KARACHI: Collaborating with regional artists has always fascinated mainstream Pakistani musicians. Coke Studio produced nine seasons out of regional, folk and mainstream fusion. But there is still a sense of excitement that is only felt when listening to folk music in its true essence. Take away the heavy guitar riffs and what one is left with is the pure vernacular sound of a region and the collective soul of its dwellers.
Irfan Ali Taj, a singer of Chitrali origin, is amongst those musicians who want to stay true to their roots and yet bring Chitrali music to the fore. His latest song Ishq Daryah, a collaboration with Moaaz Afridi, talks about the emotional struggles of a lover. “At its core, it is about how happiness cannot be chased and found. It’s inside you. To be happy, you just have to be happy,” Taj told The Express Tribune.
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With rabab and sitar playing in the background, the video features the stunning landscapes of upper Chitral. Mubashir Admani of Coke Studio fame has produced the music while Taj himself has penned down the lyrics in Chitrali and Urdu. “I made the Chitrali jhol a little contemporary as I wanted to promote folk music, which is dying as not many artists take up this kind of music. They would rather work in a bank and earn good money.”
Taj added that he wants to break away from the monotony of ghazal singing in Chitral. “Poetry is common in the region. We are all lovers. But I feel that ghazal singing has resulted in a sort of musical saturation. So with Ishq Daryah, I wanted to bring variety in our soundscape without compromising on its soul.”
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The singer revealed the song resonates with him on a personal level. “I went to Chitral but I couldn’t come up with a song there. The composition and lyrics suddenly came to me on my way back. So, I am emotionally attached to the words I have written,” he stated.
Earlier Hadiqa Kiani collaborated with Irfan Khan for a Pashto song and even Taj’s previous song, Ashiqi Angar, was a duet with Zoe Viccaji. Talking about how not many regional musicians follow up on their mainstream success after a couple of songs, Taj mentioned, “I don’t know about other artists but I’m really grateful to Zoe for giving me a chance to collaborate with her. At the same time I must say that regional artists will keep making music regardless of mainstream support. Chitrali people are music-oriented. If we are sitting and I start playing a guitar, someone else would join in with the tabla.”
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Taj believes musicians today aim for going viral, instead of bringing consistency to their music. “We want to go viral, make money and that’s it. We lose our origins and end up compromising on our music. Rock music and other genres are the ones we have adapted and that’s fine but we should also produce what only we can. Our regional music is the originality Pakistan offers to the world.”
The singer will release another song, Duniya ju Baso (life is short), with Viccaji in January, and is also working on a song which fuses Chitrali and jazz music. “The intonation, rhythm and beat of jazz are quite similar to Chitrali music. I would like to experiment with that.”
You can watch the song here:
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