SOUNDSCAPE: UNREQUITED LOVE

February 16, 2020

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Shamoon Ismail’s star is rising. The Islamabad-based singer, songwriter, producer and instrumentalist has been performing gig after gig across the country. He is now the headlining act and, at times the opening act, for bands and artists with decades of experience over him in the industry.

Although his first gig in Karachi late last year went off to a rough start — because of stage sound engineering issues experienced by most of the acts performing that night — he continues to be popular with event organisers and audiences alike. Video after video of his gigs show a packed audience singing the lyrics of his songs word-for-word. We haven’t seen this kind of ‘magic’ in a long time.

He’s been incredibly prolific these past couple of years. Shamoon released the incredibly popular EP Cookie followed by Brown Sugar last year. And he’s kicked off 2020 with a brand-new EP called Juice.

The singer confirmed that Juice will only contain two tracks, both of which are out now on Facebook, Patari and YouTube. One of the tracks is called Rung, which had already amassed 165,000 views within a week of its release. Bag Girl isn’t far behind with 65,000 views within three days of its release (and at the time this article went to print).

Shamoon Ismail’s latest EP Juice’s songs are an inner monologue grappling with different stages of attraction

New Wave music from the 1980s has been undergoing somewhat of a revival in the international pop music scene. Case in point: the incredibly popular Blinding Lights by The Weekend that came out a few weeks ago and which is constantly playing on a local English-language radio station. From Juice’s songs, Rung follows the more modern version of that genre.

Rung is a Punjabi-English pop song and deals with a subject Shamoon’s songs are well-versed in: young love. This time, things have gotten a bit complicated. Rung talks about an unrequited infatuation Shamoon has with a girl. He’s watching her watch him, they’re engaged in a dance of courtship but quietly and from a distance. His anxiety and inner turmoil regarding this is evident from the lyrics. The main chorus goes:

Dus ki samajhdi ain toon
Vekhdi ain rung like I do?
[Tell me, what do you think?]
[Do you see colours like I do?]

Followed by:

No, you don’t, stop.
Toon hallay jivein rockstars
Akhaan choon boldi ain tere
Akhain toon hold me nairray
Hold me nairray.
[May you live, rockstar
You speak with your eyes
With your eyes you hold me close
Hold me close]

The second song in the EP, Bad Girl, has been co-produced by Shamoon and Rovalio. Shamoon’s hopefulness in Rung about the object of his unrequited love has very quickly moved on to the next stage of expected rejection: suspicion. In Bad Girl, he talks about going after who can best be described as a ‘party girl’ but also fully aware that she may not be into him. This has all the makings of a toxic relationship. The main chorus goes:

Ajj raati ghar jaa
Sawairay fir milne aan
Meinu daseen gallan dil diyan
Par dasnaan nae chaundi toon
Hath nae-o aandi toon
Sawairay fir milne
Dasda main dil diyan
Par dil nae-o laandi toon
Hor kuj chaundi toon
[Go home tonight
Meet me again in the morning
Tell me what’s in your heart
But you don’t want to talk
I can’t get a handle on you
In the morning when we meet again
I want to tell you what’s in my heart
But you won’t give me your heart
You want something else]

In Bad Girl, Shamoon goes back to his more present-era electronic pop music roots. Bad Girl is a ‘quieter’, somewhat darker, slow number compared to the more upbeat Rung. Much like Shamoon’s other songs, both of the songs in Juice are his inner monologues as he grapples with different stages of attraction. If there’s one takeaway from Juice, it’s that falling in love brings out the stalker in all of us. Hopefully, the next EP will be about how he finally actually does end up talking to the object of his fascination.

Published in Dawn, ICON, February 16th, 2020