This is a fun trip down memory lane. After the quietly popular Jo Tu Chahay that stand-up artist Hassaan Bin Shaheen and music producer and vocalist Arhum Sameed collaborated on, they’ve come out with 'Woh Bhi Kya Din Thay'. True to its title, it’s a song that works on pure Pakistani ’90s nostalgia.
This is not a song to take seriously at all. It’s not ground-breaking or very unique and I suspect it will not have much recall value. 'Who Bhi Kya Din Thay' is just a fun song to listen to in the present.
We have Hassaan Bin Shaheen starting the song off simply and unassumingly, listing all of the items and activities that were very much a part of our lives back in the ’90s and early noughties — the children’s television show that came on PTV, Ainak Wala Jinn [The Bespectacled Djinn], Go Go Pan Masala, chicken tikkas that cost 15 rupees, crushes on English teachers, Physical Training (PT) classes in school, playing Sonic or Mario Brothers on your Sega console, among other things.
Pretty quickly, the song touches upon more controversial times. Hassaan Bin Shaheen raps, “MQM uss waqt layti thi bhattay/ Cricket team uss waqt lagati thi sattay [MQM used to take protection money/ Our cricket team used to place bets]”… and in another section: “Zindagi kamal thi/ Har haftay harrtaal thi [Life was great/ There was a strike every week].”
Hassaan Bin Shaheen’s and Arhum Sameed’s collaboration 'Woh Bhi Kya Din Thay' works on ’90s nostalgia while Maanu’s lovey dovey offering 'Close 2 U' is so sweet it will give you diabetes
And then the song draws parallels between back then and now. And how things haven’t changed: we still don’t know who’s really running the country, people are still unhappy, the rupee is still sinking. And he questions, why haven’t things changed? We are often happy thinking about the past, believing life was better back then, but was it really?
'Who Bhi Kya Din Thay' is a socio-political commentary on Pakistan kay halaaat [situation] disguised as a fun, pop song. As timely and insightful as the observations in the song are, it’s no 'Purani Jeans'.
After the lovesick 'Kidhar' a month ago, where we saw Maanu shed his dark, disillusioned, cynical, bluesy self to reveal his softer more romantic side, where he exhibited an almost naïve innocence that is very endearing, we now have his latest lovey dovey offering, 'Close 2 U'.
This electropop, Urdu-English-Punjabi song is so sweet it will give you diabetes. 'Close 2 U' features another electro-pop rap artist whose star is currently on the rise in the independent music scene in Pakistan — Rozeo.
I wouldn’t say it’s better than 'Kidhar' but, like most songs that Maanu has released from his upcoming album Sakuna Matata, you can dance to 'Close 2 U' while singing along. 'Close 2 U' is a song for a love interest that doesn’t know he/she is a love interest. Maanu and Rozeo talk their fantasies about building a life together with their love interest… if only he/she knew and returned their feelings.
Not that he needed it, but Maanu has also used Autotune to give his vocals that ‘tweaked’ effect while singing the somewhat slower, catchy, chorus lyrics: “Main chup ke karta rehta hun ye duaein/ Dil mein banalay tu jaga/ Parrh ghaur se jo likhi shayari ki kitaabein/ Khud ko na rok, aaja yahaan [I keep praying silently/ That you’ll find a place for me in your heart/ Read carefully my books of poems/ Don’t stop yourself, come here].”
At this stage of romance, life is truly a bed of roses. And 'Close 2 U' manages to embody some of that first giddy high.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, November 7th, 2021