Some days ago, in another one of my brilliant brain vomits, I wrote that Music and Pakistan have developed a somewhat estranged relationship. While that has been true for a painfully long while now, it hasn’t stopped some songs from becoming absolute icons. They left a lasting impact on Pakistani pop culture, so much so that Pakistani Millennials use knowing them as validation. They make it on every playlist imaginable. From the riksha wala’s oversized sound systems to the iPhones of the average burger-bois. They are now part of the very fabric of our culture and internationally renowned, most of all, they make us proud to be Pakistani.
So without further adieu, here are some of Pakistan’s most iconic songs!
1) Eye to Eye By Taher Shah
Yeah I know, this was the most obvious choice. While I agree with the general consensus that it’s successor ‘Angel’ is the superior song, it was never able to reach the same level of fame that this one did. I do feel the video of this song has to be thanked for this. I mean Taher Shah’s amazing dance moves, the surprise double role and can we talk about all the randomly beautiful pictures of him in the background?
Beyond that, the song is a lyrical masterpiece! You don’t hear Beyoncé singing about her “Happy-killer love” now do you? Personally, this song gives me major eye envy. If I had Shah’s “spectrum eyes” that can see love, I wouldn’t be so unlucky or single AF.
These are just a few reasons for this song being as iconic as it is. It’s even famous overseas, so much so that international celebrities have been compelled to honor it via touching tributes, with Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh being one of the most famous people to do so. Seeing that made every chest in the country swell up with immense pride.
2) The Eidi Song By Shabolonna
The artist of this legendary song is described as possibly being the offspring of Taher Shah, from entry 1. While those reports are unconfirmed, it’s easy to see why they would have been fabricated in the first place. Ms. Shabolonna is every bit as talented as Mr. Shah and this song is irrefutable proof of that.
The lyrics, set to an infectious EDM beat, embodies the feelings that every Pakistani child, and man-child has on Eid day; GIVE ME MY DAMN EIDI! It’s as if our prayers were answered and all our good deeds in the Month of Ramadan rewarded, when on Eid morning, we woke up to find this tune on our feeds. Finally, we had a song that could be our anthem and now, twice a year, we play it loud and proud.
3) Parha Nahi Meine Pura Saal by Waqar Zaka
Another timeless anthem by another legendary artist. This is another song that…yeah I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard to keep writing this with a straight face. I work in a closed office, and people have already come to check on me twice, citing strange noises. I brushed them off saying I didn’t hear anything, but I can’t keep avoiding questions about my strange repressed laughs.
Anyways, I did start this article off seriously and I have planned to share with you some truly iconic songs. I mean, did you really believe I was seriously so enamored by these musical fails to gush over them like school girls do over Justin Bieber? If you did, you clearly don’t know what sarcasm is. Though one thing’s for sure, these songs are iconic. For being so bad, that they’re good. But they belong on that list, not here.
Now, following are a few songs that actually do get played by riksha walas and burger bois a like. Yeah, I promise I’m serious now, will you just scroll down and read?
So the brief for this article was 10 iconic songs of our generation. There were a few ways I could have gone about this. The most obvious was to look at every Pakistani song that was released in the last ten years, judge them based on their impact and then pick ten. It also was the most clichéd.
Beyond that, I felt given the drought faced by the industry in the last ten years, this list would have just comprised of Coke Studio songs and you all know I prefer Pepsi. So I decided to broaden the criteria a bit. I took aim instead at the people of my generation and looked towards the songs they consider iconic. The result was a lot of songs to sift through but I did manage to get a list of seven, I think that’s enough for now. Plus, The Kollective has me on a strict word count. So in no particular order, here are 7 of the most iconic Pakistani songs, in the eyes of our generation.
1) Hamesha By EP (Entity Paradigm)
Let me take you to a bygone era. One before Fawad Khan graced our screens as Ashar Hussain in Humsafar. Back to when he was the front-man of one of Pakistan’s hottest young bands, EP. Runners up of the original Pepsi Battle of the Bands, they introduced Pakistan’s youth to the joys of head-banging. ‘Hamesha’ was the biggest hit off their first and only album. Combining progressive rock with a soulful voice, singing about undying love and an unexpected but savvy rap verse, the song was an instant hit.
