This is such a good time for Pakistani music. This coronavirus pandemic lockdown has seen a massive proliferation of Pakistani music online.

Only in the last two weeks, we’ve seen major releases in the form of the man-of-the-moment, Hasan Raheem, releasing yet another couple of singles, one with Abdullah Kasumbi called Adjust and a solo titled Rovalio. There’s this new soulful, acoustic track, Take Your Time, by Umair Ali and Zoha Zuberi. Then there’s Faris Shafi who came out with another multi-lingual, catchy, quirky rap number, Lafz.

And finally, after days of releasing teasers online via model and popular Instagram content creators (ahem, influencers) along the likes of Eman Suleman, Swineryy etc, Meesha Shafi has created a bang of her own with her brand new single Hot Mango Chutney Sauce.

This quirky, catchy banger of a track is full of hooks, puns and double-entendres. Let us elaborate.

Meesha Shafi is back and kicking up a storm with her latest release, Hot Mango Chutney Sauce

The song begins with a dubstep-ed, slightly altered version of a popular desi tongue twister whispered by Meesha who’s pronouncing all of the ‘chay’ and ‘tay’ sounds with absolute relish: “Chandu ke chacha ne/ Chandu kee chachi ko/ Chandni raat mein/ Chandni Chowk pe/ Chandi ke chamach se/ Jimmy Choo ki chutney chatayee”

[Chandu’s uncle/ Got Chandu’s aunt/ Under a moonlit night/ At Chandni Chowk/ With a silver spoon/ To taste Jimmy Choo’s sauce]

The song launches into a catchy electro-pop number in Punjabi with a bit of Urdu and English sprinkled in that, in its own fun way, is both a take on capitalism and toxic masculinity. The beauty in the lyrics is that you can’t be 100 percent sure exactly who she’s referencing — it could be an individual or a whole group of people (cough, former frenemies, cough).

Take the opening lyrics: Main kaindee aan tu next level/ Te assi gaye haar/ Lakhan de bag teray/ Heeryaan de bahaar/ Vadday shades lagayee phirdee/ Vichay imported car/ Te saaday naseeb shukar ay/ Daal chawal achaar

[I say you are next level/ I’ve lost (to you)/ You’ve got very expensive bags/ Drowning in diamonds/ (You) go around in fancy shades/ And an imported car/ But I’m very grateful that I get/ Lentils, rice and pickles]

While the simple-yet-catchy chorus is a two liner: Hot mango chutney sauce/ Te naalay lip gloss [with lip gloss]

Desi bhi, style bhi, the song also celebrates the colourful, modern, post-colonial, vibrant and somewhat feisty South Asian aesthetic through both its music and music video (co-directed by Meesha Shafi herself along with Awais Gohr).

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you,” the singer re-posted this quote attributed to Oscar Wilde in the days following the release of her song. She reaffirmed the statement by hinting in an Instagram live session with her music producer, Abdullah Siddiqui, that a lot can be said freely with humour as opposed to talking about the issue straight out.

There’s a cameo appearance by one of Swineryy’s (from Instagram) most popular characters, Leena aunty, who reminds people at the very end that, “Consent is very important.” Ahem.

To her hater(s), Meesha only has one thing to say (from the song): Why are you so jealous? / Teray aansoo mangay umbrellas [Your tears demand an umbrella] / Why are you so jealous baby? / Hunn duss de [Say it]/ Just tell us.

Just tell us, indeed.

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 19th, 2021

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