Hadiqa Kiani & Aamir Zaki - Rough Cut (2007)

It could have been anyone’s wildest dream project: a nightingale-voiced vocalist from Pakistan teaming up with who is considered to be one of the best guitarists in the region, on a single album. When two exceptionally gifted and well-known individuals work together on a project, expectations tend to run high: the outcome has to be nothing short of pure genius. After all, one plus one equals two, nay in some cases even three, but never zero.

In this case however, it seems as if these two individuals ended up cancelling each other out: the much-awaited Hadiqa Kiani and Aamir Zaki collaborative effort, "Rough Cut", is pure genius, but only at putting the listener to sleep. In some cases, forever.

Disappointingly enough, "Iss Baar Milo", the song that did end up becoming a massive hit does not make its appearance in the album. Hadiqa has carried the style of singing predominant in "Iss Baar Milo", throughout "Rough Cut". However, coupled with the change in language and overall content, her style of singing seems highly unsuitable. To top it off, her desi accent manages to creep in here and there in the songs. Altogether her efforts sound extremely amateurish and not something one would expect from someone with more than ten years of professional singing and extensive exposure to all kinds of music.

It would be unfair to heap the album’s lack of impact on Hadiqa alone. With "Rough Cut", his first proper recorded piece of work in more than a decade, Aamir Zaki’s musical contribution in the album seems minimal, and in some cases, non-existent. This causes one to question why. Is it because he has run out of musical creativity or simply because he is afraid?

When it comes to content, the album deals with a variety of issues ranging from the harsh life in the media, to the monotony that overcomes a person’s life to the age-old subject of love and heartbreak. The song, "City of Fallen Angels", deals with the violence predominant in Karachi (as the City of Fallen Angels) and it is perhaps the only song in which Aamir Zaki lends his vocals as Mr. Undertaker. However, with Hadiqa singing along with him, it becomes difficult to decipher Aamir’s voice, since her voice is a little too loud. Thus the only duet in the album ends up as none.

Perhaps another track that needs mention here is "Easy Ride". It dominates an unmistakably familiar bass line which die-hard Aamir Zaki fans would recognise since the bass line itself had been released on his website a couple of years ago. One of the better tracks in the album, perhaps also because it doesn’t attempt at sounding ‘eastern classical rock’. The album, including this song, has an unmistakable early nineties sound to it and might have fared better had it been released when it was initially supposed to.

The flute (courtesy, Baqir Abbas) and tabla (Arshad Ali) make their appearance a lot throughout the album. Complete with soft (and safe) guitar strumming and oddly-familiar bass lines, the music in the album ends up in a cacophony of confusion since one cannot tell whether the album is going towards a pop or an eastern pop sound, or is trying to embody an orchestra-oriented sound — a definite confusion of identities. The album has its share of perks, but they’re not strong enough to overshadow what is wrong with it: this collaboration lacks chemistry – at least in English.

M. Syed
Dawn, Pakistan