The death knell for Pakistani music was sounded once again as it has been for a few years now with musicians begrudging the lack of a viable recording industry to support them. Coke Studio, which has been assuming the mantle for sometime now and in its 6th season this year, lost its charm and became stale with its somewhat predictable sound.
But truth be told, things weren’t as bleak as some prognosticators might suggest. While 2013 wasn’t a stellar year for music, it wasn’t without its standout moments.
Here are the five of the highlights of the year.
5. The prodigal son returns
Kicking off the list is a veteran of Pakistani music Abrar-uI-Haq who made his Coke Studio debut this year with Ishq Di Booti, a folk-and-funk Punjabi number structured around western scales. It’s a song that’s lyrically rooted in a deeply personal spiritual journey and it shows in Abrar’s delivery. The song has an almost enchanting groove that even the most soulless person will be taken in by. On the flip side, a lively brass section provides the requisite balance, making for a perfect marriage of sounds and textures.
4. Star rising
Sanam Marvi has been around for a few years now with her brand of Punjabi folk and Sufi music, especially with some of her performances on Coke Studio. But her performance of Yaar Vekho, based on the poem by Hazrat Sachal Sarmas has been making the rounds on social media feeds of late and has had her being touted as the next Abida Parveen — high praise for a singer who’s only 25.
3. Mooroo goes Sufi
The one-man sound factory Taimoor Salahuddin has made waves in our sparse music scene over the past couple of years. With his eclectic use of pop, hip-hop and rock beats, he churns out cacophonous melodies that end up sounding oddly pleasing to the ear. It’s clear that Mooroo isn’t afraid to push the envelope and it is with that same daring musical sensibility that he took on his rendition of Abida Parveen’s Gharoli.
Purists will bicker about Mooroo’s audacious treatment of this Sufi classic, but he clearly believes that music — even the classics — will remain stagnant unless they are breathed new life into every now and then. Applying his usual dose of quirky beats and idiosyncratic synthesis, Mooroo’s take on Gharoli counts as one of the year’s definite highlights.
2. Fraud 2013 style
The folks over at Nescafe Basement took many of us down memory lane with their refreshing take of Awaz’s classic hit Mr Fraudiye from the ’90s. Vocalist Altamash Sever did a fine job on the tongue-in-cheek tune that took on the establishment, something which is sadly still very much relevant today. While keeping the original spirit of the song alive, the Basement Band replaced the cheesiness of ‘90s pop with a more nuanced jazzy feel. It was more than refreshing to hear the incorporation of a brass section, which added a lively texture to the song and was also pleasing to see the upcoming generation veer away from the me-and-my-axe mentality of the late ’90s music scene.
1. The man with the spectrum eyes
What can be said of Tahir Shah that hasn’t already been said. There’s no question that he caught Pakistan’s imagination with the imitable Eye To Eye. A song that belongs in the so-bad-that-it’s-good category, Eye To Eye was the epitome of the viral genre. Many of us are still reeling from its effect, and those who deny having caught themselves humming it are just flat out lying. It’s still unclear whether this little ditty was a sincere attempt at songwriting or just a virtuosic prank by an ingenious shyster.
Nonetheless, it was by far the single most noteworthy musical moment of 2013, albeit for all the wrong reasons. So without further ado, Tahir Shah take a bow, the year belongs to you!
—By Salman Haqqi