The pandemic has been very good for indie music in Pakistan. We’re staying home more, consuming media more, watching (Netflix, ahem) more and listening to music more than before. Since we can’t step out as much as we may have in our ‘previous’ life, there’s a greater incentive to find ‘something new’ online.
And it’s worked out for our independent and/or breakthrough artists — Abdullah Siddiqui released a couple of albums and went ‘mainstream’ with Velo Sound Station (VSS). Natasha Noorani broke through as an artist on the same show as well and followed that up with her own independent release, 'Chhorro', which has done very well. Natasha’s “brother” from her old duo Biryani Brothers, Zahra Paracha, has also been releasing new music, most notably with Lyari’s own Eva B on 'Mukhtasir Baatein'. And then there’s the breakthrough artist of 2021 — Hasan Raheem.
Whether you love him, hate him or love to hate him, he’s already released a number of songs that have done well with audiences and collaborated with other 2021 favourites, Maanu and producer Talal Qureshi. Whenever the pandemic allows, he’s also spotted doing small but packed live shows to audiences as well. Doing those small gigs is good, it’s hopefully going to give him time to perfect his live music set-up before the world is ready for larger performances.
Even though he’s still a little rough around the edges, Danish Roomi brings a fresh new sound and showcases his vocal chops in his latest release, 'Iraday'
New kid on the block
Another fresh voice away from the ‘usual’ Hasan Raheem-Maanu-Talal Qureshi sound one stumbled across is that of Danish Roomi. He’s only just recently released a new single (he has several out already) — 'Iraday' — and, while his overall sound is still a tad raw, he holds a lot of potential. Most importantly, he can sing. And in 'Iraday' he really does belt out the chorus lyrics pretty darn well.
Although it’s an electro-pop number, 'Iraday' has a very atmospheric Strings-esque quality in its musical arrangement. The song opens with finger picking, note-by-note, on a distorted guitar with an audible reverb, while a 4x4 programmed electronic beat kicks in with Danish’s voice vocalising the opening lyrics of the song.
What sets 'Iraday' apart is that the songwriters don’t talk about love as simplistically as most modern independent songwriters in Pakistan do.
Danish’s voice truly comes out in the somewhat simply written chorus of the song: “Jaltay diye/ Pe bhun chukay/ Dil ke meray/ Iraday thay jo”
[Burning lamps/ Have scorched/ The decisions/ My heart had made]
The artist credited simply as JANI comes in on a small, sweet, rap section. JANI has an interesting way of rapping, devoid of angst, almost matter-of-factly. In one part of the song, he vocalises: “Bass gaye ho dil mein tum aisay ke/ Dikhtay ho tum mujhay khud ki parchhayi mein/ Bichhray hain kuchh aisay tum se/ Ke badal ke rakh diye wafa ke maainay”
[You’ve made a place in my heart in such a way/ I see you in my shadows/ I’ve been separated from you in such a way/ That’s it’s changed what it means to be loyal]
The song is about love and dealing with complex feelings that arise as a result of that. What sets 'Iraday' apart is that the songwriters don’t talk about it as simplistically as most modern independent songwriters in Pakistan do. They’ve put in little metaphors here and there, beautifully, in Urdu. Lyrically and musically, the song sounds like a very good first draft. What they need is a mentor to help them perfect this.
Danish Roomi (and his crew) display a lot of potential. Danish has a fresh, new voice and he can really sing, even if he’s a little rough around the edges for now. It’ll be very exciting to watch him grow and evolve as an artist.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, August 29th, 2021