This is hands down one of my favourite alternative music acts from Pakistan. Naseer Afridi and Shahab Qamar form the eponymous Naseer and Shahab. They’re based out of Islamabad, Peshawar and Australia (wherever the winds will take them). They’ve been releasing music and making waves since their song Za Pakthun Yam (I am Pashtun) came out seven odd years ago. Since then, they’ve rolled out beautiful songs such as Za Sta Pashan Na Yam (I am not like you), Meray Yaar (My friend), Ghalti Mein Shta (The fault is mine) and Hero. The languages they cover are English, Urdu and Pashto.
Earlier this year, Naseer and Shahab released a version of their latest Urdu track, Kaghaz Ki Kashti (Paper Boat). Staying true to their signature sound, it’s an alternative, soft-rock ballad. They also released a simple semi-animated video with the band members in shadows with lights from behind them and, in some frames, colours in an Andy Warhol-esque style painted on their faces. It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s 100 percent them.
“The song talks about the feeling of being lost and in despair,” says singer songwriter Naseer Afridi. “It is a call for help for those who might need it and not in the most obvious ways. It talks about circumstances one can’t control and experiences that leave you thinking if it is all worth it.” The singer prefers to keep the song’s motivations a mystery.
Naseer and Shahab’s latest track Kaghaz Ki Kashti is a moody take on our more darker emotions
As a testament to the band’s self-deprecating sense of humour, the list of credits include one for “Naseer’s crippled dead soul.” Ha!
“It is more of a reference to why the song was written in the first place,” laughs Naseer. “I will not reveal the details to it because, well, its private.”
The band recently also released an ‘alternative’ version of Kaghaz Ki Kashti on Patari. In this version, the electric guitars unleash themselves during the chorus to give the song a fuller sound. From being mopey and mournful in the original version, this new addition lends a bit of angst to the song — reminiscent of rock songs from the late 90s/early 2000s era. Shahab’s masterful production gives the song an eerie atmosphere from the start. Personally, I prefer the ‘alternative’ version to the original.
There’s a break in the second half of the song where you’re left hanging and wondering what direction the music is going to take. The drums pick up pace and rise to a crescendo before the song moves towards the chorus and guitar play again.
On the duo’s future plans, Naseer says, “The music has taken a back seat with me moving to Kuala Lumpur but Shahab is working on his own stuff every now and then and plans to put out some cool music for everyone. Naseer and Shahab plans to make songs but we are going to take our own sweet time while we are at it.”
We will be waiting.
Published in Dawn, ICON, November 10th, 2019