The scene opens to a dilapidated house, ruins of sorts. There is a guitar and an amplifier placed in the middle. The next scene is of the mouth of a cave, we’re looking from the inside out. An old man, seemingly an ascetic, is sitting on one side with his back against a rock. Tall banyan trees, with their roots exposed are in front of us. There is a guitar and amplifier placed there as well.
This is a gritty, grimy, black-and-white video and soon we see a masked man with long, wild hair and an overgrown beard approach the guitar in the ruins. He takes his mask off and looks directly at the camera, as if in defiance, as he picks up the guitar — it’s Ali Noor. In contrast, a clean-shaved man with neatly cut, shorter hair approaches the guitar in front of the banyan trees. That’s his brother, Ali Hamza.
They’re each set in two vastly different settings — one is in ruins and evokes a solitary figure. The other is also solitary (if you disregard the ascetic… perhaps the ascetic is Ali Hamza’s inner person) but in a more peaceful, natural setting. They are connected and yet there is a contrast in how they’re presented. Interpret from that what you will.
Noori releases a deeply evocative video of their iconic song 'Bol', 18 years after it was first released
This is how the video of 'Bol', the song the brothers released through their iconic pop rock band Noori, in the band’s first album, Suno Ke Mein Hoon Jawan, way back in 2003. This video was 18 years coming. The video is labour of love by character photographer, Mobeen Ansari, who has directed this visual interpretation of Bol.
This pop rock song, well-known to anyone who follows the Pakistani music scene, evokes so many memories. The director plays on that nostalgia as well. In between stunning montages of urban life, contrasted with footage from the snow-capped mountains and clear, starry nights, we’re shown an old analog TV with footage of the two brothers from their college days. They’re fresh faced, almost unrecognisable and singing the same song. It’s been a part of their journey since it all began for them. As the camera pans back to the TV again and again, the footage changes to show them growing up over the years — from clean-shaven faces to shorter beards, footage from concerts that were once the norm and so on.
There is an interesting sequence where Ali Hamza is quietly looking at a reflection of himself but the ‘reflection’ is singing the song back at the camera. We have broken the fourth wall and Ali Hamza’s reflection is engaging directly with the viewer. It’s almost as if Hamza is looking back at another version of himself.
Ali Noor, appearing dishevelled and shaggy, plays the guitar, including his solos, almost meditatively. He doesn’t sing in the video throughout the song. That is interesting because the song is about struggling to speak, to break free and express yourself, pushing yourself to sing and to be heard.
The pre-chorus goes: Roti meri akhiyaan bolein/ Bastay hain dil mein roag/ Deewana dil bas itna bolay/ Sun yaar bol ab dil kay [My ears speak with tears/ There’s an affliction in my heart/ My mad heart will only speaks so much/ Listen to the words of my heart]
And the chorus re-affirms that: Bol, mann re/ Sunn le yaara/ Bol, mann bol/ Dil, tu gaa re [Speak, O’ my heart/ Listen to it/ Speak, heart, speak/ Go on and sing]
He is silent. And even though this is a music video, you feel his silence until the very end when he breaks the fourth wall and stares back at you, his look piercing through the screen. And that is enough. Ali Noor has spoken.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, November 14th, 2021