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The opening lines in the video quote one of Pashto’s famous poets, Ameer Hamza Shinwari, “The enemy brands it as a language from hell. To heaven I will go with Pashto.” The song, titled Za Pakhtun Yam (I am Pakhtun), by Naseer Afridi and Shahab Qamar is a slow, soulful number that pays homage to the Pakhtun identity and culture. It was born out of a need Naseer Afridi felt of shedding light on the more positive aspects of the Pakhtun society that he felt had been forgotten in the recent socio-political turmoil and the War against Terror (WoT).

“We Pakhtuns are in pain and agony. I could have made a controversial political song but I love the good side we have as well and wanted the world see that. I wrote the lyrics and Shahab motivated me and gave me technical assistance with everything,” said Naseer.

The lyrics are simple enough and other than the qualities of the Pakhtun culture, it mentions some of its great minds such as popular Pashto poet Khan Abdul Ghani Khan, popular artiste Haroon Bacha (who had gone into exile to the US several years ago after receiving threats to his life) and Sardar Ali Takkar, a Pashto musician famous for singing Ghani Khan’s poetry.

The first half of the video is in black and white and shows footage of Pakhtun men and women, of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, engaged in their lives. It focuses on their expressions and the diversity of the culture itself. Za Pakhtun Yam, directed by Kashif Ali, Asalan Mahmood and Naseer Afridi, was shot in and around Peshawar and Nowshera. The second half of the video sees a conversion of the black and white footage into colour as the song picks up in its intensity.

“We took a two-day tour of Peshawar and the Jalozai camp in Nowshera,” related Naseer, “Although I would see people in agony, and children with flies buzzing on their faces, there was a spark in their eyes that motivated me to show their smiles and expressions to the world.

“In Peshawar, I visited Islamia College, Bagh-e-Naran, Hayatabad, Shoba Bazar, Khyber Bazar and Kissa Khwani bazaar. It was epic. I dreamt something and it turned out to be more than that. I’m giving a shout out to all of the people who made the video possible,” he added.

Naseer and Shahab released the video last week and were overwhelmed by the response. “I wasn’t very confident but Shahab made me believe in what we had created,” said Naseer, “The credit goes to all of the non-Pakhtun people who loved the track even though they had to read the subtitles to understand what was being sung. They are playing their part in the love that we feel is spreading all across Pakistan.”

Naseer Afridi, who is also an actor and filmmaker, is currently based in Islamabad and Shahab Qamar, who is also a filmmaker and music producer is based in Brisbane, Australia. He is also a member of a band called Avid. Together, they had previously released a song that incorporated elements of hip hop, grunge and heavy metal, under the genre of Nu Metal, called Rise on your broken knees. Za Pakhtun Yam is their second release as a duo. “The reason Shahab and I started doing music together was so we could experiment and push ourselves to the limit,” said Naseer, “Rise on your broken knees was pretty much an inspiration from Linkin Park whereas Za Pakhtun Yam echoes directly from our hearts.” He added that, “Now that Shahab is coming back to Pakistan, we have some more brilliant work planned out.”

Fortitude releases So fly

They’re a rap band from Islamabad with lyrics predominantly in English with a bit of Pashto thrown in that gels perfectly in their songs.

Their latest single, So fly (slang for “I’m awesome”), isn’t a division from the kind of music that they’re known for. The video shows the band cruising the streets in their car and having a good time in the recording studio and a music store. The song is catchy and hummable for those who are blessed with the vocal dexterity to sing along to the lyrics.

Fortitude is composed of three artistes, Shahkar Alam Khan, Shumail Alam Khan and Mustafa Kamal. Their previous releases include the feel-good party number, Time Paas and a song completely in Pashto called Pahtun Core. They’ve amassed a considerable following in the short time they have been releasing their music online.