RoOoH - Ali Sheikh (2005)

No this is not Ali Sher, as everyone especially the audio shopkeepers gather initially. His name is Ali Raza Sheikh aka Roooh since college days and he has recently released his debut album from Karachi. His first video of "Ishq Awalra" that has made waves started showing a while before the album's release. The video is quite unique in itself, and the song is full of energy. The Karachi duo Ahsan and Amena have conceptualized a person trapped in a ward who's gone insane in his love for someone. Ali took the line from Bulleh Shah's "Meinu lagna ishq awalra," except here he is talking about his ishq for music, which was later turned into a girl for the video. He's seen as an Afro–American rapping to the beats, followed by a villager, then another character shown as a complete aashiq and the next is the most intriguing, Ali sings the lines of John Denver's "Country Roads." Why "Country Roads" one wonders? Ali had a vision. He feels that we shouldn't remain restricted to cultural exchange between just India and Pakistan. He says, "we, as musicians have enough talent to go international," and he proved just this by merging "Country Roads" in a Punjabi song, which sounds quite appealing. At the end of this song, since none of the above characters worked in attaining his goal, he becomes a jogi and sings "Teray millan dee aas nahie," but even then he doesn't give her up and as a result goes insane, thus the mental ward.

The first two tracks, this one as well as "Nain Shababi" are good rhythmic ones. This artist is the only pop musician with a proper Punjabi accent, which he makes no bones about. As "Nain Shababi" begins, he calls out "Oye hawa barri set hai," and the word "set" being very Punjabi, if you get what I mean. And if you have the patience to get a hold of his music, try imagining Pee–Wee Herman sing Punjabi. People would laugh but this is done quite properly to match the mood. Ali's affiliation with Jigga Fez goes a long way and to commemorate this, you'll also find a remix of "Nain Shababi" titled as "Never Gonna," which means, "Jigga and Roooh, never gonna stop!"

Now here's his idea with the title "RoOoH" (sic) and why he's so particular about its unusual spelling. Basically he believes that since every person's roooh is the same, why must there be discrimination in human beings? And if you see his video, you'll note that Ali plays all the characters. He inverts the roooh with the character, so you see the roooh, meaning each person looking the same, which is Ali.

Not so original is his track "Lhr Lhr Hay," whose title comes from Tariq Tafu's one hit wonder. But it's a lot more informative as it talks about the real specialties of Lahore and takes names of areas too. It's again very catchy and upbeat. Then there's "Apne Chobaray," followed by a track called "Nahee Jeena," which altogether changes the mood and you feel like you're in Hollywood. "Iku Allah" and "Hu Allah Hu" are religious tracks as you can tell by the names. In the latter, Ali sounds very intense and takes his voice to a pitch that many find hard to reach. More than the song it's his passionate voice and devoted style of singing that make the listener engrossed. If you push it a little, it might even take you into a trance.

"Hum Bachay" is a non–pop song, very appealing for children. Then comes "Kaun Sunnay Ga (meri roooh ki awaz)," which will also be the next video playing very soon. The lyrics are related to his belief in the concept of the roooh and how it should make mankind equal to one another. A very charismatic number is "Mehndi," which he has re–sung of the original folk song "Mehndi taan sajdi te ..." It almost sounds like he's making fun of the song, but if you listen carefully, he's so involved that the listeners take it seriously. I love this version compared to the original.

Ali is all set to start his career in music. His idols are Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Ali Azmat and he seeks the best of both. A lot is happening on this pop philosopher's front and with the kind of events and recordings getting lined up, I suggested to him that it's time to hire a manager!

Amira Zaidi
The News International, Pakistan