Coke Studio's latest song 'Mehram' is out and it brings together Grammy-nominated artist Arooj Aftab and musician Asfar Hussain who sing of the emotional carnage brought on by loss.
The song's music video was released by Coke Studio on January 28. The song has been described as "a revelation of emotions, abandonment, and conflicting yet heartfelt conversations". In the song, the word 'Mehram' is a person that you trust completely.
The music video has been directed by Murtaza Niaz who placed the artists in parallel rooms "coated with neglect", which is apparent from the toppled furniture and dusty photos Hussain and Aftab are surrounded by. The video's setting is meant to be laden with "with memories of love" — for the artists, there is no reprieve from their grief, even in their surroundings.
The song has been written by Hussain, with additional lyrics written by Xulfi. The music has been arranged and produced by Abdullah Siddiqui, Xulfi and Aftab. The Grammy-nominated artist excitedly shared her contribution to the arrangement of the song with her fans on Instagram.
"An important moment Coke Studio and Pakistan: a female producer and arranger in the credits! Onwards and upwards," she posted.
Siddiqui too shed light on the journey of producing the song. "This is a breakup song, but it’s always felt to me like it’s about a far deeper kind of loss than a breakup," he said. "Complete and abject devastation, the kind of heartbreak that you fear is permanent. That’s why I tried my best to instil a ghostly quality in the music — one of my favourite sounds in the song is this granular remnant of Arooj Aftab‘s voice right as Asfar Hussain ‘s chorus starts, as if she’s haunting him.
"I’m so grateful to Xulfi for letting me be completely artistically indulgent with this one, while still managing to keep the song from becoming inaccessible," he added.
For Xulfi, Hussain's lyrics elevate the song as much as everything else. "I wanted a song that’s heart wrenchingly beautiful. For me, Asfar Hussain’s writing is exactly that. I called him and explained to him a story that I had in mind. That day we both broke down talking about the narrative and I knew we were onto something honest and magical."
He's also grateful for Aftab's contribution to 'Mehram'. "Arooj came into the picture while we were looking for a voice that just tells the story of abandonment, conflicting yet heartfelt point of views, along with Asfar in an intense yet calming and sort of a visual kind of way," he said. "It’s as if you can see every word that’s sung. Arooj was perfect for it; she added her musical sensibilities to 'Mehram'.
"Abdullah Siddiqui has done a remarkable job carving a unique musical personality for this song. I honestly can’t be happier with the result, though the song put me in a sad trance throughout the creation process,” Xulfi added.
An exclusive preview of the song was organised on Friday by Coke Studio and Spotify where Hussain spoke about working with Aftab.
“My experience of working with her was truly amazing. I have been following Arooj since a while when she released her first few songs around 11 or 12 years ago. And since then, the haunting quality of her voice is what got stuck with me,” he said.
“And the way she approaches melodies, that’s very unconventional. Initially on sets she was slightly reserved so it took some time to break the ice but after that when I got to know her and got to spend time with her, it turned out to be an amazing experience. She has a great sense of arrangement, she is a very learned musician, her take towards the composition since the beginning was very unique and every time we would share parts of the song with each other, I always got see the song with a new perspective so for me as well it was great learning experience. And I am actually looking forward to working with her more.”
Listeners had a lot to say about 'Mehram' on social media. "Arooj Aftab's vocals are so pretty. I'm in love," a user shared on Twitter.
"I literally love the song Mehram, it is just so beautiful. The lyrics, the voices! God, amazing! Coke Studio never disappoints," tweeted one user.
"The melody is hauntingly beautiful, however the lyrics could have been stronger maybe. [I'm] still nursing a heartache & I didn't even tear up. The crescendo with Asfar & Arooj together is where the song truly hits the spot," a tweet read.
"From cinematography to singing, everything is on a scale of 10," a user posted.
This is one song we'll definitely be listening to on repeat in the coming days. Have you listened to Aftab and Husain's 'Mehram' yet?