Suragh - O.P.R.E. (1998)

Being an avid listener of Pakistani Pop Music since its inception, I must say that in the past ten years bands like Junoon, Vital Signs, Awaz, and solo singers like Ali Haider, Shezad Roy, and various others have exhibited their talents creating stepping stones for the rookies to follow. Most of these new comers followed their veteran coaches, but then there were some that tried to be unique and distinctive with "their" music. They either presented complete balderdash or supererogated their way to stand head to head with the fathers of Pakistani Pop music. Surely there were either winners or losers, but all in all, it was the hard work and persistence that helped most of the beginners entering the pop music world reach success.

Three years ago, I came across O.P.R.E., a Houston based band. They were caught amidst the hustle for recognition and acceptance in the international world of music and also the Paki Pop Music world. They did not relinquish their hope to reach the masses with what they had in store. By overthrowing their nooks and crannies, they continued to refine their music. With unlimited support of their executive producer Faisal Afzaal, and their manager Sajid Kazmi, O.P.R.E. finally achieved their ultimate dream. Long and behold, on February 14, 1998, O.P.R.E.'s magnum opus, "Suragh", was released in the United States of America.

O.P.R.E. is a name beyond comprehension to the majority, but after interrogation, I was told, "O.P.R.E. stands for 'Order to the Peoples' Rock Empire', or it can also mean beyond insanity, or beyond junoon!"

O.P.R.E. is comprised of:

Shahid Kazmi - Lead & backing vocals and Keyboards
Omran "Momo" Shafique - Lead, acoustic & bass guitars & backing vocals
Saqib "Saks" Najmi - Rhythm & lead Guitars & backing vocals

Their music is distinctive and it is a collaborative manifestation of self-effacing boundaries of the east and the west. They surely have not limited their music to one familiar rut. Instead, it is invigorating, vigorous, and a breath of fresh air!

"Suragh" commences with a catchy tune, "Dorke". It goes something like "Meray paas aa dorke, yuun na tarpao mujhey," and you can sense the elaborated cut to the chase attitude that will certainly entice and excite you. The next song, "Jalte Parcham", is the so-called required social awareness fulfillment of every Pakistani Pop music album, but wait, I mean it in a positive way. "Tera Naam" follows, and this is the song filled with enlivened soft hearted sensitivity of an infatuated pagal soul aspiring to cherish that special someone. The lyrics are harmonious, and Momo rejuvenates us with his guitar proficiency. The magical forces behind the music lured me to push the "repeat" button and after two hours and thirty-two minutes, I was singing each and every word along. Yes, it is one of those songs that will make it to your all time favorite hits list! And, even though I didn't want to, I moved on to the next song saying to myself, baad mein aur suneingey! The next song, "Anjaani Raahein", blew my mind. I said Oh God, ZZ TOPPPP ki tarah!! magar nahee, these fine guys dont have the baree baree daarhee. On this convincing note, I ignored the resemblance in the music, and ended up head banging and air guitaring with Momo. His superb guitar work is noteworthy not only in this song, but also throughout the album. After that short workout session on "Anjani Raahein", "Raat Bheegi" followed. This subtler soothing sound is built on layers of acoustic with engaging and mesmerizing lyrics. I relaxed and just stared into the background. The title song "Suragh" is very efficacious in terms of the alluring lyrics and the mysterious music. It goes like "Kahin nahi hai lahu ka yeh suragh". In this number, O.P.R.E successfully epitomize why their album has been titled "Suragh" instead of the very commercial boring titles like "Haseen Larki" or "Udaasiyat" or the repeatedly used "Pyar 98" ... Eyoh gross!! The next number "Mera Dil" is a remix of Shahid's 1994 single. This one sounds much better and is totally groovy baby! "Zinda Laash" is where Saks totally shows off his extraordinary guitar skills. "Zinda Laash" will become a favorite of all of you who are truly, madly, deeply wanting to be with that someone particular in your life. The next tune, "Pyar" is a pleasing nostalgic, sentimental blend, and this is the area that each and everyone of you will end up singing or e-mailing to your loved one. And sunney ke baad, "Tab yeh baat samjho gey ke kiya hota hai pyar". The album's grand finale "Nitt Khair" is a recomposition of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan marhoom's hit. The traditional tabla beats have been well incorporated with the more modern sonics. This song is a tribute to the legendary maestro, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. What a way to wind up the album!

This enjoyable collaboration of the tunes of the east and the west is beyond expectations. O.P.R.E. is one of the few Pakistani bands to record in the US of A and "Suragh" happens to be the most expensive Pakistani album released here. Their US tour is scheduled in either March or April and we all will soon see these hotties in action in their upcoming video of "Tera Naam".

The streamlined drumbeats, Momo's and Saks' sensational speaker ripping guitars, exquisitely crafted lyrics, and Shahid's almost impeccable vocals make "Suragh" the breakthrough album of 1998.