SOUNDCHECK: THE IMPASSE SONG

27 Sep 2020

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“He sounds like a Punjabi Drake,” remarked a director who was visiting from the UK, when I introduced him to Shamoon Ismail’s work. It sounded true. The Canadian pop singer, songwriter, producer and performer’s work has become synonymous with ‘date music’ abroad. Romantic music for the generation that comes between the last of the millennials and Generation Z. He often sings light popular numbers about love — falling in love, the various conflicts in love, break-ups, post-break-ups, falling in love again etc — in a way that’s easily palatable for an audience that doesn’t want to dig too deep into complex poetry. It felt true, at least for that moment.

Shamoon Ismail might have a well-developed pop sound, his production is usually very on point, but he’s more than just a “Punjabi Drake.” Yes, Shamoon does very catchy pop songs. Most of the time they deal with the complexities of love, but they also deal with other issues young adults might face in life — how relationships and people around you change when you get even a little successful or if you get some attention in the online world, with young urban culture, family and loss. His songs are also multi-lingual, incorporating Punjabi with Urdu and English effortlessly and almost seamlessly, without missing a beat.

He does the same in his latest song, On & On, released earlier this week. The release of On & On was also accompanied by a slick new music video produced by him, directed by a certain Dexter and the post-production was done by Shamoon’s old pal and well-known blogger and singer/songwriter, Mooroo.

Shamoon Ismail’s latest single, On & On, is about the frustrations of a broken relationship

The video, which stars a somewhat adorable Komal Meer, who could pass off as a relative of Selena Gomez, is set late at night. Shamoon is in formal wear, Komal’s character is at home. There’s tension between the two. A disconnect. He’s in the car, driving, outside her home, walking the streets, texting her. She’s checking her phone and but overall staying put — even when Shamoon shows up outside the gate of her house. She glowers at him from the balcony above. She’s not going to crack and budge a single inch. Love in Islamabad.

The production team took advantage of the monsoon season while filming. Some of the thunder and lightning beyond the clouds illuminates the background while Shamoon is wandering aimlessly through the streets in personal turmoil.

The audio starts on a somewhat blue tone with a sad but tense keyboard two-key riff before the chords amplify the melancholic atmosphere in the song. Then the beat begins and Shamoon recounts what has happened. Things are at an impasse because of a fundamental issue: she accuses him of not giving her time and he can’t figure out how to with his busy schedule. He’s equally frustrated because they are constantly fighting without resolution. The music repeats in this pattern throughout the song. Even for non-native Punjabi speakers, you can feel hearts breaking in On and On and find yourself singing along to the only lines you can pick up almost immediately, “Oh no…”

Ah, to be young and in the early stages of love and when the tiniest of things bring the biggest of conflicts until you figure things out. On another note, I really want to know if the characters in the song and video survived this. Did she forgive him and take him back? Or did they move on? Here’s hoping Shamoon’s next song has some answers.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 27th, 2020