Amongst the most exciting independent artists of our times, Maanu often flies under the radar
Amongst the most exciting independent artists of our times, Maanu often flies under the radar. Having collaborated with the likes of Abdullah Siddiqui (the poster child for traipsing between independent and mainstream music) and Taha G – among others - Maanu dropped an underrated record in 2020 called Yain City.
In 2021, Maanu hasn’t slowed down. He first released ‘Meray Dil Se’, a live version via Karachi Community Radio (KCR) and has followed it up with a new track called ‘Melancholic,’ along with a trippy music video.
The rapper, singer and songwriter, who is growing from strength to strength with each song, sounds just as original on ‘Melancholic’ as past releases. These are, after all, melancholic times.
The song has that signature Maanu vibe but paradoxically enough does showcase an effort to go beyond familiar expectations while catering to an audience that is learning to look beyond singer-songwriters. Listeners have begun to love MCs, rap, hip-hop musicians.
‘Melancholic’ is sharp and showcases a kind of depression with Maanu’s delivery akin to singer as he goes, “Melancholic sa hai ye sama mein kahoon kya/Gin and tonic pe hun mein ab kab se yun zinda haan jab se dekhein teri aankhein”. With that song he also addresses how and what is used to numb a human being.
During the last edition of Lahore Music Meet, during one of the indoor headlining acts, Maanu was also a featured artist during a Talal Qureshi set and had the audience mesmerized. And since we’re on the subject of Maanu, to discover the artist and his narrative, start streaming his music.
In addition to ‘Melancholic’, he is also featured on the 2021 release, ‘Khona Tha’ by Hasan Raheem, with the track produced by Abdullah Kasumbi. Hasan Raheem blew up as an artist about a year ago with ‘Aisay Kaisay’.
If you want to delve deeper in Maanu’s discography, you must check out the collaboration, ‘Dou Pal’ by Maanu X Taha G as well.
Faisal Rafi joins
Once considered Pakistan’s biggest record label, EMI Pakistan has morphed into a label that is more controversial than anything else. With digitization of music, other net labels have cropped up.
Most prominent among them is A for Aleph Records, Rearts Records and Silent Roar Productions. Salt Arts also collaborated with Ahsan Bari to release his debut EP, Guzarish in 2020. Laal Series is also releasing music for artists.
One chief example is how the prolific Ali Noor chose to work with Rearts for the release of his solo EP, Pagal (2020) over the once prestigious EMI Pakistan.
But all that could change as Faisal Rafi – with years of experience in the music industry as music producer and industry insider – has joined EMI Pakistan. He will head their Artists and Repertoire (A&R) department, he confirmed to Instep.
Faisal Rafi’s resume includes Pepsi Battle of the Bands (2017) and producing a slew of records among other things. The purpose is to find and sign new talent.
EMI Pakistan – since its comeback approximately a decade ago – doesn’t exactly enjoy the best reputation in the music business given their propensity to ask for money over every song and not providing evidence that royalties they collect are going to an artist (or in the case of their death) to their families.
Though they have released albums by the likes of Sajid and Zeeshan, Asad Ahmed and Usman Riaz in past years, it remains to be seen what Faisal Rafi’s A&R department accomplishes while distancing itself from past controversies. Can EMI Pakistan develop a roster of new talent and nurture them or not remains to be seen. But the very existence of an A&R department is a healthy sign.
Rushk release ‘Shikva’
At the end of last month, Karachi-based music outfit Rushk, originally co-founded by Uns Mufti and Ziyyad Gulzar, released a new song called ‘Shikva’. However, ‘Shikva’ is essentially a by-product of a band whose line-up has drastically changed between their critically acclaimed debut album Sawaal and the series of singles they’ve been releasing post-Sawaal.
Rushk now consists of a full-scale band with terrific musicians as part of the group including Sikandar Mufti and Mohd. Ali Jafri. Vocalists have varied, giving the group a sharp flavour of voices. The co-founders, Uns Mufti and Ziyyad Gulzar continue to play a prominent role as well.
‘Shikva’ (written by chief songwriter/guitarist) Uns Mufti) is an original song where Rushk’s sound is further finding its footing. A post-rock, partially ambient force drives the music. As for what the song means, it is our interpretation of the songwriting. To me, with each song release, the band’s ability to be prehensible about brutal and grim reality and calling it out exists.
The idea to have different vocalists is also working. On ‘Shikva’, we hear the lovely SB reminding us of the resentment we carry within because of how things stand. Her voice is silk smooth and fits right into the structure of the song. It also reflects on how society is standing at a precipice of intolerance, religious dogma and deterioration from within. Without a lock and a key, it forces you to think.
The song, arranged, performed and produced by Rushk, also features B Griff (what a surprise!) and to know what is being said, you must hear the song, available on all major platforms.
Like several preceding releases, ‘Shikva’ also arrived with artwork by Safwat Saleem. The artwork is connected to the singles and this one is no different. For terrific musicianship, grim yet truthful reality check and ferocious lyrics check it out. This is Rushk going out of their comfort zone.