In an interview given to this website last week, veteran musician Farhad Humayun made some very surprising comments regarding female musicians in Pakistan.
Speaking on the launch of a new web-based music show he is helming, Farhad said he was struggling to find female musicians for the program, citing that “girls either don’t have original music or have parental issues.”
This came as a surprise, coming from a musician who has worked in a band with one of Pakistan’s greatest current female vocalists, Meesha Shafi. Moreover, it is strange to see someone at the helm of a show being sponsored by an international brand like Levi’s express such unprogressive views. However, what does sound familiar in his claim is how most people these days assume that just because they can’t find it, original Pakistani music doesn’t exist.
With this concern in mind, I hope to do Farhad (and others) a favour by compiling a list of five young, talented Pakistani female musicians who are creating exciting and original music.
I will, however, concede that I don’t know if any or all of them have supportive parents, but I have no doubt that they redress the Overload drummer's primary issue.
Roots recently released a single of her upcoming EP. The song is called 'Hold On', and its composition has a very essential lounge feel to it. Roots had first come to fame for her cover of Coldplay song, 'The Scientist', and has since released two more singles, each of which show off her laconically luxuriant voice.
2) Noorzadeh Raja
Then there is Noorzadeh Raja, who has a voice like the morning sun, and has put out one of my favourite indie songs over the past year, 'Undone'. The accompaniment of the sitar in the song is a touch of genius, and adds the necessary adornment to Noorzadeh’s captivating voice. Her latest single, 'Another Day', shows off her effortless charm and the depth of her lyrics.
I'm pretty sure Farhad has heard of Slowspin. The experimental, electronic singer recently bagged the Lux Style Award for Best Emerging Talent, and over the last few years has distinguished herself as one of the most relentlessly original artists in Pakistan. Creating fabulously layered, avant-garde compositions, she creates unique pieces using her voice as an instrument that often serves to upend rather than present a narrative.
4) Natasha Humera Ejaz
Speaking of musicians that I can’t imagine Farhad (or anyone else not knowing of), there is Natasha Humera Ejaz, who was also nominated for several LSAs this year. Her last EP, Till the End of Time, was in my mind the best album of the year. Natasha’s songs took Urdu pop towards a very jazz-infused soundscape, creating songs that really set themselves apart from anything released in this country over the last decade.
5) Sameen Qasim
Another great female vocalist is Sameen Qasim, who first came in the spotlight for her Nescafé Basement cover of 'Boom Boom'. I was also fortunate to hear her perform a wonderful set at the first Lahore Music Meet, which led to her being featured on the first Patari Aslis album with her band, Hawai Jahaz. She has since done a couple of other collaborations as well, and is expected to release new music soon.
There are just five names amongst dozens more that one can take when looking for young, original female musicians in Pakistan. Each of them is not just a vocalist, but are also very talented at songwriting and composition, and have each shown the ability to elevate the contemporary pop sound into something more exciting and enchanting.
I am willing to concede that even within the great diversity shown in this line-up, they might not be what the producer of (yet another) corporate show wants to hear, but I would argue that no one can deny their originality. Indeed, given how impressive and storied the history of female musicians is in our country, it is long overdue that artists shed such misogynistic views.
Patari Charts Roundup
As always, I’m going to finish off the column with a look at the top 20 songs on Patari over the past week. As expected, this week’s charts show more dominance by Coke Studio, with 15 songs in the top 20. Noori’s 'Par Channa' tops the chart, though many aficionados have found themselves turning to the Zinda Bhaag version after listening to it.
Atif’s 'Dil Dancer' is one of the few non-CS songs to remain into the charts, and with the film Actor In Law now released, expect this song to gain in strength.
Finally, the charts are rounded off by Assad Hasanain’s 'Mazloom', a song that remains one of the finest protest anthems as well as some of the most introspective satire to come out of Pakistan since our long war started.