I&J shake up the Pashto music scene

Dynamic duo Ismail and Junaid talk about their rise to fame.

Rafay Mahmood July 08, 2012


While new musicians from Karachi and Lahore haven’t managed to bring anything fresh to the music scene, musicians from Peshawar have created a cult following of their own. Whether it is the sound of the Rabab or the words of Ghani Khan, the approach of Pashto musicians is raw and refreshing, which has made them crucial to the future of Pakistani pop music. One such act which has rapidly gained popularity is duo Ismail and Junaid (I&J).

Their Pashto song “Qarara Rasha” has made its way onto Peshawari wedding playlists and has been awarded the second best Pashto song of all time by the Pashto Cultural Board Society. The song has also been allegedly copied by the likes of Shaz Khan and Rahim Shah for their personal albums.

Talking about other singers ripping off their songs, the band’s guitarist Junaid says, “We don’t mind, as long as we are all taking Pashto music forward. We could have easily sent them a legal notice but who will do all the legwork?” he laughed.

I&J is by far the only band from Peshawar who has not only garnered the attention of traditional Pashto music lovers who enjoy the Rabab but also won the hearts of people who love contemporary music. “I am not sure how we did that because neither one of us is professionally trained and have no understanding of sur or taal,” says Junaid. “Whenever we record music, our aim is to keep the song as empty of instruments as possible. We work on traditional rhythms and that is why we were actually able to rebrand Pashto music at large.”

Although they are one of the most popular bands in Peshawar and have quite a following, none of the band members want to take up music as a career. The band says that their real goal for making music was to promote Pashto culture on a larger platform and if they get commercially involved in their projects, then the purpose of making music will be lost.

“We want to avail any opportunity that exposes Pashto music to a larger audience, even if it means being involved in ‘Uth records’ or ‘Coke Studio’,” says Junaid about the possibility of appearing on popular music television shows.

So, if they don’t plan on pursuing music as a career, why waste a deserving musician’s spot on the show who does want to go down that path? To this question, Junaid says, “I don’t think any show can make or break the career of any musician. With an appearance on such a show, your video and song gets good publicity and people get to see you on screen. Who would mind that?”

The band is all set to release their next video this summer for a song called “Pakhwa” which is based on the poetry of Amir Hamza Shinwari.“The song ‘Pakhwa’ will be totally different from ‘Qarara Rasha’ and ‘Rana’, it’s just something we wanted to do, not necessarily what people wanted to listen,” says Junaid.

Correction: An earlier version of this article had incorrectly stated the song has also been allegedly copied by the likes of Zeek Afridi instead of Shaz Khan. The correction has been made.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2012.


Zahid Shah Afridi | 9 years ago | Reply

This might've happened but to tell you the truth their music is epic. Jawad & Yasir might've played Rabab-Guitar or whateva & have their own place in Pashto Music but for flip sake dont mix it up to confuse ppl. Bless

vasilisa.dieskova | 9 years ago | Reply

These guys are good but they are mixing politics with music....Some facts !! on Jan 26, 2012 Qarar video has 0.6 million views & Ranra has 0.2 million (total views for both songs sumup to 0.8 million). Meanwhile other singers sing Qarar Rasha way better than Ismail & Junaid because there only strength is fusion of "Guitar and Rabab". Frankly, fusion of "Guitar and Rabab" is also not there invention because yasir & jawad was doing it for many years & everybody love them so much for their music originality, they hijacked yasir & jawad music idea too....so the only way to get out of their sinking ship was to delete their YouTube account so that people doesn't realize that we are getting less popular everyday & blame others for hacking their account. Gain of all this darma is that they published a "paid interview" ina local pakistani magzine called JANG on june 29, 2012 & claim that Qarar has 1 million & Ranra has 0.5 million views, which sums up to 1.5 million views. So in five months they have 0.7 million more views from heaven, Although they uploaded official videos for Qarar & Ranra in late 2010 & early 2011. so by playing this whole drama they also gained soft corner of poor audience & 0.7 million from views.

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