Artists call for tolerance as PSL anthem leaves nation divided

Published February 12, 2021
The song is a blend of the powerful vocals of prolific singer Naseebo Lal, rap by the Young Stunners, and pop singer Aima Baig’s voice. — Screenshot courtesy Youtube
The song is a blend of the powerful vocals of prolific singer Naseebo Lal, rap by the Young Stunners, and pop singer Aima Baig’s voice. — Screenshot courtesy Youtube

THE anthem that sets the Pakistan Super League (PSL) extravaganza in motion annually has this year left the nation divided, with some criticising the concept behind the song as uninspiring and others coming out in support of local musical talent.

Titled Groove Mera, the PSL VI anthem elicited a wide range of reactions from social media users when it was released on February 6. The song is a blend of the powerful vocals of prolific singer Naseebo Lal, rap by the Young Stunners, and pop singer Aima Baig’s voice.

Although the reaction to the anthem has been mixed, and prompted the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to come to its defence, its music video garnered more than 5.5 million views on YouTube in a matter of five days.

The lyrics emphasise how this year’s PSL — which begins on Feb 20 at Karachi’s National Stadium with the first T20 being played between title-holders Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators — will be mostly watched on TV screens instead of in stadiums. “Aaj dekhe gaa crowd mera groove TV pe (the crowd will see my groove on TV today),” goes the theme of the song.

The music video also featured people watching matches on TVs, mobile phones and laptops and pacer Wahab Riaz patting a TV in a stadium, emphasising how PSL 2021 will be different because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement that accompanied the song’s release, the PCB said Groove Mera referred to “the swing and feel of the movements of cricketers” and to “moments of finesse that one finds in the heart of every cricket match”.

According to the board, the anthem is “a celebration of Pakistan’s musical diversity” and features artists from opposite ends of the country’s musical spectrum.

Reacting to the song, some on Twitter said it did not meet the high expectations they had from the anthem of what is effectively Pakistan’s biggest sporting event.

But the controversy over the song gained strength when former fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar bashed the production, terming it a bad song with a bad composition.

“Aren’t you ashamed?” he asked the makers of the song in a nine-minute ‘review’ of it on his YouTube channel, saying the anthem had scared his children.

“My kid hasn’t spoken in three days because of this song. The people who sang this song have no idea what groove even means,” Akhtar added.

On the other side of the debate, however, supporters of the song applaud its out-of-the-box concept and catchy beat, with one Twitter user terming it an “amazing combination of modern and traditional music”.

A number of celebrities called out Akhtar for “degrading” the artists’ efforts and came out in defence of Naseebo Lal. “It’s very easy to be keyboard warriors and shred someone’s hard work to pieces. How ungrateful to forget so conveniently all the melodious songs Naseebo Lal has given us,” actor Adnan Siddiqui tweeted.

A spokesperson told Dawn that the concept was to feature voices that had not been a part of previous PSL anthems.

“Naseebo Lal is an extremely talented, underutilised vocalist whose voice has the strength to carry this cricket anthem,” the official said, adding that Aima Baig brought a young energy to the composition, while Young Stunners were a natural choice for the line-up, being leaders in the local hip-hop scene of Pakistan.

“Cricket and music have always formed a natural union in Pakistan. The thought process was to pave the way for a new sound of cricket in Pakistan that appeals to the multi-dimensional audience that comes with Pakistan’s biggest cricketing event,” the spokesperson said.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2021

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