After the incredibly catchy, albeit very short, 'Karachi is Love' and the beautiful 'Maare Kakya', which was released shortly after the first Covid-lockdown was imposed on us, Ali Hamza is back with another single — 'Sar Buland'.

Of late, it feels like Ali Hamza has been finding his own musical voice, separate from his pop-rock roots, the band he formed with his brother, Noori, and his other collaborations with his brother Ali Noor.

This musical voice, judging from the last few releases, is devoid of angst and melancholic darkness, and has multiple layers which add a richness to the electronically synced sounds he’s used with unplugged acoustic instruments. There’s a light, smooth, electro-pop element to the music, which harks back to a sound reminiscent of the late 90s, but always with an added element of acoustic instruments, to give it that rich earthy feel.

'Buland' is a song that talks about taking pride in the achievements of our girls and our women, and how their success is the community’s and the country’s success. For far too long have women been held back in Pakistan, it’s time to let them be free to achieve.

And it couldn’t come at a better time. 'Sar Buland' was released the same time news broke that Pakistani Zara Naeem Dar had topped the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) across the whole world. An immense achievement, worthy of celebration indeed.

'Sar Buland' is a slow, easy-to-listen to ballad. The focus has been kept on the vocals, the music is there to support them. There is the six-by-eight electronic drum beat that moves throughout the song and provides it with its slow pace. The music, mostly synced electronic bass sounds, provide great support for the vocalisations in both the main lyrics and the chorus.

One notable thing in 'Sar Buland' is the layering of the vocal tracks over each other, whether it’s to reduce the space between two sung lines to make the transition a little abrupt, or whether it’s to give an echo effect or feel to the main chorus. The chorus is supported by a small group of little ones that consist of Zayan Usman, Aqsa Asif, Nida Mian, Ismah Minhas and Adeela Asim.

The lyrics of 'Sar Buland' are quite simple and easy to follow. The video, conceptualised by Samar Minallah, also has subtitles of the lyrics running throughout. The main chorus is actually quite small and goes: Yeh sar buland hua/ Tere sar uthaaney se [I held my head up with pride/ When you held your head high].

This isn’t the first time Ali Hamza has created a track focusing on empowering girls and women. He is often credited for being the creative brain behind the conceptualisation and execution of 'Main Irada' — the feminist anthem in Season 11 of Coke Studio — that featured women singers and performers from different faiths, languages and ethnicities across Pakistan.

'Sar Buland' may not be as iconic as 'Main Irada', but it’s an effort worth mentioning nonetheless.

Published in Dawn, ICON. February 21st, 2021

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