What can one say about the upcoming film "Khuda Kay Liye" that hasn't been said before? It is, for many, the most anticipated film of the year. In many minds, it is 'the film' that will unleash a new kind of cinema in Pakistan and pave path for others to follow. It is a film that vows to touch issues close to Muslims and to Pakistanis. It is a film that has dared to touch the most sensitive of all subjects: religion. And finally, it is the film debut of the reclusive and brilliant Shoaib Mansoor, the man behind "Fifty Fifty", "Alpha Bravo Charlie", and the mentor and lyricist for the most successful and inspirational pop act of all times – Vital Signs. Enough said.
Hence, the expectations from the OST of "Khuda Kay Liye" are great. Thankfully enough, the music for the film meets them.
So what if "Khuda Kay Liye" soundtrack doesn't bring forward the big guns of our pop music world, as one would expect? It cleverly reunites Shuja Haider and Ahmed Jehanzeb, who teamed up in 2003 on Ahmed's debut album, "Parastish". Most surprisingly, it puts spotlight on raw talent, unexplored, unheard voices, three of whom are females (yippee!) who can actually sing. Isn't that something?
Together these various artistes under the wing of veteran melody catcher Shoaib Mansoor unite and fuse various styles of music such as classical, folk and pop together and as a result, it makes for an excellent album.
Thematically, the OST of "Khuda Kay Liye" has a moody character that seems to be going through a different stage of life within each song. It's beautifully sad at times, happily carefree at others, somewhat confident, reflecting on moments as they pass by.
The moodiness is a prime factor in each song. From the confident and cheerful "Hamaray Hain" where Ahmaed Jehanzeb and Shuja Haider make quite an impression on vocals as they sing, "Hamaray hain/Jahan mein hain jitnay haseen/Milangey hum/Milangey hum sabhi say kahin na kahin/Pohchhein gee jahan mein awaazein hamari/Dilon mein utar jayengi/" to the slightly rockish and upbeat "Bandya" where Khawar Jawad provides delightfully harsh and striking vocal work with ample support from Farah Zala. Where Khawar often is rough, Farah is slightly sultry in her "wooh wooh" and here's the surprise element: she sings in English while Khawar sings to the words of Bulley Shah and she provides backing vocals in Urdu with equal grace. It is quite an interesting collaborative effort, especially since Pakistani music hardly has many great male-female duets to offer… anymore.
Another version of "Bandya" comes on later in the album ("Bandya II") and here it is a newcomer Faiza Mujahid who replaces Farah Zala. She too stuns with her Lene Marlin-like voice. Compared to Farah, Faiza has a slightly sharper voice and it just provides more flavour to the album.
The cheerful, happy attitude continues with "Duniya Ho" which points at happy love and "dancing tonight" and "feeling the beat". It is a thumping dance number that skillfully merges English and Urdu together and one can picture a scene where liberal youngsters of this nation are just dancing and enjoying the night away.
The optimism continues with the retrospective and thought-provoking title track, "Khuda Kay Liye" that is perhaps the best track on the album. This is a song that beautifully reflects on faith and love for God as it goes, "Khuda kay naam sey/Khelo na/Khuda kay liye/Khuda tau azeem hai/Raheem bhi/Kareem bhi" without being preachy.
As a lyricist, Shoaib Mansoor still has that magic. He skillfully pens simple but thought-provoking lyrics that give this album an intense quality. This is classic Shoaib Mansoor from the old days of Vital Signs. That said, he isn't making Vital Signs' pop here but a film music album and it seems that he knows this fact well.
One discovers the dark side of this album with songs like "Mahi Way", "Allah Hoo", "Tiluk Kamod" and "Janie Janie".
Where "Mahi Way" stuns with its mysteriously haunting melody, poignant wordplay in English that goes, "So many tricks/So many lies/Too many whens and too many whys/No one's special/No one's gifted/I'm just me/Warped and twisted" and heart wrenching and despairing vocals from Khawar Jawad and Faiza Mujahid respectively, "Janie Janie" reflects love from the eyes of a hopeless romantic. With its subtle bass lines and orchestra-like feel and Ahmed Jehanzeb's soft and emotive singing, this is certainly a laudable effort. This is Ahmed Jehanzeb that one first heard on songs like "Aap Ki Yaad".
And speaking of Ahmed Jehanzeb's talent, he shines as a soloist on another soft, heartbreaking number, namely "Tiluk Kamod". Here he really makes Ustaad Rafees Khan, his teacher, proud. Ahmed Jehanzeb sings in a mature tone as he does, "Tana Na Na Deh Na Naa" and then as the wordplay progresses, so does he. Here Ahmed shines once again. Bravo!
A definite fusion comes with the soulful "Allah Hoo". With fantastic folk singer Saeen Zahoor and newcomer Zara Madani joining hands together on this enchanting melody with gorgeous bass and percussion nuances, it simply blows the mind! This is a song that can be put to repeat and it will not bore you because of its textured sound and numb, brooding feel. If Saeen sings hypnotically, Zara broods, feeling the need to call out the higher force as if in a moment of pain and it works superbly. The last track on the album, an instrumental, with its air of calm sadness and slow melody gives out a grand feeling even if unconsciously. The slow soft piano really is classic here, reminding one of Italian composers who excel at this instrument effortlessly.
As an album, "Khuda Kay Liye" is filled with surprises. It uses Urdu, English, and Punjabi as languages and ties up all of them in crisp style that really gives this album a diverse flavour. Musically, this album has something for everyone. From pop to dance to classical, it fuses all genres together and does so effortlessly. It is always interesting to hear instruments like a melancholic sitar paired with soft piano, blue flute with acoustic guitar magic and so on.
Shuja Haider and Ahmed Jehanzeb fit well on this album because their vocals are not harsh but soft even when at peak. For a film album, you need such voices. And hey, together these two are a rock solid combination, not just as singers but as composers as well.
Most importantly, the OST of "Khuda Kay Liye" is exciting because of its surprisingly good new vocalists. Ammar Hasan and Khawar Jawad shine as singers. There are few vocalists whose vocals cannot be matched. Names like Faisal Kapadia, Ali Azmat, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and Atif Aslam come to mind. Ammar and Khawar belong to that unfathomable breed of singers. On the other hand, Farah Zala, Zara Madani, and Faiza Mujahid impress with their vocal dexterity and ability to sing in English and Urdu. Mind you, these girls are not reminiscent to the young pop princess Annie. They remind one of Nazia Zuberi (Rushk). That said, each of them has a rawness that makes all the difference.
While Zara Madani, Ammar Hasan, and Faiza Mujahid are newcomers, Khawar Jawad has been around for quite some time and has worked in studios with names like Ali Zafar and Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan. And, Farah Zala has an English album, "Twist of Fate" to her credit. That said, none of these artistes are really known in Pakistan.
The only question that comes to mind is one: Where have these singers been all this time? In retrospect, one is glad that it was through this album that these singers have come forward. Anyone who can differentiate between good music and bad will definitely take notice of these young voices.
Ultimately, this album works because of its collective effort. It is not just Shoaib Mansoor alone but him with a bunch of multi-talented singers and composers who have maintained consistency even as they have experimented.
In the end, it really is a very offbeat film music soundtrack as far as Pakistani standards go. How the masses react to this album remains to be seen but right now, this album is hot in the market. Within a day of its release, half the stores at Boat Basin have run out of copies.
In the end, this album plays testament to Pakistan's talent and to the man that is Shoaib Mansoor. He has never disappointed us ever and with "Khuda Kay Liye" he once again proves that he is a force to be reckoned with in the music business.The News International, Pakistan