When you think of Punjabi blues, you probably think of Shamoon Ismail. He is, after all, often credited with introducing the genre to Pakistan.
The 31-year-old Islamabad-based musician began his journey in 2013. Known for mixing Punjabi music and blues with a wide range of genres including pop, R&B and hip-hop, he took no time to sway listeners in his direction with his talent and charm.
From a young age, Ismail was independent in his craft of producing original music. It was his relentless passion for the arts that motivated him to self-publish and have his work recognised in the public sphere. This is probably what gives him an edge over other contemporary singers in Pakistan.
Ismail knows his music well. He produces, writes and sings independently, which gives him an advantage to create music on his own terms, something the public finds refreshing. If people come across his songs, they immediately recognise the maker.
He began his career with the launch of his debut single, ‘Sapne’. This was followed by ‘Tuntuna’, ‘Jutt Blues’ and ‘Jawab’ — all released in the mid-2010s. A brief setback followed ‘Jawab’, which prompted Ismail to focus on his family and pursue a Master’s degree in Leadership and Management.
The uncertainty of rebuilding his image after a few years’ gap was a challenge for the artist. However, fear never impeded his progress. He continued writing songs during this time and it wasn’t until 2018 that the trajectory of his career changed for the better. His singles ‘Basanti’ and ‘Taare’ were instant hits and struck a chord with listeners in South Asia.
He went on to further cement his success with the release of his debut extended play album titled Cookie. He then released his second and third albums, Magic and Brown Sugar, in 2019. His latest extended play titled Juice was released almost three years ago. Today, his songs have amassed nearly 47 million views on YouTube alone.
Contrary to how many older people feel about youngsters taking up music as careers in Pakistan, Ismail’s father, a Pakistan Air Force veteran, and mother, a non-commissioned doctor in the forces, always supported his professional endeavours.
2023 has kept Ismail occupied with tours and concerts as well as his latest collaboration with VELO Sound Station that produced the single ‘Pardesi’ — a slow, soothing song that focused on Ismail’s character travelling to an undefined location. His prior collaboration with VELO Sound Station in 2020 resulted in the release of ‘Confetti’, the most streamed original track of the platform’s debut season.
As an artist who can do it all, Ismail did not have to prove himself to the world. Whatever he produced, the audience resonated one way or the other. This is particularly surprising as many newbies starting off in the music business often have to sacrifice their creativity to appease big corporate platforms. Ismail’s story was different, and free of such struggles, which allowed him the flexibility to create unique, non-commercialised music.
“I work at my own pace and always wanted to do well. There was no formula or obligation to create songs that could be anticipated as hits or commercially viable successes,” he told Images.
“The only constant thing was that the songs were about my own place in life, what I was feeling and how I wanted to tell the world my story. I have performed hundreds of shows for thousands of people across the country, independently, with my own networks. Those who supported my work whether as listeners or promoters were fans of my music,” he added.
Ismail’s music style is a blend of pop, synthwave, R&B and hip-hop. He finds Mooroo, Talha Anjum, Talha Yunus, Hasan Raheem, Annural Khalid and Haider Mustehsan to be his greatest and fondest collaborations to date. His fan base transcends South Asia with avid fans tuning in from the UK as well as the US. Outside of music, he enjoys outdoorsy activities, including swimming, hiking and shooting guns. He is an admirer of nature and participated in under 19 skiing championships when he was young.
Perhaps his story will serve as an inspiration to younger, up-and-coming artists in the music industry to look beyond their fears and embrace their creative side in music. The music industry has a set of standards that all artists have to blindly follow. However, an artist like Shamoon Ismail has a unique identity marker that affords him a stronger fan base without even trying.
Youngsters today can take a page from his success story and become independent artists on social media platforms such as Spotify and YouTube. These platforms can be used to exhibit their singing and music capabilities.
Watch Shamoon Ismail’s latest collaboration with VELO Sound Station ‘Pardesi’.