Among the fresh new voices on the diverse indie musical landscape of Pakistan is Zoha Zuberi’s. Her most well-known release to date, a catchy, multi-lingual electronic dance number called 'Kyun Chal Diye', is a popular track on radio stations even today, a couple of years after it was initially released.
It’s a well-produced number — you sometimes forget that it has been created and released in Pakistan — that stays with you long after it’s stopped playing.
Her other prominent song, an English song called 'Falling Stars', was released in December last year. It’s a very different track from 'Kyun Chal Diye', in that it’s geared more towards an indie, emo, alternative rock, acoustic, mid-90s sound along the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, Anna Nalick, M2M, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton and The Wreckers.
But while a lot of these names broke through and made a name for themselves and this sound in the ’90s and early noughties, in 'Falling Stars', Zoha Zuberi makes this unplugged, acoustic, emo sound her own.
'Thinking About You' sounds like a cookie-cutter version of an American pop song. Zoha Zuberi can do so much better
'Falling Stars' is a hauntingly beautiful number that enhances and works brilliantly with Zoha’s vocals. Gentle guitar strumming and humming creates a hypnotic mood similar to that in Ed Sheeran’s 'I See Fire', before Zoha starts singing. It’s an introspective number, where Zoha’s reflecting on the power she gives to others to hurt her and how she needs to protect herself. Her own backing vocals join in during the chorus, providing a rich sound to the song.
Her latest release, 'Thinking About You', a duet with an artist called Uzair, follows the same moody, emo vibe present in both the EDM track 'Kyun Chal Diye', and the alternative acoustic track 'Falling Stars'.
On a first listen, I will admit, 'Thinking About You' is a bit of a let-down. It sounds like a cookie-cutter version of an American pop song but sung by desis with incredibly affected accents. They’re just trying too hard. The colonial hangover in this one is very real. The production of the song is pretty decent, it grows on you, but the accents are very cringe-inducing.
The lyrics aren’t much to write home about either. The predictable chorus goes: “Thinking about you (x2)/ All the way to the end/ I’ll be thinking about you/ Breaking my heart now/ But I see you so close/ All the way to the end/ I’ll be thinking about you.”
Another bone of contention with the song is that while both singers have the affected accent down nearly perfectly, all they need to work on now is their elocution. On a lot of the words, it’s like their tongues just roll over them, as if expecting the listener to know what’s being sung by hunch alone.
Zoha’s released a number of songs to date, both hits ('Kuchh Kehna Chahta Hoon' is another intriguing number that grows on you) and misses. But with 'Kyun Chal Diye' and 'Falling Stars', one felt the singer/songwriter had attained a certain level of maturity in her craft, which does not reflect in 'Thinking About You' at all. You can do better Zoha, do much better.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, September 26th, 2021