“Pop music has its own feel,” Bilal Maqsood had said to Icon during an interview, shortly after the first videos from the show he had just launched, Velo Sound Station, came out towards the end of last year. The show re-introduced people to fun, light, peppy pop music (with a little bit of rock thrown in for good measure) and had caused quite a stir. Several songs from the show ended up becoming hits that year — there was Umair Jaswal’s Gagar, Meesha Shafi’s version of Boom Boom and Natasha Noorani’s Baby Baby to name a few.

“[Pop music] is more electronic,” Bilal had stressed. “It has a wider audience, it’s more current. Every country in the world has its own pop culture that gives power to the youth. It gives youngsters something to identify with. It could be bekaar cheezein [useless things], superficial, fluff… but it’s important to them.”

I was reminded of his words while listening to the music Pakistani artists have been releasing this year. Whether it’s music from internet favourites such as Shamoon Ismail, Abdullah Siddiqui, Hasan Raheem, Maanu, Talal Qureshi, Natasha Noorani, Zahra Paracha, Young Stunners and Faris Shafi or a host of other one-hit-wonders, the work they’ve been releasing embodies everything Bilal Maqsood mentions makes up pop music and more.

The newest sensation from Lahore, Maanu, released a sweet, peppy number recently that’s been fun to listen to. Kidhar? is from Maanu’s upcoming album, the wittily titled Sakuna Matata — a play on the Swahili phrase made popular in the Disney cartoon movie, The Lion King (1992), ‘hakuna matata’ [No trouble].

Kidhar? by Maanu is a playful, romantic number that shows the singer’s softer side

The song has been written, composed and performed by Maanu and has been produced by Zahra Paracha and Talal Qureshi. It’s an electronic pop song, a romantic number that brings Maanu out of the blues (finally!) and into the light of young love.

There’s an incredibly sweet quality to the song, an innocence that has one smiling throughout its listen. The object of his affection may have inspired Maanu to write this song, but with Kidhar? he’s managed to rap his way into our collective hearts.

He begins the song with the sweetest lyrics about how it all began:

“Lighting fires/ She’s lighting fires in my heart, man/ Khoye huay sapnon mein phassa from the start [Lost in dreams, I was caught from the start]/ Like a lighter/ Chingari bani aag [A spark turned into fire]/ Hum donon ke beech hui aisi shurooaat [That’s how it all began between us two]/ I’m a fighter/ Par ab kaisay larroon khud se [But how do I fight with myself?]/ Kaisay boloon main aaya teray dil mein rukne [How do I tell you I’m here to stay in your heart?]”

The chorus has him reaching out to the object of his affection, begging to be reunited:

“Bol tu kidhar, kidhar/ Aaja paas warna tanha lagay raat/ Bol tu kidhar, kidhar/ Zara bol na, adhoori chhorri baat [Tell me where are you?/ Come to me, the night feels lonely/ Tell me where are you?/ Speak, don’t leave anything unsaid]”

Maanu’s easygoing style of delivering his lines and near-perfect elocution of the words make Kidhar? not only a fun track to listen to, but also a song that’s easy to sing along to. It’s a cute, silly song, celebrating one of the sweeter moments in life.

“Sometimes, silly is good,” Bilal had added in the same interview. “There’s no ‘higher purpose’ to pop music. It’s all about having fun.” I strongly feel Maanu embodies that sentiment completely.

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 10th, 2021

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