This is an excellent time for Pakistani music with two major platforms — Coke Studio and Velo Sound Station — coming out with one release after another of either very well-written and produced original music, or covers improvised in such a manner that they sound fresh, yet with just a hint of nostalgia to them.

There’s a third brand new music show in the works right now that insiders say will (rather optimistically) have a bigger impact than either of these two shows this winter season. That’s a very tall order to fulfil. Hopefully, these claims will have some substance to them and we are treated to even more music after years of tedious and formulaic covers that just weren’t hitting the mark. Or helping the industry move forward.

With most of the attention of audiences focused on the established mainstream and newer acts on these two massive platforms, it’s understandable that more independent artists, especially those that occupy very tiny niches, are releasing their music relatively unnoticed. It’s important that, in the glitz and glamour of high-profile shows, they too get their due share or a fair listen at least.

Sifting through some of the newer releases, one came across a single that stood out — Grey by Turaab Khan. It’s from the alternative rock genre and in English. In contrast to the high energy belted out in the more popular songs in CS and VSS, this song is quite moody. The production is very restrained, lending more attention to the little details that build the beautiful, yet melancholic atmosphere in the song.

Musically and lyrically, Turaab Khan’s Grey harks back to the late ’90s, but not in a retro pop-reinventing-the-era kind of way

“It’s all the same, when you’re away, it’s grey,” croons Turab Khan in Grey. The song opens with a simple riff from the electric guitar of the main chorus line. The song opens almost quietly with Turab singing the opening verses with just an extended keyboard chord playing in the background. Grey is a song about the pain and longing of separation. From the relative emptiness in the song, it progresses to a light acoustic strumming until for the chorus, all three — the electric guitar, the keyboard and the acoustic guitar — come together for the chorus. The accompanying music is rich in contrast to that in the verses. The second time the chorus comes around, Turab has added the bass drum to it, giving it an even bigger sound. The overall production is quite slick. Turab Khan might just be an artist waiting to be discovered by a bigger platform. He is certainly talented.

Musically and lyrically, Grey harks back to the late ’90s, not in a retro pop-reinventing-the-era kind of way, but literally, as if it had been written and produced back then. Alternative rock with just a hint of pop to make for it to be a bit more easily palatable and appeal to a wider audience without compromising on its more serious, romantic melancholia. Grey is the perfect song to listen to on a long, uninterrupted drive.

Published in Dawn, ICON, December 27th, 2020

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