Yasir Jawed - Ibtida (2007)

Many have succeeded. Many have made an effort in vain, and gone back to the path of originality. But here is one artist, Yasir Jawed, who has created a fusion that's delicate for the sophisticated lot and yet loud enough for the youth.

If fusing classical sound with a techno beat isn't worth an eyebrow raise-worthy enough anymore, then one needs to try and digest the fact that Yasir Jawed's finely tuned vocals owe much to a school going lad who gets punished for singing in class, and still sings in detention. Discovering his own talent during the long drives up and over the mountainous areas of Baluchistan, Yasir used to practice his vocals listening to ghazal's greatest names, a cherished part of his singing career. Now with his debut album "Ibtida" in the market, Yasir might still be listening to the oldies but it sure is the right time to give his CD a chance in our spinners.

Flipping the case, the titles of some songs ("Tark-e-Mulaqaat", "Gardish-e-Hayat" and "Sham-e-Firaq") give the impression that the album might be a classical one. That's true to some extent. Words have been borrowed from illustrious poets such as Amjad Islam Amjad, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Daag Dehlvi. And this fact might distance the album from pop, but this should not be discouraging for youthful ears. After all, the sound of this album is given by Mizraab's think-and-sing tank Faraz Anwar.

To Faraz's credit, the guitaring that he has strummed out is balanced in both forms: his melodies do justice to the vocals and to the sound. The Yngwie Malmsteen-inspired Mizraabian has never touched chords with such delicacy. From the sound one can tell that these are unhurried compositions. This duo has spent much time beyond the camera's eye; most mastering and mixing has been done in Faraz Anwar's studio. The exception has been the two videos from this duo, "Kalavati" and "Tujh Bin" that have been running on air for quite a while.

However, all doesn't bode well for Yasir's debut being a runaway success. "Ibitda", as a whole, sounds monotonous at times and although slow music is a priority for many people, that excitement is lacking that might not give it much recognition amongst the mode-punk, rock friendly listeners. That said, the rock lovers of Pakistan may not necessarily be Yasir's target audience. They are few and far between the melody loving masses anyway.

Another fact is that in a country like Pakistan, a budding musician's entry in the music scene is dragged out and prolonged because of various reasons. Album release delays, the lack of proper marketing and enough gigs to stir public interest hurt the artist tremendously. On the other hand, record labels don't really bother too much with such facts when the artist is a newcomer.

This album in particular got a shelf space after uncountable hiccups causing quite a stir early in Yasir's career. But all said and done, the singer has survived and the album has been released.

"Ibtida" in some ways reflects the simplicity of Yasir Jawed. The album cover is kept simple and is not complex or arty. But the artist has put more effort in the content.

The album begins with tragedy. "Tujh Bin" is a relatively faster beat with poignant lyrics. The singer mourns a beloved who has gone. Faraz Anwar chips in with some solo guitar work which pushes up the tempo of the song while the gist remains heartrending.

And replacing the tragedy mood is romance with "Chehrey", a slow melodic tune with vocals playing a dominant role.

Soon "Piya" follows, a song that puts an interesting fusion to the test as classically sung lyrics and curvy electric guitar blend in. Faraz's signature style can be distinguished from afar. Faraz's presence is a dominant factor on this record. But that is a plus point for a record that uses poetry from legendary writers.

Soulful lyrics can put in life in any song, and Faiz Ahmad Faiz's verses makes up for expressive words of "Dono Jahan" and "Sham-e-Firaq", which falls steadily smooth on the ears but intensely on the mind. Yasir has shown his sincere loyalty to kalam by composing the tunes in an even tone and has sung well. It is always a mighty responsibility to be true to the lyrics at hand when they are borrowed from some of the greatest poets of all times.

Listening to the preceding three tracks, one realizes the beauty of ghazal singing. The impact of superior language is eminent, and if those are matched with a masterful composition, the end result grows on the listener and makes the best of any compilations. And here it is true.

The next one keeps the listener from drowning in a pool of emotions. "Tanhayee" is faster, which conveys the same feel as an inventive speedy song.

Another song with the same standing as previous tracks is "Tark-e-Mulaqaat", a song with sarcastic words over slow melody and makes one of the better songs from the track list.

The most heard "Kalavati" brings the album to a forceful and effective end. This song differs musically from the central story and brings a shining change. Little intention of falling back into the depression mode, the last two singles "Phir Koi Aya" and "Dua" make subtle impact, where the later one is an ode of gratitude.

Yasir Jawed is a welcome talent to the music industry. Both, the compositions and vocals on "Ibitida" are solid. It's a darn shame that he hasn't marketed himself too well. But here's hoping that in the coming weeks, one gets to see more of Yasir Jawed in concerts, which is the best way of making one's presence felt within fans and the industry.

Tahir Yahya
The News International, Pakistan