Meesha Shafi has been making waves with her voice and music. From soulful Mein to groovy Na Tuttya Ve, she has managed to conquer unchartered territory both as a singer and songwriter and has done so with style. Her recent song, the loud and flamboyant Hot Mango Chutney Sauce is yet another example of the Dasht-e-Tanhai crooner experimenting with the large palette of colours and ideas.
Hot Mango Chutney Sauce is vibrant, spirited and bright - a perfect recipe for a song layered with desi references and powerful jibes. In an interview with Forbes, Meesha explained how Hot Mango Chutney Sauce isn't just a dance number but holds a very imperative message that needed to be told.
"I do believe art and the artist’s role in society have always been linked to the politics of their environment," the Sakal Ban songstress commented, adding, "Whether that environment is internal and leads to introspective work or external, in which case, socio-political commentary has always been widely seen in art through the ages."
She went on to add, "For Hot Mango Chutney Sauce, I wanted to create a juicy, vibrant and celebratory depiction of South Asian culture and how it can be embraced in a modern-day context. For this, we have to bring up the colonial hangover as well as the patriarchy and its influence on the brown woman’s experience of life." The artists added the song also shed light on how "our identity is sized up based on material clout and further, how the marginalised, are made to colour within the lines set by society and must not overstep in the process of having fun."
And she nailed it to perfection. “My intention was to create an audio/visual texture that lets [South Asians] around the world bring our own cultural identity into the pop culture spotlight. An attempt at reinterpreting or even reclaiming how fabulous and rich our heritage is and how it fits into a contemporary conversation," she went on.
Speaking about the intention behind the song and why she decided to opt for a rather peppy take on a grave message, Meesha remarked, "In my experience, bringing up serious conversations like this in a dry manner tires everyone. I deliberately decided to package this conversation in the hyper pop genre sonically and make it really glossy and irresistible visually so that the audience could be tricked into having some food for thought." She added, "At the least, they get entertained. At the most, they start reading between the lines. I’m happy to say it’s been a very successful experiment."
This is the second time the award-winning artist has teamed up with the 20-year-old Abdullah Siddiqui. The Resistance singer, time and again, has wowed the audience with his take on the current Pakistani music scene. And Meesha, for one, is ecstatic on Siddiqui's efforts to bring EDM into Pakistan. "Abdullah is the only music producer who has the skill to produce such unapologetic hyper pop/EDM in Pakistan at the moment," she said. Meesha then shared, "Other than that, the fact that he has a depth of undertaking when it comes to gender and identity politics was a real bonus. Plus, humour was very essential to the language of this track, so arranging it with its comic beat intact was crucial."
Adding on, "What I love the most about collaborating with Abdullah is that his range of sonic landscapes is vast and enables him to be just as genre-bending as I want. He is ahead of his time and the region which he calls home."
Apart from making new music, Meesha also discussed the up-and-coming artists in Pakistan. Does she think the music is being created in music on home turf? "One hundred percent yes," the Balori singer responded. "There is a surge of music being produced in Pakistan. The sharp rise in indie artists' self-publishing is creating authenticity and freedom to Pakistani music which is a break from the usual soft pop/rock that we had been stuck in for a while."
She also revealed she has been working on a lot of new music in the lockdown. "I did a lot of songwriting during the lockdown. The world coming to a halt was good for my creativity. There are several projects and singles I’m very excited to share over the coming months," she divulged. "I have really taken my time to explore and play with many different sounds, genres and lyrical themes. That’s how I wanted it to be."
Meesha continued, "Because of that palette being so colourful, at the moment I am pursuing two polar opposite directions creatively. One being very loud, political and unapologetic i.e., Hot Mango Chutney Sauce, and the other, deeply spiritual, very gentle, emotionally vulnerable and oftentimes beautiful but sad, like Mein for instance. I plan on pursuing both. Life wouldn’t be complete without both night and day."
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