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The 10 best Pakistani pop songs of 2011

December 30, 2011

The promising Pakistani music scene is still moving slower than we expected this year. Coke Studio and more recently Uth Records, however, have emerged on the scene as two great platforms for enthusiastic musicians to aspire to.

Nevertheless it’s been a productive year of music with new entrants into the scene as well as old faces establishing their musical bonafides, making sure they escape the dreaded one-hit-wonder label.  From the established folk duo of Zeb and Haniya to the acoustic musings of Poor Rich Boy and the prodigious talent that is Usman Riaz. Here’s our take on the best songs of 2011.

10. Strings Mein tou Dekhoonga

Strings are by far the elder statesmen of the Pakistani music scene. And like much of their music, this simple and heartfelt song touched a lot of people by channeling the ubiquitous sentiment of hope. It’s an anthemic tune and sounds like a radio-friendly “Hum daikhaingay” ala Iqbal Bano. It could be criticised as rather safe and feel-good, but then again, that’s the sound that this duo has established for themselves, and they are still going strong.

9. Aag Mitti

This rock ’n’ roll out fit has been around for a while now. And with this well produced cover for Junoon’s 20th anniversary has followed in their rock/fusion vein. It’s simple and straight forward, with some crunchy guitars maintaining the feel of the original yet adding a bit of edge as well.  While the vocals are sound and do justice to the haunting lyrics, but we still have to say, he’s got nothing on Ali Azmat.

8. Zeb and Haniya Kya Khayaal Hai

Zen and Haniya have established themselves as a mainstay of the folk genre. And this is simply another great song by the dynamic duo in collaboration with Indian artists in a new show called the Dewarists. It might not be their best relative to the high bar they’ve set for themselves, but it still delivers with solid performance and songwriting that we have come to expect from them.

7. Sajid and Zeeshan Walk on Air

Sajid and Zeeshan are among of our most innovative musicians, and always present songs with a sound that is unique and pushes the boundaries just a little each time.  Their latest release, like many of their other songs, is an interesting blend of electronic and acoustic sounds and with an equally eye-catching video. Though the beats sound slightly derivative, the vocals and composition are great

6. Alamgir and Kristie Yung Keh Dena

It’s always refreshing to get a blast from the past now and then. It’s wonderful to see the ailing veteran’s old signature sway on a well-produced new music video.  This version of “Keh Dena” is a great way to revitalize a classic for the newer generation, and highlights how great the original was. Kristie Yung adds both novelty element along with her skill to this classic, and her voice adds a range and depth to the track.

5. Natasha Ejaz The Right Way to Fall

Ejaz seemed to be well on her way to be the KT tunstall of Pakistan.This soul/pop number is one of the gems brought to us by the new Uth Records show. The crew has helped the Ejaz turn her composition into a single that has a great western sound. It’s a great composition that isn’t just ‘good for a Pakistani’, but simply a great effort for young musician like Ejaz. We look forward to what she has brewing for the future.

4. Usman Riaz Firefly

There’s no questioning Riaz’s prodigious talent and facility with his instruments. A trained pianist, his skill with a guitar has that visual wow factor, as he extracts the percussive and melodic capabilities of the guitar. His pure approach to making music comes across instantly and we won’t be surprised if his name is uttered in the same breath as the likes of Aamir Zaki, Mekaal Hassan  and Faraz Anwar.

3. Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Kangna

Coke Studio has become synonymous with amazing live performances and “Kangna” performed by qawwals Ayaz and Muhammed is one of the seminal performances. It’s a great performance that fuses the soul and history of qawwali to more modern accoutrements of rock music. Gumby’s drumming stands out with a mixture of odd time signatures and versions like this are making classical music palatable to younger audiences.

2. Poor Rich Boy Fair Weather Friend

Well known among Lahore’s underground circuit, the band has surfaced with their brand of sincere music, with well thought out poetry, and intelligent songwriting executed with maturity. For a change, here is a band that exudes a certain genuineness, with songs that have depth and layers that leave interpretation up to the listener.

1. Yasir and Jawad Reidi Gul

Yasir and Jawad made quite a splash when they came up with a bearded vocalist from Orakzai Agency who sang about peace and love. They don’t strike one as a one-hit wonder like many other bands in the past. This song is easily the find of the year and does great justice to Ghani Khan’s poetry that many people would not have read or understood had it not been for this beautiful rendition. It’s great to see musicians from around Pakistan, apart from urban cities like Karachi and Lahore, come to the fore.