated from the band. Goher Mumtaz continued with Jal, bringing in Farhan Saeed as vocalist instead. Saeed also left the band after a decade and is pursuing a solo career in music and acting.

Anyway, ‘Aadat’ put Atif Aslam on the map. Despite the early struggles, ‘Aadat’ exposed his voice, which is now among the most iconic voices to have emerged from the subcontinent. Today, Atif Aslam is Pakistan’s most followed music star with a following that extends beyond geographical territories.

Covering ‘Aadat’ is, therefore, something that has been attempted by others and it seems Leo Twins can take the top prize with their effort. By definition, ‘Aadat’, is a pop/rock gem with a broken heart. And the Leo Twins, who play a cello and keyboards on their cover, capture that essence of the original, lending it a delivery that few have come close to. Many have tried covering this mammoth single. We even heard ‘Aadat’ on Pepsi Battle of the Bands and in Nescafe Basement season 5 ft. Goher Mumtaz. However, this instrumental version has managed to surpass all previous efforts. All you have to do is head over to YouTube and hear it. However, the fact that this Leo Twins version has crossed 300,000 views isn’t surprising. Some of their other popular covers include ‘Wohi Khuda Hai’, Game of Thrones theme and Pakistan’s current obsession, the Turkish series Ertugrul Ghazi (soundtrack) with the latter fetching 8.3 million views in just a month.

Meesha Shafi-Mahmood Rahman’s
RGNT performance arrives on YouTube

Meesha Shafi and Mahmood Rahman, who first shared fantastic chemistry during their original days of Overload (Pichal Pairee), parted ways with the band many years ago. The married couple doesn’t play together too often (parental duties) so when the two artists played an intimate set of nearly 30 minutes, it warrants a watch at least.

Since Shafi resides in Toronto, Canada, we don’t see too many concerts of her in Pakistan and the ones we do often have an elaborate set up. Therefore, an intimate concert is hard to come by.

Performing as part of #urgntlive series where musicians performed in different venues in Toronto for a 19-concert series, Meesha Shafi’s set was the second last. Running close to 30 minutes, it featured Mahmood Rahman on an acoustic guitar with Meesha Shafi on vocals. Combined, they stripped the set from the usual and unusual instruments, and still sounded, well, good.

After appearing on Facebook as part of the larger concert, the Meesha Shafi set as well as those by other artists are now separately available on YouTube as singular video under the page URGNT.

Shafi-Rahman began with ‘Mein’ and presented several intimate versions of songs such as ‘Dasht-e-Tanhai’, ‘Ishq Aap Bhe Awalla’ and ‘Alif Allah‘. Shafi also spoke after each song and provided context to them.

Co-presented by Small World Music, it was held in response to Covid-19 by URGNTxMusicTogether, with several goals such as unifying the arts industry in Toronto and raising money to help musicians with lost gigs and wages as a result of quarantine. It also helped in documenting and cataloguing this unique period in history and making compelling content available to audiences when they need it most.