Yasir & Jawad first appeared on “Uth Records” featuring their song “Reidi Gul” which was an outright success. A blend of folk Pushto poetry, fusion of traditional and modern instruments, and three talented boys from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa — Yasir, Jawad, and Wali.
After a hiatus of almost two years the Pashto band is back with their new song titled “Niqab,” wrapped in a creative expression which they said is a musically versatile and challenging project for them. The song highlights the concepts of existentialism; a philosophical movement from the mid-19th century that focuses on the experiences of the individual.
Unlike their first song, “Niqaab” is one of the less popular works by the legendary Pashto poet Ghani Khan who had stated: “Pashtun is not merely a race but, in fact, a state of mind; there is a Pashtun lying inside every man, who at times wakes up and overpowers him.”
Yasif & Jawad’s new song is an extension of Khan’s rebellion against the clergy; something that is seen in his Kuliyat that eventually led to his existentialist crises. A clear example of his attitude is shown in the following stanza:
“The clergy keeps reciting tales of torment and agony,
Vocalist Abdul Wali Orakzai
Yet, here I am, tormented by existence and feelings”
It is important to note the time period in which Khan’s poetry is being repackaged by the band for the Pushto and non-Pushto listeners. The band wants to make a statement with the use of Khan’s lyrics like “Religion is but some rituals, tales and a rationale; It is the answer to a question that does not have any answer.” This makes us realise the importance of progressive writers in literature and how timely it is to revive the works of such influential poets, be it in any language.
After the poetry, the music is what “Niqab” scores for especially the sound of the rabab which grounds the song to the Pashto culture. The band’s effort is seen in their music and it’s probably something they have worked the hardest on. Interestingly enough, the major genre shifts from folk-rock to a more electronic pop sound with trippy departures towards the end. The arrangement of the rabab, guitars and drums and the heavy work in post production gives the overall sound a very contemporary feel. The newer breed of musicians coming from Peshawar have been highly influenced by Sajid & Zeeshan’s music. They were the first ones to properly introduce electronic pop music in Pakistan.
When making a video around a philosophical theme, the artist needs to intellectually use visual metaphors and narratives. If not utilised properly, they can drown the whole project. Director Mian Abdur Rehman stuns you with powerful shots, showing both band members and characters performing with a rebellious attitude. The message comes across crystal clear.
The video begins with a young man working out in the gym and later on wandering around in the wilderness with a gas mask on his face; the facial expressions are an exhibit of his rage and trauma. A cliché scene of a teenager getting high on cocaine to escape reality was a bit of an injustice to the poem since the director’s approach was to make an unusual and visually strong video on a tight budget.
Name of the band
Yasir Rehman and Jawad Iqbal came together in 2008, and Abdul Wali Orakzai joined the band two years later as the lead vocalist. Since Yasir & Jawad (the band) was already gaining popularity on You Tube, Wali’s name was not added. This, however, does not exclude him from the band.
Translation by Ismet Shahjehan
I drive myself mad: suffocated by existence
The clergy keeps reciting tales of torment and agony
Yet, here I am, tormented by existence and feelings
So, at times I stoop to God; at times I seek refuge in wine
When oblivious, I vanish; when conscious, I am in anguish
Without the strength for peace, without the courage to agitate, when I look all over, it is my own being, revealed and concealed:
I am the one who made the nectar; I am the one who made the pulpit
Religion is but some rituals, tales and a rationale
It is the answer to a question that does not have any answer!
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2012.