To say that Pakistani music had an eventful year would be an understatement. With multi-national brands promoting local artistes through TV shows such as Nescafe Basement and Pepsi Smash, there have been more performers in the spotlight this past year than ever before.
The Express Tribune decided to round-up the 10 Pakistani songs from 2013 that you simply had to listen to before the year was out.
10. Main Sufi Hoon — The Sketches
Coming in at number 10 we have yet a quality number by the Jamshoro-based The Sketches. In this track they have merged the combined talent of Faraz Anwar, Gumby and the US-based producer/musician Jono Manson to bring forward a powerful and contemporary interpretation of Sachal Sarmast’s poetry, both audio-wise and visually.
9. Aakhir Kyun — Chambaili
The pop-rock soundtrack for the Pakistani film Chambaili was the first release by the Nabeel Nihal Project. Combining Nabeel Nihal Chishti’s production and guitars with Karavan front man Tanseer Dar’s vocals, Aakhir Kyun is a track that is both soothing and dark. This track is a testament to how much Chishti has evolved from the good old days of Aaroh.
8. Tension — Faraz Anwar
Faraz Anwar’s solo effort fused Bhangra beats with a rock groove, resulting in one of the most catchy rock songs of the year. While Anwar’s vocals have always been his greatest weakness, the powerful guitar solo will blow you away. This energetic track is guaranteed to make you get up and make something of your life.
7. Asrar — Waris Shah
Asrar has to be one of the most prolific new artists from Pakistan to emerge this year, who has stayed relevant by releasing back to back videos. His rendition of Amrita Pritam’s poem Waris Shah puts his raw vocals to good use against an acoustic backdrop and minimalistic arrangement of instruments.
6. Black Coffee Khwabon Mein — Zohaib Kazi
This year, Zohaib Kazi has diversified away from his initial semi-classical release Jaan Lo. In Black Coffee Khwaabon Mae he collaborates with the best in the business — Abbas Ali Khan, Sara Haider, Omran Shafique and Gumby. All this talent combined, surprisingly results in a harmonious and atmospheric pop-rock song that leads one down memory lane to the early ’90s pop scene of Pakistan.
5. Pariyaan — Bell
A relaxing number, Pariyaan is the debut video by Karachi based blues band Bell, comprising of Hazrat Shahab Hussain, Zeeshan Lalani, Muhammad Abid and Ahad Nayani. This mellow number highlights what this new band has to offer — a contemporary blues sound and catchy melodies.
4. Jeevan — Pepsi Smash Ft Strings
Pepsi Smash was a game changing venture this year that brought an altogether EDM sound into the mainstream of Pakistani music, propelled by the expertise of Faisal Baig. String’s signature song writing combined with Baig’s finesse as a producer resulted in one of the most melodious songs of the year.
Edit: An unintentional omission on our part may give readers the impression that we are claiming Faisal Baig is the sole producer of Pepsi Smash, which is incorrect. Pepsi Smash has been co-produced by Farhad Humayun, Faisal Baig and Sheraz Siddiq.
3. Laili Jaan — Coke Studio Season 6
Despite criticism levelled at Coke Studio for its overly experimental approach this season, Laili Jaan stood out regardless. A brilliant rendition of the Darri folk classic by Zeb & Haniya, coupled with a mesmerising brass section, made it one of the most powerful and flawless productions of the year.
2. Paar Chana Dae — Zinda Bhaag
With Zinda Bhaag’s soundtrack, Sahir Ali Bhagga created a totally new sound by combining elements of A R Rehman and Vishal Bhardwaj’s music. Only a genius like him could find a rare voice like Saleema Jawad and pair her up with the legendary Arif Lohar. The larger than life Paar Chana Dae is folk music like never before; the grandeur of which will transport you into another universe.
1. Har Zulm — Sajjad Ali
The number one spot on our list goes to the one pop star that has proved time and again to have the Midas touch — none other than Sajjad Ali. Har Zulm, another unforgettable ghazal brings him to top of our playlist. Ali is by far the best singer in Pakistan, and also the most dynamic and diverse. He has a knack for modern arrangements and knows exactly what sort of music will mesmerise his fans, whether it is rock with Bolo Bolo, rap with Chief Saab or semi-classical with Har Zulm.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2013.