If you’ve spotted the pattern of my posting schedule, you know that I can be a hermit at times. In fact, I have periodic episodes of quilt snuggling, chai-drinking, Netflix binging isolation. It happens when things are less than sunny, and continues until the sun shines again. And sometimes, as a result of said episode, something truly remarkable misses my radar. This time around, not one but five exceptional Pakistani songs completely evaded my notice.
And it was my loss.
How, in the name of all that is melodious, did I miss these gems? That being said, given how underrated some of these are, I’m guessing I wasn’t alone. So today, let’s try to make amends. These are five Pakistani songs that I missed, and I really shouldn’t have.
1. Saqi-e-Bawafa by Saakin
Now, this one got more than four hundred thousand views, so I really have no idea how I missed this. Like I said; hermit.
But having experienced it, I have to say that not only do I love the song, but I admire the effort.
This is a take on a very popular Sufi kalaam by Shams Tabrizi. Which unto itself makes this a daring piece of music. See, age-old Sufi melodies are widely respected and performed. Many of the most beloved Pakistani songs are in fact versions of these kalaams. Which means that some of the best vocalists have lent their talents in this regard.
For this particular case, here is a version of Saqi-e-Bewafa by Abida Parveen.
And this in my opinion, is what makes Sufi music a difficult task to master. Because you invariably open yourself to comparisons. But in the case of this song, I do feel that Saakin have been able to hold their own, beautifully.
The composition seems to draw inspiration from so many musical traditions, that the sound becomes difficult to place. Which I feel gives the immortal poetry the perfect platform. This message is universal, and even if you don’t understand the words, that feeling resonates.
I also have to talk about the music video. It takes a very talented filmmaker to take pedestrian elements, and elevate them to this level. A simple bonfire, a lake, some lanterns, everything takes on a new meaning. Reverberating with eternally prolific poetry. In an interview, director Ali Sattar said that he wanted to convey the poetry’s everlasting quality. I’d wager to say that he succeeded.
Saakin the band, and Ali Sattar are both exciting talents. And I really want to see what else they have up their sleeves.
2. Basanti by Shamoon Ismail
Let’s now turn to the one that inspired this list. Everybody hold your breaths as I say this, but I’ve been ignorant of Shamoon Ismail up till now.
I know, I know. Type that angry comment; I deserve it.
I do have an excuse, in fact I have many. The past couple of years have been really hectic. His genre of music isn’t really my forte. I don’t watch ALL of Nusair’s Instagram stories (sorry Nusair). But nothing excuses ignoring a talent of this magnitude. Which is something I can yell at the Pakistani music “industry” (*air quotes).
How can this guy be a part of our archive, and not be on every musical show, all the time? How has he not been awarded every musical award ever?
Now granted; Pakistani award shows are glorified publicity stunts. But still. How have we not only not given him due credit, but also ill-treated him?
I have spent the past twenty-four hours brushing up on his musical itinerary. And I now count myself amongst his fans. In fact I could just post a playlist of all his songs here. But, let’s focus on my favourite, which is a rare case of song and music video complementing each other perfectly.
‘Basanti’ is a masterstroke.
It combines the Punjabi blues style that Shamoon is known for, with an eclectic film-noir inspired music video. Everything about this production is perfect. Every single detail. From the melody, to the aesthetics, the ambiance, his hair, her eyeliner, all of it is perfectly placed.
Also side note…
Once upon a time Edgar Wright directed a music video staring my spirit animal, Noel Fielding. It shows a bank robbery, and a driver who likes music. A lot.
It was an idea that Wright liked so much that he later turned it into a feature length film. And thus Baby Driver was born.
Now, I’m not saying anything. But, I’m just saying; look at this!
It is so beautiful. Practically begging to be a cinematic experience.
Can someone please fund this movie, and make sure that Shamoon has the lead role? Thank you very much.
3. Fiction by Abdullah Siddiqui
Because of the internet, there are very few surprises left in my life any more. Twitter nitpickers ensure that I know the plot-twists of every movie, and Game of Thrones episode. Before I’ve actually seen them.
That is why when I get a proper surprise, it takes me a few minutes to recover.
Abdullah Siddiqui’s ‘Fiction’ was a proper surprise. The version I came across was part of a musical series by True Brew Tv. And it is one of my favourite examples of expectation versus reality.
As the video begins, an unassuming young man announces his name, and the name of his song. And then proceeds to literally leave you speechless.
I haven’t heard electronic music as mellow and engrossing as this in a long time. Nor did I know that a voice as smooth as his was hiding amongst the rabble of Pakistan’s music scene. Also, I hate that Pakistani songs like this do not get to a larger audience.
For me, young Mr. Sddiqui is also the answer to the question, “how talented are Pakistan’s undiscovered musicians?”
The answer, by the way, is “beyond anything anyone could imagine”.
4. Aamad by Hashim Nawaz
So I wrote a bit about Hashim Nawaz some time ago. And I really should have been more tuned in with his career since then. Because this young man his a special brand of unhinged.
Perhaps ‘Aamad’ offers just a glimpse of his yet unruffled talent. But it is a dazzling glimpse.
I heard in a film review that Rap as a genre is much more about writing, rather than melody. And here, the lyrics pull no punches. They showcase Hashim Nawaz as an artist, and as Pakistan’s frustrated everyday man. Everything said in the song, rings through the hypocrisy of our unacknowledged realities like a gong. I don’t know if Pakistan’s vibrant rap scene has all the answers. But I trust rappers like Hashim Nawaz to ask all the right questions.
Also, someone needs to put “Baaghi Na Puri Baghawat An” on a t-shirt.
5. Little Star by Ammar Farooki
So I almost didn’t include this one, because the studio version was uploaded just a few days ago.
But as it turns out, the live version of this gem has been on YouTube since last summer.
Which is really when this raspy, sensual voice should have gotten its day.
Who, might I ask, sings “twinkle twinkle little star” like this?
And how many of us would turn a nursery rhyme into a tragic, hauntingly romantic ballad?
This one is probably going to be on my list of favourite Pakistani songs, for a long time.
Now, a common theme throughout this article is the unfairness of the Pakistani music scene. Because let’s face it, artists here have their backs up against the wall. To create for them isn’t just about expressing themselves. But also doing this in spite of a society that tells them not to.
But despite the hiccups, can we all just come together and make this man a star? It would be tragic not to revel in his talent.
What Other Pakistani Songs Did I Miss?
Now, knowing myself, I can safely say that this list will have a part two. Maybe even a three and a four. And if there is something you think we overlooked, do send it over. Compiling this list was strangely gratifying; and I’d love to go down that route again.