When EP reunited on the sets of the show that shot them to fame, performing this song, Pakistanis collectively lost it.
2) Do Pal Ka Jeevan/ Dekha Na Tha By Atif Aslam, Fawad Khan and Meesha Shafi (Originals by Vital Signs and Aalamgir respectively)
Okay, I know this entry is fairly recent, and a mashup of two timeless and iconic songs. But what happens when you combine two, timeless, iconic songs? Well you either get incoherent dribble or pure magic. This, thankfully was the latter. Upon release, the song went viral instantly, stacking up over a million views in its first day. It also brought together three of the most talented people together on the same track while also being the ultimate tribute to two icons of Pakistani music.
3) The Sibbi Song By Abid Brohi and Some What Super
Another recent song yes but with this one, it’s the story behind it that makes it iconic. In January of this year, our timelines were flooded with a young Balochi boy rapping over a catchy EDM tune. The music entranced us while the rapping excited us. Then we learned that Abid Brohi was an errand boy who doesn’t know how to read or write but taught himself to rap. His talent caught the attention of the cool cats at Patari and they made sure the whole nation knew who he was.
4) Tajdar-e-Haram By Various
I say “by various” for this and the next entry simply because there are several, equally popular renditions. But for the purpose of this list, I’ll be looking at those performed by Atif Aslam and The Sabri Brothers.
Yeah surprise surprise I’m praising a Coke Studio performance. Get your bets and payments over with already jeez. In all seriousness though, both versions are incredibly soulful. While Atif’s does stray away from the Qawali origins, it doesn’t lose either its message or its intensity.
On the other hand, you have the definitive performance by the legendary duo, The Sabri Brothers. It encompasses all that Qawali is about; devotion expressed though Music. Atif’s version is now standing at an incredible 95 million views on YouTube while there are a multitude videos on the site, with a total view count easily exceeding 100 million for the Sabri Brothers’ version.
5) Laal Meri Pat By Various
In my last article, I expressed my sheer disgust at the treatment of this eternal classic by Coke Studio. Some things just should be messed with, they’re perfect just as they are. This is one of them.
The original poetry was written centuries ago by Amir Khusrow and then further modified by Baba Bulleh Shah. Yet even today, it touches the hearts of millions, young and old alike. I guess its celebrity is only fed further by the sheer amount of amazing artists performing it, each one as legendary as the next. Noor Jehan, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, The Sabri Brothers, the list goes on and on.
6) Disco Deewane By Nazia Hassan
Few people are as synonymous with Pakistani Music as Nazia Hassan. I would even go as far as to say, Pakistani pop music as it is today wouldn’t have existed had it not been for her and her equally talented brother Zoheb Hassan.
Today, 17 years after her untimely demise, her voice is still alive and well in our hearts and on our playlists. This song is probably her most recognizable work, which even today inspires audiences and artists alike.
I mean the incomparable Zeb Bangash sampled the hook in her latest song ‘Sureela Samandar’ which she performed on Pepsi Battle of the Bands. It’s even been remixed for Bollywood movies. But then again, which popular Pakistani song hasn’t?
7) Dil Dil Pakistan by Vital Signs
No list about iconic Pakistani songs is complete without a mention of the song that has become the unofficial national anthem of Pakistan. These days it’s even more nostalgic since the passing of both Junaid Jamshed and Aamir Zaki.
So now we don’t just get filled to the brim with patriotism but also all sort of feels about the loss of two legends. It doesn’t matter when or where this song is played, even if it’s on the streets of London or blaring loudly on speakers too disproportionately large for the riksha they’re on. Once the vibrations of this song hit our ears, the minimum effect on every Pakistanis is a crazy, ear to ear smile. The maximum is us singing along at the top of our horribly cracked voices. It doesn’t matter how old you are; you will sing along. If you don’t, not only can we never be friends, I will also put up missing posters for your heart.
What Pakistani Songs did I miss?
Now I’m well aware that there are many more songs that could have made this list. I can easily spend a lifetime talking about all of them and not run out of material. But then the Kollective will never be able to publish this and Ushah Kazi will make sure… well I don’t want to think about that. So if I’ve missed anything, oh Lord Commenters of the Internet, forgive my transgressions and please do let me know.