Afterthought '06, Forward to '07

Jafri set some tongues rolling when he parted ways with Noori sometime in 2004, although amicably, at what would be considered the peak of their popularity. However, what really sent shockwaves much bigger than the ones sparked off by Jafri was the announcement earlier last year that Gumby was not going to be a part of the band anymore. For most, that signalled the end of Noori - what was a band without its backbone, the drummer? There is no doubt that no other drummer can complement the raw energy dominant in a Noori song the way Gumby can.

What’s left is Ali Noor holding onto everything that Noori was, with precious little left to further it. Although Noor is immensely talented when it comes to making music that can stand on its own and yet cater to the masses, in this case, however, he just threw it all away.

Topping it all off was the announcement that his wife, Mandana Zaidi, would replace Gumby as a DJ artiste. Let alone having the weird notion of having a ‘DJ artiste’ replace the drummer in a pop-rock band, Mrs. Ali Noor is not known to have the skills required of being a DJ. To put it simply, without Jafri and Gumby, Noori is the band that once was.

Not having quite recovered fully from the Noori-breakup, it was announced that Bryan Adams would be performing in Karachi, courtesy Shahzad Roy’s Zindagi Trust. Following the announcement, people went ballistic over Shahzad Roy’s cover of "Saali". Does this show how much the person bringing an international celebrity to town can benefit from the latter’s popularity?

One must thank Shahzad and the ARY Digital group for bringing Bryan to town; however with proceeds of everything related to the concert going to Zindagi Trust, it is no wonder that ARY doesn’t air the show as much as would have been expected.

Around the same time, our television screens had been dominated by a hip-shaking singer called Annie, the self-titled ‘Princess’. One thing that needs to be made clear is that Annie Princess (or should it be the other way round) cannot sing. However, she more than makes up for it in terms of the entertainment factor. Posing on the cover of her album with a tiara on her head, she removed any misconceptions present about who the real princess was. With a dearth of good female musicians that this country suffers from, she was welcomed with open arms by the masses. Despite her inability to sing properly, when compared against the likes of Rabi Peerzada and Abeer - two women for whom singing is tantamount to being criminal - she seems like godsend.

Award-fever hit every other television network in 2006. Needless to say that most of them were terrible - it seemed that every network out there wanted to establish themselves as the authority on giving out kudos without really investing time and money on exactly how they planned to do that.

In the midst of all this mayhem, an award function that did manage to stand out was The Musik Awards, or TMA. They were everything that an award function in Pakistan should be - well-organised, well-invested and with a jury that consisted of well-reputed music critics, producers, musicians and professionals - thereby setting a new standard for award ceremonies in Pakistan. Most importantly, they understood the importance of what an audience takes with them when they go home and keeping that in mind, they rolled out the mother of all surprises, a performance by the father of Pakistani pop, Alamgir.

One of the things to look out for in ’07 would be an album by Zeb and Haniya, two talented singers who have already managed to amass a large fan following on the web and attract large audiences to their coffee-house performances in Lahore. With their track "Chup" already a hit on radio, it’s about time these ladies introduce their voices to the masses. They just might be the next big thing in female musicians after Hadiqa Kiyani.

The comeback of Alamgir was significant in the sense that it was his first performance in Pakistan after a gap of about 15 years. He was one of the pioneers of establishing a pop-music industry in Pakistan and with the deterioration in free-media in the early ’90s, had decided to quietly leave and never come back.

Along with the comeback of Alamgir was the coming-back of EMI, the international record label that had closed its doors to the Pakistani industry in 1998 because of rampant piracy. What further set tongues rolling was that their first client was the popular English-language band from Peshawar, Sajid and Zeeshan.

The Sajid and Zeeshan album had been eagerly awaited for two reasons, the first being that they were one of the very few desis who had managed to sing in English and make it sound right; and secondly, they had a very unique style of making music which fused the acoustic and lead guitar, keyboard, synthesisers and turntables all in one. With a reputed, international record label taking care of their much-wanted debut album, everything seemed to go in the right direction for these boys - till it was discovered that even a month after its official launch, the album was not available anywhere in Pakistan, save for a few chosen music stores in Karachi.

To put it simply, EMI seemed not to have the infrastructure needed for an effective distribution of an album in Pakistan. Besides a couple of interviews on radio and one television interview, nothing much was done to promote the album either. The Sajid and Zeeshan album reached their hometown, Peshawar, several months after its launch, giving ample time for frustrated fans and pirates to make illegal copies of the album - so much for fighting piracy.

Just when one thought all of this excitement was too much to handle, the Indus television network launched MTV Pakistan in place of the popular music channel, Indus Music. Sceptics didn’t make much of it, labelling it as a revamped IM. One has to admit that where the VJs and the management is the same - save for one incredibly fresh and welcome face, VJ Mahirah - the channel did manage to look internationally acceptable. However; one is still waiting for that big bang, that extra ‘oomph’ that makes it more then just another branch of MTV.

Another little shocker this year was the signing up of Raeth by Universal India, making them Univeral’s youngest clients. Whereas one is all for local talent expanding its horizons across the border, and they do look adorable holding those big guitars, what is baffling is the level of popularity they gained in India. Although their first single, "Bhula Do" has a somewhat catchy tune to it, the second single is nothing short of plain horrible. This goes to show that if a band can’t attain an Atif Aslam-esque success in Pakistan, they just might in India.

The year 2006 also saw some promising new arrivals in the shape of Sahil which seems like a well-developed, well-practised Paki-pop band. Sahil consists of Hasil (musician/producer who is currently under the patronage of Mekaal Hasan) and Salaar. The band hit it big with Umar Anwar’s directed video of their single, "Dil Chahay". The video, which was shot in Karachi, completely transforms the way the city looks and has a surprise appearance by Gumby driving a truck at the end of the video. It looked at musicians from a fresh angle and for once, did not have the drummer behind a drum set.

Other notable newcomers that need to be mentioned is the band Siege - with their funky single "Najanay Kyun", they provide a whole new angle to pop music in Pakistan in the form of energetic singing and a funky beat - and Ali Khan, who might just succeed Ali Zafar as the the industry’s blue-eyed boy. However, his songs have a much richer, heartfelt melody to them.

The band Co-ven also decided to debut on the tube last year as well. A band consisting of incredibly talented musicians in the form of Hamza Jafri, Sameer Ahmed, and Sikandar Mufti, Co-ven has been around for almost 15 years. The songs that have managed to make it on air are all in English and have a somewhat grungy albeit mesmerising air to them. They are expected to release their album sometime early this year.

The year 2006 closed with the launch of The Musik Records, the record label owned and operated by ARY Digital. And like all their events, they managed to create a bang in the music industry via the album launch of their first client, Aaroh. The title track of the album "Raag Neela" sees the band take a good laugh at them and it’s good to see that there are some people out there who don’t take themselves very seriously. Already having sold out its initial batch of CDs, the launch of "Raag Neela" was the perfect end to an eventful year.

Madeeha Syed
January, 2007
Dawn, Pakistan