Cricket tends to make Pakistan emotional. And with the annual HBL PSL right around the corner, our passions are just about to let loose, cheering, ranting, venting on social media and taking not just the various matches to heart but also everything else associated with them – like the anthems especially composed for the show.
The yearly HBL PSL anthems tend to be a big deal, accepted wholeheartedly or, more often than not, subjected to plenty of online vitriol. Regardless, the cricket-oriented upbeat tunes are listened to incessantly and ring out on to the stadium in between matches. For good or for worse, they become memorable.
And Pepsi has decided to add its clout to the show by having a special PSL anthem composed of its very own. The song’s teaser releases later today and packs in the punches with a mix of popular veteran and young singers and a composer-producer who has a fan following of his very own.
Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, aka Xulfi, has composed and produced this song while it is being sung by an entourage that features Fawad Khan, Aima Baig, Haroon Shahid, Asfar Hussain (vocalist from the band Bayaan) and Bilal Ali (vocalist from the band Kashmir).
It is particularly good to note that Pepsi is trying to live up to its promise of promoting the young bands that have come into the limelight with its Battle of the Bands show. Pitting the two young vocalists from Bayaan and Kashmir with other, more commercially viable names is a step in the right direction.
The song is titled ‘Khel Ja Dil Se’ – quite apt for an anthem centered around cricket, a sport that has always been close to Pakistan’s ‘dil’. Some of the lyrics can be credited to Zulfi while the main chunk of them have been written by Adnan Dhool.
Zulfi describes the process of creating a song for the PSL: “It’s very important to think about the ideology behind the brand. What is the brand? Cricket. What is cricket? It is a sport that we excel in, that unites us and has the capability of giving us goose bumps. Then, I thought beyond cricket and turned to the magic of belief. Life is a game, just like cricket and if we play it with all our hearts, we are going to succeed. Hence, the title, ‘Khel Ja Dil Se’.”
“I have enjoyed blending together the voices of the different singers, using different microphones that suit their voice quality the best. The sound is very strongly electronically driven but it is a modern pop song – with lyrics that run deep. They talk about how failure is not a problem, it is an inevitable part of the journey that can lead to your success.”
As one of Pakistan’s most successful music producers, Zulfi has worked with almost every musician in the country but his journey particularly ties in with Fawad Khan, dating all the way back to the days when the two were part of the same band, Entity Paradigm or EP.
Last year, Zulfi co-wrote ‘Uth Jaag’ which Fawad performed in the show, Pepsi Battle of The Bands and now, they have worked together again for the Pepsi HBL PSL song. “Fawad and I do go a long way back,” agrees Zulfi, “and this song, I feel, particularly suits his vocals. That’s very important for a singer – to have a producer who understands exactly what could make him sound his very best.”
Zulfi, interestingly, has also produced the other, main PSL song, ‘Tayyar Hain’, sung by Asim Azhar, Ali Azmat, Arif Lohar and Haroon Rashid – a song that has weathered plenty of critique ever since its release. “
’Tayyar Hain’ is more like a national anthem. The world, at large, has often asked Pakistan if it is ‘ready’ or ‘tayyar’? And ever since the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, we have been trying to get ready, to bring cricket back to where it was. Now, we are declaring that yes, we are ready.”
Speaking about the bashing the song received, he says, “There’s nothing that we can do about it except try our very best. I put my heart into creating ‘Tayyar Hain’, as I have with ‘Khel Ja Dil Se’.”
He says out the very final lyrics of the song, “Tera ho jo lehron peh kinaray wohi lagta hai, Thakan jiske ho chehray pay chehra wohi hansta hai. This resonates with me and the songs that I write. I have put in a lot of effort, I am sure that I’ll reach the ‘kinara’ or be successful.”