SOUNDCHECK: STARRY STARRY NIGHT

17 May 2020

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I still remember the first time I saw this band come out with their music for the world to experience. It was sometime in 2011 when Peshawar-based band, Yasir and Jawad’s debut song, Reidi Gul, broke on to our television (and computer) screens. They were participants in a reality show called Uth Records, helmed by two legends in the music industry, John Louis ‘Gumby’ Pinto and Omran Shafique. Yasir and Jawad were featured in the first season.

Now, in 2020, it doesn’t seem so out-of-the-ordinary for producers to pick up new artists and use their clout and platform to ‘introduce’ these artists to the world. In fact, sometimes it feels like that’s the only thing they’re counting on — the ‘novelty’ of a new act, and not the content itself.

Finding the right talent, honing it and introducing it to the world at large through a credible platform isn’t easy but, in Uth Records, we saw artists as they entered the studio for the first time. By the end of an episode we saw them grow and evolve into confident musicians with an educated approach to music. Zeeshan Parwez documented this journey as the director and shot them in a candid manner, often revealing the quirks in each of his subjects along the way.

Yasir and Jawad have a soulful, ethnic, folk flavour to their music. Fusing the acoustic guitars with the beautifully haunting sound of the rabab, the band’s offering, Reidi Gul, borrowed its lyrical content from the poetry of iconic Pushto poet Ghani Khan, and focused on khudi — a process of introspection. They followed that up with another song with poetry by Ghani Khan called Jaam in 2013.

One of the best things to come out of this lockdown is Peshawar-based band Yasir and Jawad’s campfire musical ode to the moon, Speenai Spogmai

Although there are two names in the band’s handle — Yasir, originally from North Waziristan, and Jawad, originally from Mardan — Yasir and Jawad is actually a three-person band. The third member is Abdul Wali Khan Orakzai who is, you guessed it, from the Orakzai Agency. They’re not very consistent as music isn’t their first priority or means of survival. But the band recently got together to jam and released a new song on the internet — called Speenai Spogmai (O’ Fair Moon). It’s their version of a popular folk song.

There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the rabab. It doesn’t matter what song or where it’s played, it just tugs at your heart strings. Yasir’s rabab-playing sets the tone for this song followed by Jawad on the rhythm guitar. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Wali sing, but he’s still got it. The recording of the song that’s currently available is a bit rough as it was recorded around a campfire in the winter. But here’s hoping the band will release a studio version soon.

For those that don’t understand Pushto, here is a translation of the lyrics:

Why have you become speechless?
Why don’t you give me any news?
O’ fair moon! Tell me, where my beloved is now?

The sky looks more beautiful when garlanded with stars
As the face of the earth is more pleasurable in the presence of the beautiful
Why have you become speechless?

Why don’t you give me any news?
The stars in the sky are my witness
Last night, by the pain of your separation, I mourned immensely

Why have you become speechless?
Why don’t you give me any news?

Here’s also hoping that the coronavirus lockdown has encouraged the boys to work on some more material. We need more ethnic-pop music from the North West.

Published in Dawn, ICON, May 17th, 2020