Sometimes it feels like there’s not much happening in Pakistani music other than what you see on TV in the form of music shows such as Coke Studio, Pepsi Battle of the Bands and Nescafe Basement. But turn the TV off and, instead, turn to the internet and there is this whole other world of mostly amazing work just waiting to be heard and consumed. A lot of the material out there, that does not make it to mainstream media, is actually pretty good. Since the sheer amount of options available to you can feel overwhelming, I’ve picked off a few songs from the new releases (singles and albums) section of Patari to start the year off with.
KI AE BY ALI AFTAB SAEED
The lead singer of Beygairat Brigade is back with more music from his solo album, Janjaan Te Janazay. A soft, melodious number that would make a great soundtrack for a film, Ki Ae by Ali Aftab Saeed is a celebration of the little things in life. Ki Ae is a bit different from the previous two songs from the album, Tasweeraan and Batti, in that it sounds a bit Bollywood-esque to this listener.
Starting the year off with these new releases in Pakistani music
The song is entirely in Punjabi, and as a non-fluent speaker, I had to listen to it a few times to really get a grasp of the lyrics. This was one of those instances when I wish there was a lyrics sheet — only because I had to write about it, otherwise I was completely lost in just how beautifully the song has been produced. The lyrics are from a ghazal by Master Altaf.
It’s the perfect road-trip song. Best heard on rainy days.
TICH BUTTONA DI JORRI BY JIMMY KHAN
I’m not 100 percent sure if Jimmy Khan’s Tich Buttona Di Jorri is something you want to listen to while driving because, like most of his music, this song makes me want to get up and dance. “It’s because Jimmy has an upbeat Punjabi-Western Folk type scene, na,” said a friend deeply familiar with his work.
Punjabi-Western folk is quite a genre and one that can be uniquely attributed to Jimmy Khan. Of course, I had to confirm exactly what a ‘tich’ button was, I heard my tailor mention it more than a few times. “Is it the one with a hook?” I texted mum. “No, it’s the two-part one where one presses and locks on to the other,” was the response. Of course, that doesn’t make the rest of the album (titled Tich Button) sound suggestive at all!
Tich Buttona Di Jorri is a preppy courtship number, in Punjabi, and has a very catchy chorus that goes something along the lines of, Tay mujhay tu na mili, teri saun rail gaddi agey akay mein mar jana. [If I don’t get you, I swear I’ll lay myself down on railroad tracks and kill myself]. Never heard someone so happily (and softly) issue threats before. Young love nowadays…
TU MERA NAHIN BY ALICIA DIAS
Moving on to the darker side is Tu Mera Nahin by the lovely songstress from Karachi, Alicia Dias. The lyrics are overly simplistic, but there’s an odd hook to the song. The overall production and Alicia Dias’ voice make it worth listening to.
In case the title didn’t give it away, Tu Mera Nahin, is an Urdu song about unrequited love, pain and longing. Somehow it becomes a bit more hopeful and upbeat towards the end which makes this listener a bit worried (are we crossing the line into stalker territory?). Maybe the next song should be about snapping out of denial and letting go. It’s the healthier thing to do.
There’s an early 2000s Pakistani pop feel with a very brief hint of a guitar solo in between. Personally, I love the treatment but this song won’t exactly be known for its poetry. It’s the kind of song you listen to, enjoy in the moment and move on — it’s not going to change your life or anything.
KHAYAL BY SHAMOON ISMAIL
Khayal is from Shamoon Ismail’s latest album, Cookie. Which I now pronounce differently — kukki — upon finding out the songs released so far are in a mix of Punjabi and English. Not surprising, since the artist is known for making music within the genre of ‘Punjabi Blues.’
My initial thoughts when listening to songs from this album was: I’m too old for this. These are love songs and sound like the experiences of someone for whom everything is still new and hopeful, pehla pyar type. But a few listens later, I could feel even my cold, jaded heart starting to thaw. There’s a very endearing quality to his music that — citing one of Cher’s most popular songs — makes one believe in life after love.
Khayal isn’t the latest song from Cookie — Na Toon (featuring Mooroo and Haider Mustehsan) is — but I picked it because it’s so easily hummable. In Khayal, Shamoon Ismail, is reaching out to the object of his affection (torment, in the context of this song in particular) on a very sleepless night and asking her to acknowledge his anguish. “Tu puch zara, ek vaari puch zara... [Ask about me, for once ask about me]”
Just to respond to this personally: Puch rahey hain. Poori dunya puch rahee hai [We’re asking, the whole world is asking]
Much like Janjaan Te Janazay (Ali Aftab Saeed) and Tich Button (Jimmy Khan), songs from Shamoon Ismail’s album Cookie are still in the process of being released. Can’t wait to see what the rest of this year will bring.
Published in Dawn, ICON, January 13th, 2019