After providing a generation with the soundtrack to their lives, Ali Noor has switched gears from pop-rock tunes a la Noori to musical innovation via Strepsils Stereo.
This new platform for a cappella music has produced five tracks so far, with the latest being the fun Punjabi wedding track 'Billo'!
Images catches up with Ali Noor on going solo and his journey thus far with spearheading an innovative offering to the local music scene. Read on:
Images: Tell us a little about how the idea of producing a cappella music struck you?
Ali Noor: It’s an interesting story. While I was working with Reckitt Benckiser (RB) Pakistan on a project, I was in the process of setting up my own label, BIY (Believe in Yourself), with the simple thought of producing original music. This was like a eureka moment where I discussed the idea with the team at RB and there seemed to be a seamless connects with the brand.
That’s how Pakistan’s first a cappella platform happened under the banner of Strepsils Stereo. We tested the waters with ‘Khyaal Rakhna’ and it was an instant hit. Since then, we have produced five songs and worked with several upcoming artists and musicians introducing them to our local music industry.
Images: This is one of the first platforms to do a cappella music. Why do you think it was important to introduce it to the local audience?
Ali: Yes, stepping into the a cappella territory was risky because it was the first time it was being locally produced and launched. This type of music doesn’t require instruments but that’s also the fun bit of it because there is so much variation that can be created just through vocal sounds, mouth and claps. The a cappella format has two benefits; one, you can create your own music and two, you don’t have to play any instruments.
Those who don’t know how to play instruments can actually use this to their benefit and explore music and their talent at the same time. Also, we have great potential in this country and a lot of room for development in our music industry so it was important for our audience to step out of the nostalgic classics and enter into a new era of music.
Images: Your most recent a capella track ‘Billo’ was a wedding song. What was the inspiration behind it and how did you get the vocalists to come together for it?
Ali: We did ‘Rang De’ last year and it was an instant hit so we wanted to do another soundtrack for the wedding season. But ‘Billo’, from the beginning, had to be different than any other wedding song you have ever heard and we ensured that's what it delivers on.
Firstly, I'm sure you've never heard a Punjabi a cappella wedding song. Secondly, it was aimed at sending out a strong message, so while it delivers on the entire checklist of a fun wedding track fit for the dancing season, it also conveys a story. Ahsan Parvez, the creative genius behind this song, has absolutely nailed it with his vocals and melody.
I had just shared with him what I am imagining and this man knew how to put it on chords. We heard the song and felt the need for a female voice for the song. I came across Mehek, who shone through and effortlessly gave in her performance, nailing it. It’s a really tricky song especially when it's sung by two vocalists on the same pitch. Her key points came out so powerful and that's what made compiling this song together so much fun.
Images: You’ve also worked on Coke Studio as a composer. Tell us what kind of role corporations play in uplifting the local music scene?
Ali: I feel there is a need for creative intervention. Strepsils is an exceptional case because I have the freedom of creativity and that is why we have been doing so well. I believe creativity works best when it is separated from commercialism and that what the Strepsils team has given us the charge of.
Also, the Strepsils team involved in the process has a great music and artistic sense that works well in our favour. We work together as a team on songs and their feedback is equally important to us to ensure we keep on delivering on their vision of this platform.
Images: Your bandmate Ali Hamza has taken the reins for Coke Studio while you produce Strepsils Stereo. What is the future of your band Noori?
Ali: Both Ali Hamza and I want to explore our creative journey and evolve as musicians independently. It’s not like we have stopped working as a band, we will continue to do a few concerts annually or record some singles. But generally, now we are not pursuing the band Noori as a full-time professional act. I do think Noori is in a good place, whereby both Hamza and I are pursuing our careers but we reconnect to make something very special together. I think Noori has a very bright future.