It’s quite the norm for musicians to release love songs in February, when spring is in the air and Valentine’s Day is about to take place in all its confetti-laden, crimson-colored glory. And yet, it’s surprising when that love song is sung by Ali Noor.
It’s just that, Valentine’s Day or not, Ali Noor doesn’t usually sing love songs. He’s always been more likely to rage on about changing the world or changing yourself, eyes flashing, head banging, giving full rein to his phenomenal lunges. Sentimental romantic odes have never really been his thing.
But here he is in Strepsils Stereo’s latest edition this Valentine’s Day, singing a soulful ‘Dil Haara’ to a dusky Rabia Butt.
What made Ali veer into the emotion-laden territory of love songs? “I just thought that I had now had enough experience about love to be able to sing a song about it,” he quips. “I have always stayed away from love songs because usually I find them to be untrue, almost formulaic. A song about love needs to be meaningful and derived from genuine feelings. This is the second love song that I have ever sung and I wrote it nearly a year ago, taking inspiration from my own life experiences. I really liked it and was dabbling with the idea of perhaps releasing it as a single. But then it sounded so good in the acapella format that we are following within Strepsils Stereo. I decided to go with that.”
Is the song about his wife Mandana Zaidi, his wife and his co-producer in Strepsils Stereo? “I guess you could say that because I have been with her for as long as I can remember. We’ve known each other for 20 years now, not just as two people in love but also as two humans who happily know how to coexist together. Love is too stereotypical in our society. For me, it is a connection between individuals. This could be a man and a woman, a father and a son, two siblings and so on.”
What made him decide to caste Rabia Butt in the video? “Mandana knew Rabia from before and suggested that she would make a great choice. I am glad that we did opt for her. She looks great in the video.”
“Strepsils often chooses to release songs timed with national holidays or seasons. During shaadi season, we released a wedding season and closer to 14th August, there will always be a patriotic song. Releasing this song right now, closer to Valentine’s Day, made sense.”
The song is certainly getting attention but it is quite noticeable that Strepsils Stereo is opting to grow organically. The show invests less on advertising and its growth on social media is also more realistic. The followers are increasing over time rather than shooting up unbelievably as is the case with most corporate shows, where paid followers, likes and commentaries are quite the norm.
“That is something that they may choose to do,” says Ali. “But I like the fact that we have kept it real with this platform. I primarily developed Strepsils Stereo because I wanted to drive home the message that local musicians need to work on more original songs and stop depending on covers. I have been producing mostly original music on this platform and I think that now we’ve reached the next step. We’ll soon be opening doors to other musicians, inviting them to sing an original song for Strepsils Stereo.”
Does he think that other musicians will agree to this given how making covers often attracts an audience more easily, since the listeners are already familiar with the song? “I think the veteran lot of musicians, singers like Ali Azmat, for instance, would agree. I was disappointed when Junoon decided to revamp ‘Khudi’ last year in collaboration with a biscuit company. I would expect a band like Junoon to come up with an all new original song. And I think that they would, if a platform like Strepsils Stereo was made available to them. I also want to encourage the younger musicians who are depending so much on covers. They need to start making more new music as well.”
And he plans to continue on with Strepsils Stereo? “Yes, it’s been great so far,” says Ali. “They have allowed me complete creative freedom to build the kind of platform that I wanted to. I refused to produce season 10 of Coke Studio precisely because I didn’t want to end up stifling my creativity while my brother Ali Hamza went ahead with it. He has had his own experiences with it but I am happy that, with Strepsils Stereo, there is no obsessive pressure on me to get social media hits and gain massive following overnight. I wouldn’t have been able to operate like that because no one can order me around. I, also, don’t boss anyone. With Strepsils Stereo, we’re operating on a mutually happy middle-ground.”