Music is a universal language. You don’t have to understand what is being sung in order to be affected by or appreciate a piece of music.
That seems to be the message behind the Pashto rap act Fortitude’s latest song, No Borders, on which they’ve collaborated with a band called Alag. No Borders has lyrics in Pashto, Urdu and English and the online version carries subtitles for those who do not understand either of these languages.
Fortitude is a three-member Pashto rap act composed of Mustafa Kamal Khan and brothers Shumail and Shahkar Alam Khan. Their previous releases include Pukhtoon Core, Time Pass and So Fly.
Alag is a pop rock act that comprises Muddassir Wadood Khan, Shaan Khan, Sahil Fayaz, Hasan Sayed and AJ-DJ Umair. Their songs, other than No Borders, are all in Urdu and include the likes of Dhokay Bazi and Ek Aas.
No Borders is a deviation from the kind of music Fortitude has previously released. It starts off with a rabab solo and then sees four vocalists showing off their skills in the kind of singing style they’re known for: Mustafa Kamal Khan and Shahkar Alam Khan in Pashto/English rap respectively with Shaan Khan and Muddassir Wadood Khan bringing the mellower pop element to the song.
“The roads of Khyber are tough, my love. Hold my hand, we’re on the move, my love. These mighty mountains depict Pakistan, my love. In a place like this my heart has fallen for your, my love. The leader of this place is dear to us, my love. These mighty mountains,” sings Shaan Khan.
“The song was conceptualised in Februrary 2011,” says Shumail ‘Webster’ Alam Khan who composed it, “It starts off with a beat — I wanted to mix traditional rabab with hip hop as it was never done before.”
Mustafa and Shaan knew each other through some common acquaintances. Eventually members from both acts were introduced to each other. According to Shaan, “Fortitude is the first Pashto rap act and I wanted to do hip hop music in Pashto,” collaborating with them seemed the opportune choice. “As both bands were working on two different genres of music we wanted to fuse them both on this particular beat,” says Shumail. “Everyone wrote their own part in the song and it was perfected over the course of a year.”
The song is dedicated to Haider Ali Khan, who, Mustafa related, was one of the director’s son who passed away in a car accident. Although Alag band member Mudassir Wadood is the credited director of the video of No Borders, he isn’t the director the band is talking about.
“Haider Ali Khan was a big fan of Fortitude and he played a small role in the video as well,” says Mustafa.
Most of the shoot took place in one night. Although, in the video, the band can be seen exhibiting oodles of energy, in reality, that was not the case. According to Shahkar of Fortitude, “We were all extremely tired. Even though it took up to 3am we had to finish it that same night as Mustafa and I had to leave the very next day.”