Public perception dictates that cross-border collaborations have screeched to a grinding halt in the last couple of years. But it is an oxymoron, at least partially.
A string of strong, limited Pakistani dramas series found a platform with India’s Zee Zindagi, giving them a larger market, even as Pakistanis can no longer subscribe to the platform.
It is true that Pakistani actors and musicians can’t work in India like they once did (like Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, Saba Qamar, Sajal Aly, Ali Zafar). However, the viewership of shows like Coke Studio and discourse between artists is alive. From Takatak to Rutaba Yakub, collaborative songs between artists from both countries have been born, transcending man-made borders.
Among recent collaborations is a song called ‘SaafHawa (Clean Air)’.
Associated with UN Breathe Life campaign on International Clean Air Day, the single features Zeb Bangash on vocals with lyrics by Mir Ali Hussain. Shantanu Moitra (‘Kya Khayal Hai’) has composed and produced the song with Arab violinist Layth Sidiq a part of the collaboration.
It is no secret that South Asian countries are so polluted that they’re the epicenter of what is essentially a global air pollution crisis. The purpose of this song is to bring focus back to this crisis. With Pakistan already experiencing the worst floods that has led to deaths in the thousands, and in its aftermath millions more affected, the timing of the song is pertinent.
Speaking about the song, Zeb Bangash explained how the havoc wreaked by the floods across Pakistan will be felt by the next generation as well.
A believer in the menace that is climate change, she said, “With the disastrous floods in my country [Pakistan], clearly climate change presents a future of consequences to be borne by our children. ‘Saaf Hawa (Clean Air)’ is a heartfelt ode to Clean Air written and rendered as a love song. I am extremely happy that I could be the voice for ‘SaafHawa (Clean Air)’.”
According to a press statement, the song was commissioned by Air Quality Asia (AQA). It stated further: “Air Quality Asia (AQA) commissioned an anthem featuring a human voice because of the positive response to vocal music in South Asia. With this song, AQA launched a clean air movement in collaboration with the United Nations Campaign: Breathe Life. The main goal is to inspire the South Asian public to collaborate across borders and countries to achieve clean air as they are the sole brunt bearers of pollution happening all over the world whilst contributing the lowest carbon emissions.”
Here‘s hoping this anthem makes a difference and the featured artists can work together without national constraints. A favourite example is Zeb and (Haniya Aslam’s) collaboration with Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire for the opening season of The Dewarists (‘Kya Khayal Hai’). Moving on, Zeb Bangash’s collaboration with Shamali Afghan and Saad Sultan is also befitting of the style of music Zeb Bangash is most well-known for. Check it out and before you do, give ‘SaafHawa’ a chance, not just the song but the idea behind it as well.
Many music listeners tend to go through so many songs that an algorithm will automatically offer advice on similar music.
But as a consequence, other artists, especially if they fly under the radar or don’t break through the way a Hasan Raheem does, get left behind.
As part of Coke Studio 14, Kaifi Khalil joined Eva B and Wahab Ali Bugti for a song called ‘Kana Yaari’.
As the song grew in popularity, the song automatically gave Khalil a national platform. No one can outperform Wahab Ali Bugti, but it did give us a chance to follow Kaifi Khalil’s music. What is apparent is that like most of his peers, Kaifi is willing to put himself out there by singing and uploading raw content on YouTube.
It is also true that the Coke Studio 14 machinery, stronger and faster than ever, showed us one side of Kaifi Khalil. His social media platforms suggest there is more than one side to the musician. He has been releasing his music quietly but there is a context to each song.
‘Kahani Suno 2.0’, released in the summer of 2022, is a mournful love song, singing about that one elusive soulmate.
What works in the song’s favour is the raw music video. No gimmickry and not a song that gives you a headache. It’s another side of Kaifi Khalil and he has enough fans with the song hitting the 3 million mark; a feat many mainstream artists can’t boast of. Apart from performing the song, Kaifi has also written the lyrics and created the music. Head to his YouTube page and you will find several songs, both raw and polished. The performance by Kaifi on Coke Studio 14 is diametrically different, lending itself to the belief that he is not only a good performer but a promising artist who can make his own music and write his own lyrics and play with languages.