[Featured image via @TheDesiDesign]
The big news this week is that Coke Studio Season 6 is slowly, and very KLPDingly, beginning at long last. Only one song came out this week, which has many people complaining of sounding ‘generic’. Given the diversity and scale of Coke Studio’s following, it makes sense to have such tracks each season, and it is a bit reductive to dismiss them without giving them a chance. However, since you’ll still (thankfully) find the song freely available everywhere, let’s give CS a skip for now.
1. I’d started this week wondering if I would have enough songs to populate this post, but just when I was about to despair I stumbled onto a bumper crop of indiemphatemines. Let’s start off with Rija Yousuf. I had been thinking that Karachi’s electronic scene was where it was at, but the post-rock, ambient-acoustic-poetry kind of stuff is bubbling away as well. Rija’s music reminds me of Slowspin, another KHI based female musician with similarly ethereal sounds. I loved the samplings Rija brings into her work. Koyl is probably its best example, though her entire page deserves a thorough run-through.
Here are my favourite two tracks
2. Back when I had first written on the post-rock indie scene, my most naturally rockstar friend Hyder Cheema sent over some tracks by his wonderfully talented brother Hasham. It took me a while to get into Hasham’s sounds, and having known him and seen him play, it still feels a tragedy that a musician so prodigiously talented with multiple instruments does such scaled down stuff. But all that BS aside, Hasham’s wonderful music has that knack of bringing together angst and despair in an idiosyncratic, barely-there kind of way.
3. The Tamashbeens, introduced to me by the resourceful yehsuno.tumblr.com, are such an exciting band that I didn’t even listen to Dooba before deciding to include it in this post. There are few non-instrumental sort of vocals in the contemporary indie scene, and Urdu lyrics are a greater rarity. These guys though have lyrics which are simple enough to be understood by any self-respecting burger, and yet are still quite enchanting. I would highly encourage checking out all three of their songs, and using at least one in the spotify playlist/mix CD you give to your crush this year.
4. Speaking of @merabichrayaar, the curator of yehsuno.tumblr.com, he recently sent me a track by Wiqi Jam band. It was the sort of premise that makes me immediately excited and wary, since political dissent in rock these days treads a fine line between inspirational and do-number copy-pasting. This track, which has Bob Dylan and Habib Jalib, should have anyone with Surkha pretensions using it as their ring tone. I felt the composition was a bit stretched by the end, but the vocalist’s ease with both languages was what made me stay with this song. Also check out their very accomplished cover of Allan Faqir which @Bhaichod shared with me.
5. Up next, here’s another exciting KHI based electronic act. I know, its like there is a new indie-electronic act for every target killer in KHI these days, and its intoxicating to see all this new stuff come out. Nawkish’s stuff reminded me a lot of Smax’s recently released music, and shares that ability to create spaces that @asfand had identified in Smax’s EP. That said there is still that sense of a laid-back sound barely concealing the layered, frantic, incidental harmonies that mark out a lot of these acts, which makes them particularly well suited for the traffic choked drive back home.
6. OK so the next track is one I haven’t been completely crazy about, but I felt I still needed to share it because of the promise its premise holds. Chayn ki Bansrui is an initiative by Durriya Kazi, who is renowned for many things but for me is the woman who made appreciating truck art an intellectual topic. The initiative, meant for perennially violent KHI, hopes that “the sound of a lone flute carried into the night brings a few moments of peace.” I can get down with that.
7. After all the indie-ODing, time for something a bit more nativised. For those of you who managed to spend Eid without catching any Waqar Zaka related program, particularly Living On The Edge’s Grand Finale, I give you a mighty la’aant. However, you can redeem yourself slightly by checking out Overdose’s theme song for the most popular reality TV show in Pakistani history. The highlight is the growling rendition of the show’s trademark, and grammatically daring, oath that all participants must swear. Ainjwaiz!
8. Like last week, a few more additions to the list after the post was posted. First, here’s @therealsapuri has been making some inventive mixes – of both video and sound – for sometime. I just came across this version of his where he’s given Vital Signs’ Chehra a remarkable yet understated twist, stretching out the song to an almost dishkum-dishkum level before laying down a more trippy, atmospheric extension sampling dialogues from the iconic film, The Network.
9. Much like Tamashbeens above, Shajie is one of those rare artists able to make Urdu pop sound fresh again, largely because of the use of tongue-in-cheek, slightly awkward emotions set to contemporary style. Battakhain, with the brilliant lyrics like “Yeh kaun ro raha//Yeh mei ro raha huun” is still my favourite song by him, although Saaray treads a similar path too. What is perhaps just as important is that this song marks the start of season 3 of Lussun TV, the curators and creators of the indie scene in Pakistan. I would highly recommend spending a lot of lovely time browsing through the various tracks they’ve put out. A measure of Lussun TV’s importance can also be gauged by how many of their finds have gone on to become bigger things. Hopefully, they will also bring back the surrealist/sarrialist comedy sketches that also accompanied the show, making it the spiritual heir to previous shows like VJ and Music Channel Charts.
10. Finally to end off the week, check out this truly brilliant series of minimalist posters by Isha Bhatti at the supremely exciting @thedesidesign website. The theme is of umrikan musicians playing in Pak venues.