One summer afternoon, many, many years ago, I was visiting Lahore and ended up at Hamza Jafri’s house. He was very casually playing the AC/DC track Thunder on his electric guitar, a rather difficult riff, and I was blown away.
Watching him play, I became convinced that Hamza was one of the most talented guitarists in the country. When I saw his band Co-VEN perform live in-person, my belief was solidified. But Pakistan isn’t exactly the kind of environment where talent is nurtured and blossoms. Co-VEN, like so many other great bands that have since come and gone, didn’t get the appreciation it deserved. It would certainly have got it in many other countries.
Later, Hamza married Nida Butt, who directed musicals such as Chicago, Mamma Mia! etc. Their first collaboration was Karachi: The Musical, which was pretty awesome, and also should have done a lot better than it did.
Then, after they had a couple of kids, they saw the dearth of local entertainment for children, and put together The Bobbles, a musical primarily for younger audiences. The Bobbles has been playing for small, very young crowds and not only do my kids love it, but my wife and I love it too.
Hamza Jafri’s Rickshaw is not just a song for kids. It has a universal age appeal
Rickshaw, one of the songs from the first season, is our favourite, and a brilliant display of Hamza’s genius. It’s also the only song that they have uploaded on YouTube, and plan on hosting on Spotify as well.
The first thing you hear is the motif of “rick-rick-rick-rick-rickshaw”, inspired by the sound made due to the difficulty with which rickshaws kickstart. In fact, a lot of the music is inspired by the sounds and experience of going on a rickshaw ride, and the distorted guitar synth sounds are meant to emulate the sound of a rickshaw engine, or the sounds of driving over bumpy Karachi streets.
The melody is really catchy, as it should be to appeal to children. But mind you, this is not just a song for kids, it has a universal appeal, with western as well as eastern elements. Hamza and Nida have done a great job with the lyrics as well, which are in both English and Urdu, unlike the rest of the tracks from the first season.
Halfway through, when it’s supposed to be night-time in the play, and the rickshaw’s LED lights come on, the song breaks down into a house track. That’s when the producer, Aamir Barolia’s EDM background kicks in, and it becomes even more fun.
The lead vocals are actually the demo track Hamza had recorded, and once they had laid down the music on top, they got used to it and decided to let it be. Two of the Bobbles cast, Hasan and Ayra, also sing on the track, both in the dance part of the song.
I haven’t seen the second season of Bobbles till the writing of this review, but I have to say that the first season was thoroughly entertaining, and Rickshaw is actually a really good song that more people should listen to.
Nofil Naqvi is a director/producer and a music enthusiast.
Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Dawn, ICON, November 20th, 2022