Aorae: Stand up and listen

Published May 20, 2014
Fortitude front man Mustafa Kamal - Pashto Rapper enlists the Paki Rambo Adil Omar for "Aorae", his debut single as a solo artist. (Song may contain explicit language)

What do you get when you bring together the pioneer in Pashto rap with an artist who’s taken rap music to a whole new level in the country (and beyond)? You get: Aorae.

According to singer songwriter, Mustafa Kamal Khan of the Islamabad-based Pashto rap outfit, Fortitude, Aorae is Pashto for “Listen up! Or even ‘Hear me out!’ depending on what context you’re taking it in.”.

Winter is coming?

Khan, who considers himself to have pioneered the genre of Pashto rap in Pakistan, has teamed up with rap heavyweight, Adil Omar on the song.

Together they can be seen against animated backdrops showing death, destruction and all manners of darkness and destruction. The artists are shown singing against smoke and snow. A wolf prominently features in the video as well. The latter two remind one of Game of Thrones and one couldn’t help but wonder whether the popular series influenced a bit of the video as well?

“I haven’t started Game of Thrones yet, unfortunately,” was Omar’s shocking response adding that the video was Khan and his manager/video director Wajahat Khan’s doing.

“Well yeah,” laughed Khan, “You can say that Game Of Thrones has been one of my favorite series but wolves have always been so majestic for me. I love wolves because they represent freedom and teamwork as they work in packs. So if an animal were to represent me, it would be a wolf. They’re awesome”

Two cultures. One connection: rap. How they got together

So how did the collaboration between the two come to be? Had they known each other before they began working on the song?

“I had heard some of Fortitude’s stuff and thought their Pashto rap sounded interesting,” said Omar, “Mustafa approached me with his manager and director Wajahat, whom I was friends with before, and they expressed an interest in having me on his first single as a solo artist. It came together pretty organically and I liked the song as well.”

It turns out Omar is one of the artists Khan had always wanted to work with. “He is truly a genuine talent and yes working with him on Aorae has been a wonderful experience,” said Khan about their interaction, “We became really good friends after we met and my interactions with him have been really fun. He is a very straightforward person and honest to his work, friends, colleagues etc.” “We brainstormed and recorded the track last year,” said Khan. He added that Webster (one of his band members from Fortitude, Shumail Alam Khan) created the beats to which Khan and Omar added the lyrics.

According to Omar, the track didn’t take long to make. “Mustafa came over and knocked his verse out in a day, and the same night I wrote and recorded mine,” he said, “The mixing and mastering was done by Bilal Iftikhar of Frequency Media who also worked on the previous seasons of Coke Studio.”

Interpreting the lyrics

For those of us who aren’t fluent in Pashto, Khan has provided the following translation of the main chorus. He’s quick to point out that while this may not be the literal translation, this comes close to the message he’s trying to send.

Aorae che sa za waimah

(Listen to what ever I’m about to say)

Tiaray tiaray tiaray di dalta har soo

(Darkness, darkness, darkness is about to take over)

Kho laaraa predi chay, munga raazoo

(But when we come, we’ll make our way out of it)

Out of the darkness and into the future

Beyond Aorae, what do these artists have planned for their music? “I’m featured on Sid Wilson’s (from Slipknot) new single and the video which should be out by the time this article is out,” responded Omar adding that, “We shot the video in Rawalpindi and Venice Beach.”

His solo single and video Exploding Heart also comes out in a few days. “Other than that I’m gearing up to release a solo single called Margalla King as well as an EP with Talal Qureshi,” he adds, among other projects and collaborations.

He is not the only one with an international collaboration in the pipeline. Khan will be teaming up with a woman Canadian artist in the near future. While keeping his lips sealed on her identity, he added that Talal Qureshi, the electronic music producer is currently working on the musical aspect of the song.

Khan is also planning to release a song with his band, Fortitude. He is quick to add that his band mates, Shahkar and Shumail, are extremely supportive of his solo music as well.

The ‘old school’ of Pakistani rap on the ‘new wave’

“When I started rapping way back in 1993, there were very few takers for this genre,” says Fakhr-e-Alam, who with his band Yatagaan, pioneered rap in Pakistan at the time when even the music industry in the country as a whole was going through its infancy.

“But I always knew that rap will come of age some day in Pakistan,” he adds confidently, “Adil Omar, Ali Gul Pir and many other underground hip hop guys have turned this into a whole new movement.”

Alam mentioned that they inspire him to record a track of his own. “But with the state of mind that I am in nowadays, I will come up with something too radical,” he said.

He felt that Aorae is a great, fresh track. “The fact that rap and hip hop has seeped into the regional language is testament to my belief in this genre 20 years ago,” said Alam, “I guess I was too early. I knew this would happen one day. I am so very happy to see this. Soon, we will see a whole new subculture of hip hop in the country.”

Well-said Mr Alam! And that hip-hop subculture has already arrived.

The writer is a culture journalist and member of staff with a degree in International Relations and an interest in Genocide Prevention.

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