This song can be heard streaming on the radio. It’s a favourite especially during the evening rush hour. The familiar tune and lyrics of the classic Chand Si Banno Meri Tere Hawale, made modern by infusing it with an electronic pop rock sound, is a perfect little release of eclectic sounds over the airwaves, needed to make a long drive home easy.

The band behind this version, Sikandar Ka Mandar, created this song in collaboration with a transgender community organisation based in Lahore called Track T. The organisation’s objective is to raise awareness about marginalised communities in Pakistan and promote “equality and inclusivity.” All of the proceeds from the song will to Track T.

The artist they’ve collaborated with, Jajji Jee, is someone they connected through Track T and belongs to the community. According to the band, “Jajji Jee was born in Kasur and has been singing from a very young age. Although she is not formally trained, Jajji Jee credits Baba Bulleh Shah for giving her the gift of song, and cites Madam Noor Jehan as one of her greatest influences. Despite being met with discrimination on the basis of her gender very early on in her career, Jajji Jee persisted and continued to sing all types of genres, including Sufi kalaam, naats, chalandars, dhamaals and ghazals.” This is Jajji Jee’s first collaboration with another musical artist.

You don’t have to have a wedding to play Chand Si Banno anymore, thanks to Sikandar Ka Mandar and Jajji Jee

The song takes its title and some of its lyrics from Chand Si Banno Meri Tere Hawale from the film Saheli (1960). It opens with Jajji Jee singing the lyrics from the original song, written by Fayyaz Hashmi, without any music accompanying her. This section, popular at weddings in the subcontinent, goes:

Mukhray te sehra daalay/ Aa jao aanay walay/ Chaand si banno meri teray hawalay [With a veil of flowers over your face/ Arrive, who is on the way/ My little moon princess is now yours]

The music comes on with Jajji Jee’s second iteration of the main lyrics, there’s the gentle guitar strumming before the music dives into a completely different, albeit incredibly groovy, direction. There’s the distorted guitars over moody electronic music.

The band presents their own lyrics here before going back to the original Chand Si Banno Meri Tere Hawale chorus verses. In this chorus section, Jajji Jee is accompanied by another female singer who’s providing backing vocals for her.

While the original song is a very moving, popular, now-forever-steeped-in-our-culture wedding song vocalised by a mother ‘giving’ her precious daughter away in marriage, the Sikandar Ka Mandar version of the song, with Jajji Jee, speaks mostly about the cruelty of society, of the loneliness that comes from suffering, especially discrimination. But it also talks about joining hands and supporting and protecting, and showing that those who are suffering are not alone.

There were many ways this mash-up of a classic wedding song with an indie pop-rock sound could’ve gone wrong, but it somehow works in this case. As far the interpretation is concerned, you don’t have to have a wedding to be a chand si banno. Marginalised communities, with its vulnerable members who head out into a cruel world every day, are chand si bannos too. And they deserve to be safe just as the mother in the original song is hoping her daughter will be.

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 24th, 2021

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