SOUNDSCAPE: KIDS REBELLION

05 Jul 2020

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Art on the internet is a very democratic space. Putting the spotlight on your work by a platform will only get you so far, you have to ‘make it’ through hard work, skill, talent and releasing the right song at the right time.

I’m not talking about those acts that go viral through gimmickry. They have their moment, that moment passes and that’s the end of it. That’s not the case with these artists.

Abdullah Siddiqui is a Lahore-based, 19-year-old music wizard who was barely legal when he first started putting his music out on the internet. He’s been around for a while, but the spotlight really shone on him when he was featured as an artist in Season Five of Nescafe Basement in 2019.

His original track, Resistance, which he played on the show, has managed to rake in over 3.6 million views on YouTube. His body of work, available on Patari, is no less exceptional. Personal favourites include the very popular Terrified!, Diamond & Dynamite, Young, Forcefield, Telescope Heart and his brilliant collaboration with Faris Shafi on the hauntingly beautiful Prosaic.

Kids is an atmospheric collaboration by two of the most popular songwriters of the current generation, and it does not disappoint

On the other end, we have Shamoon Ismail — a singer-songwriter-multi instrumentalist and producer from Islamabad, whose songs have been in the top 10 Patari charts in 2018, 2019 and 2020. His most popular songs include Jutt Blues, Marijuana, Khayal, Taare, Tuntuna and more recently, Rung.

Both of them work on experimental pop music, fusing the electronic with acoustic. Both of them are pretty strong songwriters and composers — Abdullah choosing to write in English and Shamoon in Punjabi. So naturally, when they announced they will be collaborating on a song together, one was excited.

Their collaborative song, Kids, is the first release from Abdullah Siddiqui’s second album, Heterotopia or ‘other/different’ and ‘out of place’. French philosopher Micheal Foucault used the term to describe social spaces that are contradictory, transformative, intense or disturbing, incompatible with the ‘regular’ world or way of life. With such a deep title introducing this set of music, one can expect something truly transformative and, in short, mind-blowing.

Heterotopia is expected to have 14 singles. Five songs will be collaborations with other artists. Heterotopia follows Abdullah’s first album, Metannoya (2019) — a word that also has its roots in Greek. Metannoya or Metanoia is a ‘beyond thought’, a sort of ‘spiritual conversion.’ It goes without saying that when it came out, Metannoya, was/is a very popular album.

Kids is a collaboration for the books. But I’ll be honest, it took a couple of listens for me to warm up to it. Mostly because I was expecting Abdullah to do something different musically, more experimental — as he did with Faris Shafi in Prosaic. But once you move past that, the song, in terms of its atmospheric composition, production and the introspective nature of the songwriting by both artists, is pretty solid.

As much as I want to, I can’t type out the lyrics of the whole song here, but I will share the chorus: “Let’s play hide-and-seek/ While the kids sip tea/ I’m breaking/ I’m breaking/ Can’t you tell I’m faking?/ Oh can’t you tell I’m faking?/ Fill this void in me/ With the lights and greed/ I’m breaking/ I’m breaking/ Can’t you tell I’m faking? / Oh can't you tell I'm faking?”

The chorus, of course, deals with how impressions can be misleading — how life may look shiny on the outside whereas, behind-the-scenes, the story might be different. Interestingly, this is a recurring theme in Abdullah’s music.

Kids talks about the price of fame in the modern age. Even if you aren’t oversharing on social media, you still have a million eyes on you. And those million eyes share what they think about you and you can access what they are saying with a few taps on your keyboard. It doesn’t have to be right or true, but it’s out there. “You don’t know nothing/ About the trappings of my day/ You’re bluffing,” go the lyrics.

Kids is a response by Abdullah and Shamoon to that and more. It’s also a song that sets boundaries. “You can call but aana mera farz te naien,” croons Shamoon. One commenter jokingly wrote under the video that this was going to be his go-to response to family gatherings.

Now, it’s mine too. Here’s looking forward to the rest of Heterotopia.

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 5th, 2020