Long gone are the days when female musicians were relegated to the role of singer-only.
Zeb Bangash - currently in the spotlight for being honoured at Asia Arts Game Changer Awards - is one great example. She first found fame through the duo Zeb and Haniya (with cousin and the uber-talented musician) Haniya Aslam.
After their stunning debut album, Chup, Zeb fronted this musical duo across Coke Studio seasons, and on The Dewarists with composer Shantanu Moitra, and lyricist Swanand Kirkire. It culminated in the song ‘Kya Khayal Hai’. Zeb and Haniya also went on to release a song together called ‘Dadra’.
Now the two artists have amicably found different solo journeys to pursue but they set the ball rolling for generations.
So, it’s not surprising that Zeb Bangash, who has won awards for her playback singing and is now associated with the music group Sandaraa as well, was honoured for her many accomplishments recently.
Earlier this month, she was applauded by Asia Society India Centre’s sixth (virtual) edition of Asia Arts Game Changer Awards. The gala honours “artists from the continent.”
Her rendition of a four-songs set (‘Sinf-e-aahan’, ‘Pankh Laga Ke’, ‘Sambhal Sambhal’ and ‘Ajaa Re Moray Saiyyan’) had the audience riveted.
Inakshi Sobti, Chief Executive Officer-Asia Society India Centre expressed how Zeb’s work and voice goes beyond geographical barriers.
Speaking about the honour, Zeb Bangash said in a press statement, “I am absolutely delighted to have been invited by the Asia Society’s India Centre to be a part of their annual Asia Arts Game Changer Awards.
“Such exchanges allow for South Asia’s artist’s fraternity not only to meet and engage but to work together on collaborations that might not be otherwise possible.”
She added: “As always it was absolute pleasure to have partnered with the Asia Society who I have worked with on many an occasion and look forward to doing so again in the future.”
From songs on Pakistani films like Manto to Superstar and TV OSTs, her work with Sandaraa and pursuit of reaching new heights, Zeb Bangash continues to up the ante musically. Nothing wrong with that.
Wooly the Uke on her last release and working with Zahra Paracha
The music industry may not have a proper infrastructure (after all these years) but independent artists who create otherworldly, ethereal, sparse or obscure songs – irrespective of what the market demands - are worth following.
Among them is Janat Sohail Aziz, better known as the audio-visual artist Wooly and the Uke. With terrific songs like ‘Watch’ (feat. Poor Rich Boy), ‘Circle in a Circle’, she is going all-out for her new album titled Rebirth: These Days. The record is, if you will, a collection of her experiences and observations from the fabric of society to frustrations and also finding a silver lining. She’s released two songs (‘How’, Home’) from the album and each song has a different producer, giving it an audio narrative that is fresh in sound and deviates from the generic method.
‘How’ with its theatrical music video, also directed by Janat, is a reflection on various topics including patriarchy, validation, amidst a very South Asian tradition, the dinner table. It features John Mark Nelson (who has worked with Taylor Swift) but the song has other names attached to it as well including Zahra Paracha and Haniya Aslam.
Talking about the role Zahra Paracha (Lahore Music Meet, Sikandar Ka Mandar) played in her music (Sound Designer and Editor), Wooly had nothing but compliments for her.
“I only met Zahra through Lahore Music Meet and we weren’t acquainted as well as we are now,” she told
Instep. “Zahra has been a very constant musical driving force for the past two years in my life. I feel Zahra is one of those very significant people in our industry but not only because of making music and producing music but also spreading this kind of knowledge and empowerment to other people. I’m not a very technically-sound person when it comes to production aspects.
Zahra took me through it. She took me on a journey where she said ‘you don’t have to do it but you should know these things’ and knowing those things brings new layers to the track. It brings out a new knowledge and it makes me feel empowered as an artist. It makes me understand that if this is the sound, I want for a song, I know what the process should look like on my end.”
Her last release, ‘Home’ - like ‘How’ - also has a narrative running through it because Wooly and the Uke has an underlining message to her songs.
‘Home’, her last release, for instance, is a reflection of “identity crisis when you move and your home is not your home so where do you find the home within yourself?” Wooly told Instep in an earlier interview. “It also crosses over the immigration point-of-view,” she had said.
Based in Berlin, and originally from Lahore, we can’t wait to hear her full-length album and piece together the larger thematic ideas and catharsis her music offers.