January issue 2010
Top of the Pops
A look back at the top albums of 2009 in Pakistan.
Coke Studio (Season 2)
Though not strictly an album, the Coke Studio sessions are probably the best thing to come out of this year musically. This time round, the tracks seem more settled in and the collaborations are even more interesting. There is more musical experimentation and one can only hope this is the beginning of a trend for the show. The most remarkable example is Noori’s rendition of their song “Saari Raat,” where the jamming musicians turned the song on its head, blowing away the band’s fans and other viewers alike.
It’s important to mention this show in 2009’s achievements because it carries all the signs of a landmark event in the evolution of our local music scene. Much like the Pepsi Battle of the Bands during the ’90s, it seems that Coke Studio will lead to many good things for music in Pakistan.
Laal is a relatively new band from Lahore which has caught the attention of many due to their strong political tilt and the unique flavour this adds to their music. The band’s distinctive approach comes from the unusual background of its members: Laal was started by LUMS professor, Taimur Rahman (guitarist) and his one-time student, Shahram Azhar (now doing his PhD in economics at Oxford). The band earned popularity by providing a musical voice to the lawyers’ movement by singing Aitzaz Ahsan’s poem “Kal, Aaj, Aur Kal.” As it turns out, most people — no matter what their political orientation — would agree that it is a commendable effort.
The album Umeed-e-Sahar is a collection of songs using some of Pakistan’s great socialist poetry. Though the band isn’t sensational in the instrumental department, they have still managed to successfully communicate the magic and power of these poems. The rousing renditions use both traditional and western instruments to back the graceful vocals, in what turns out to be an excellent addition to the Pakistani pop tradition of paying tribute to our great poets.
Mekaal Hasan Band: Saptak
There is much to be said about the Mekaal Hasan Band. Most importantly, they take their music very seriously. With a progressive approach, the band has combined western elements with classical music with greater depth than any other fusion attempt. Perhaps their seriousness is what holds them back from the open-armed fanfare received by other outstanding local bands. But that doesn’t take away from the prowess of their musical product or the much-needed richness it contributes to the small melting pot that is our music scene.
The band released its album Saptak this year for sale online. It contains all the singles released in the past few months, such as “Andholan” and “Jhok Ranjhan,” as well as other tracks that were previously unreleased. Mystical in its sound and ingenious in its musical content, the album is definitely one of the most significant musical contributions this year.
Mauj: Now in Technicolor
Mauj is a relatively new band on the local scene, but has quickly gained a following as a vibrant presence in the languishing pop genre. Their upbeat and bouncy rhythms and inventively bright compositions bring back the unabashed creativity in pop that is reminiscent of the days of Nazia and Zohaib Hassan. The band’s front-man Omran Shafique (guitarist and vocalist) has also made his presence felt in the industry by regularly performing with the best musicians.
A first showcasing of Mauj’s fresh sound can be heard on their debut album, aptly named Now in Technicolor. Though a few of the songs like “Khushfehmi” and “Pahelian” are now over a year old, the album also contains some new releases, easily earning it a place among the best albums of 2009.