KARACHI: The coolest thing about Sajjad Ali is not his 90s swag or the effortless singing. It is that unabashed and shameless attitude he has towards making music. He cries, he whines and he laments that the love of his life didn’t give him the attention he deserves – all that when he is about to hit 50.
Whether you call him passive aggressive or too ‘senti’ for his age, this shamelessness is the method behind his madness – the drive that keeps him throwing one catchy composition after another is not just fueled by crafty musicianship but is equally the result of the belief that Sajjad Ali has in Sajjad Ali.
Of course, there’s a lot of self-worship to that self-worth but sometimes it does result in songs best suited for the pre-intro to his 90s albums. However, his latest track Allah Hu is a departure from fallen romance to Muslim devotional and it is safe to say that the Babia hit-maker has dropped a magical pop naat.
Don’t get too taken aback by pop and naat going together. The Madni channel rip-offs have crossed Muslim devotional genres and techniques such as trance, hip hop, beat boxing and you name it, without obviously being original or acknowledging the original composer of the melody.
Ali’s naat has the skillset of an incredible composer and the honesty of a believer, so don’t be surprised if you end up including it in your jam on the not so religious days of the year as well.
The naat kicks off with the chanting of Allah Hu with mild keyboard notes to stress on the words. It soon turns into a rhythm, almost sounding like the welcome announcement of someone special and royal. This sets the thematic and stylistic tone for the praise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) which the composition indulges in quite earnestly and subtly.
The chordal progression from the chorus (which is the chanting itself) to the bridge is reminiscent of the bridge of another Sajjad Ali classic, Har Zulm.
However, unlike Har Zulm which was produced more like an acoustic light classical ghazal, Allah Hu picks up in a similar fashion but the meticulous arrangement of percussions, drums and violins transform into something a lot grander. It’s an anthem that grows onto you regardless of the lyrical content and that’s the beauty of not just Allah Hu but any great piece of music.
Allah Hu isn’t the first time Ali has successfully married Arifana Kalaam or devotional poetry with pop music. His song Ali Ali from the 1995 album ‘Chief Saab’ was another beautiful experiment that left a lasting impression on not just how devotional music can be reimagined but also how it doesn’t have to be season specific.
Just like Allah Hu starts with an overtly religious chant, even Ali Ali starts with a phrase praising Hazrat Ali (AS) and then expands into an upbeat pop number with devotional overtones.
So this change in trajectory is less of a new route for the maestro and more of a homecoming. He has always stood on the blurry line between pop and classical and managed to push the boundaries most of the time. Director Bilal Khan deserves equal appreciation for shooting magnificent landscapes and juxtaposing them quite seamlessly with the message of humility and devotion that the naat preaches.
The Ramazan tracks have officially kicked off on a high note. All hail the prince of Pakistani pop, Sajjad Ali!
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