Poor Rich Boy is back. The band has a knack for producing the kind of music that sounds like it was composed and performed in the privacy of the creator’s most personal space — his bedroom. It features the kind of poetry that comes through in the late hours of the night, when the world is very still outside.
Their latest release initially comes as a surprise. The band has carved a niche for itself by exclusively singing in English. But its most recent offering, 'Yaqeen', is their first Urdu track.
“We’ve been in the studio, off and on, for the last six months, recording what will hopefully be our final studio album before the climate crisis destroys civilisation as we know it,” posted the band on their social media pages. “This particular song, however, is not from that album. This is the sixth song from another album (an Urdu one) that we’ve been working on, intermittently, for what feels like hundreds of years…”
The song begins with a soft acoustic solo, the microphone capturing the sounds of the guitar strings making a squeaking sound as the fingers slide over them. The singing starts almost immediately afterwards. Softly yet clearly, these verses open the song:
Poor Rich Boy pleasantly surprises with its first Urdu track, 'Yaqeen'
Woh kehta hai/ Mujhay hai yaqeen/ Ek aisi baat ka/ Kabhi jo na hui/ Yeh kaisi shaam hai/ Jo dhalti hi nahin/ Aur yeh duaein/ Jo un daaghdar haathon se uthien
[He says/ I believe/ Something that/ Never happened/ What kind of an evening is this/ That never seems to end/ And the prayers/ That emanated from these sinful hands]
The singing is accompanied solely by the sound of the acoustic guitar. The soft vocalisation of the verses makes it feel like the words are being whispered into the microphone and, through that, directly into our ears. It lends an intimacy to the song.
Soon after, the backing vocals (by the lead singer himself) join in. Collectively, the layered singing gives a soft-rock choir-like feel to this part of the song.
Woh kehti hai/ Woh nawaa-e-hazeen/
Kaisi ajeeb hai/ Koi zor hi nahin/
Aur kitnay khwaab hain/
Bulandiyon mein gum/ Tamam deep sar-e-shaam so gaye aur ek tum
[She says/ That sound of sadness/ Is so strange/ It has no force/ And how many dreams/ Are lost in the heights/ All the lamps have gone to sleep in the evening and then there’s you]
Up until this point, the song is almost meditative. But then the song suddenly shifts gears, reaching a synth crescendo — but only for a few seconds before re-launching into the slow plod of the meditative lyrics.
Eventually, the vocals zero in on the following lyrics, repeating them again and again until they are no longer separate, but are merged:
Woh kehti hai/ Mujhay hai yaqeen/ Zameen par sitaron ka guzara hi nahin/
Woh kehta hai/ Mujhay hai yaqeen/ Par humaray paas aisi baaton ka koi jaga nahin
[She says/ I believe/ The stars can’t survive on earth/ He says/ I believe/ We don’t have the space for such banter]
The song ends on a musical section of distorted guitars. The songwriting that using verses to build up the storytelling, the soft, intimate vocals, the acoustic merging with the occasional electronic new wave effect, all give a very strong Simon and Garfunkel feel to the song. The track seems heavily influenced by the music of that era.
It’s a beautiful number that stays with you long after the song has ceased playing. And it’s definitely testament to the fact that PRB can — and should — write more songs in Urdu.
Published in Dawn, ICON, September 12th, 2021