“It feels nice to finally be showcased because I’ve been showcasing artists my whole life, so it feels nice to have the tables turned,” chuckles singer-songwriter-festival director-manager and ethnomusicologist Natasha Noorani from over the phone in Lahore.
She’s known very well among Pakistan’s music circles as one of the co-directors of one of Pakistan’s most important music festivals, Lahore Music Meet, as a manager of Pakistani pop-rock duo Strings and, for those keeping a keen eye on the underground music scene, as one half of the retro-pop outfit Biryani Brothers.
But now, most of Pakistan knows her as the breakout star from the first episode of Velo Sound Station.
Her cool, retro-pop, electronic dance number Baby Baby that has her snapping her fingers and grooving to the sound of her own music in the video, had well over three million views on YouTube (at the time of writing this article) in just four days.
Her comfortable, seemingly effortless, eastern western fusion style and warm full voice has drawn comparisons to the likes of Nazia Hasan, no less. Woah. High praise indeed.
“It’s definitely daunting,” she says about suddenly finding herself in the national spotlight.
“I’m not used to that much audio-visual glitz and glamour. It’s definitely out of my comfort zone. But I feel I’m very happy and suited to just performing. So far, it’s still kicking in. it’s nice to be recognised for the skill I’ve been honing for so long.”
As someone who’s mostly kept herself behind the scenes in the music industry, did she always (secretly) know she could sing? And that too really well?
“I’ve been singing my whole life,” says Natasha. “My mother used to kind of teach me how to sing. My siblings are all very into music and musical in general. It’s been a musical environment to grow up in in that sense. I didn’t realise it would be something professional until my early-20s.
I just had to make the decision to try it out professionally — in any capacity, whether research or performance or anything. It didn’t just happen. It’s definitely been a goal I’ve been working towards for quite some time now.”
Bilal Maqsood, who produced Velo Sound Station, had initially reached out to her way back in January but Natasha was busy organising the Lahore Music Meet. She almost missed the opportunity to work on this song but reconnected the moment the she was done. By that time, Bilal had everything ready for her.
“He’d already written it out which was quite lovely of him to do,” she says. “He’s well aware of the kind of music I make, the kind of approach I have and the kind of person I generally am, which is not super glitz and glamour. So, it was experimental in that sense for me to be in this kind of project.
It was all him giving me that space and designing something that he thought would be the best use for or what would be suited to my voice, what he saw in me. It’s a nice thing to have in life.”
What was the inspiration behind Baby Baby?
“Bilal wrote the song, not me, so he’s the best person to tell you. My reading of this is, it’s kind of somebody saying, ‘Look, I’m the best you can get, this is it. I’m fantastic, acknowledge it’,” she laughs.
What was it like when the song was coming out?
“When it came out, there were lots of butterflies but it was a nice moment to share with my family and my friends,” says Natasha. “Everyone has been exceptionally supportive and there’s a lot of pyaar [love] in the air and that’s nice. It’s nice to feel nice. It’s rare [laughs nervously]. So I’m trying to revel in it for a bit.”
But Natasha is not one to rest on her laurels or focus on the hits this one song is garnering. There is still a lot of work left to be done.
“I’m in the middle of releasing a couple of collaborations with various local and international artists, but primarily my work is all geared towards the singles coming out for my next album, Raunaq,” she says.
“Hopefully we’ll have the next single and video out in the next couple of weeks, if all goes to plan. Lots of music and, hopefully, lots of research. But I’m trying not to stretch myself too thin.” You heard it here first.
Published in Dawn, ICON, November 29th, 2020