Zeb and Haniya rock across the US

Published: November 2, 2012
A tour of India is on Zeb and Haniya’s current agenda. PHOTO: MAHWASH REHMAN

A tour of India is on Zeb and Haniya’s current agenda. PHOTO: MAHWASH REHMAN

A tour of India is on Zeb and Haniya’s current agenda. PHOTO: MAHWASH REHMAN A tour of India is on Zeb and Haniya’s current agenda. PHOTO: MAHWASH REHMAN A tour of India is on Zeb and Haniya’s current agenda. PHOTO: MAHWASH REHMAN A tour of India is on Zeb and Haniya’s current agenda. PHOTO: MAHWASH REHMAN A tour of India is on Zeb and Haniya’s current agenda. PHOTO: MAHWASH REHMAN

After their memorable “Coke Studio” performances, Zeb and Haniya garnered a huge audience in Pakistan as well as abroad.

The duo recently returned from their month-long US tour, which was  part of the US State Department’s initiative Center Stage organised by the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). It included 13 large concerts, a number of radio performances and other outreach activities. The pop-folk duo sheds some light on their tour experience and upcoming projects.

“Something I really, really like that has come out of this tour are the things people have been saying during our performances: ‘What is this sound? I have never heard anything like this before but I love it’,” says Haniya Aslam, vocalist and guitarist, referring to the audience’s response to the sound and music they created.

US tour

The US State Department’s new Cultural Diplomacy Programme has served the role of providing a proper platform and arena in the US to international artists. Instead of sending American artists abroad, they have invested in bringing artists such as Arieb Azhar, Noori and now Zeb and Haniya to the American public — something which private entities have failed to do.

“We expect Americans to have misconceptions about us and we have misconceptions about them as well but it’s actually quite a varied country,” says Haniya. “Now that we have travelled so much, we realised that the country’s pretty big. There are all kinds of people there and a lot of Americans have actually come from various parts of the world and have faced difficult situations. Thus people actually understood what we were talking about and where we were coming from.”

Speaking about the musical experience they had, vocalist Zebunnisa Bangash, known more popularly as Zeb, believes there is a level of receptivity when cultures reach out to each other and mesh together. “It didn’t matter where we were from, but it really felt like people were very receptive towards us, whether it was a freshman from college or a diplomat from Washington DC,” says Zeb. “There was also a lot of prior knowledge of South Asian classical music as well, just like we know a lot about American music.”

“For us it was a steep learning curve as most Pakistani bands only get to perform in desi settings for more desi crowds,” she continues, appreciating the opportunity they received. “But we had the chance of doing so many shows in front of new audiences and the sound was fantastic everywhere.” On the tour, the duo performed with a live band, including Amir Azhar, Hamza Jafri, Muhammad Ahsan Pappu, and Kami Paul.

Other projects

Apart from their US tour, Zeb and Haniya have been busy with other projects as well, which includes their second album whose videos are close to completion. A tour in India is also on their current itinerary, which is being hosted by an Indian newspaper in November. During their stay there, they also intend on completing their project in collaboration with Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire on a show called “The Dewarists” — something the audience should look forward to.

“We sat down in the studio day after day and came up with tunes together — It’s been really interesting for us to go through this kind of a songwriting process with such great musicians and composers,” says Zeb, adding that Moitra and Kirkire took time off from their busy schedule and came to record tracks with the duo. “We all contributed something to most of the songs. The album is almost done. It’s a very musical conversation in that regard, so I am interested to see how it will turn out after we fuse our varying styles.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Raza Khan
    Nov 2, 2012 - 10:20PM

    At least some soft faces of the nation!


  • Zalmai
    Nov 2, 2012 - 11:52PM

    Proud of these two Pashtun women. I hope they have more Pashto and Farsi songs in their next album. Recommend

  • Kanwal
    Nov 3, 2012 - 1:32AM

    I love their music, and I love the photography. Beautifully captured. Way to go Zeb, Haniya and Mahwash :)


  • Khurram
    Nov 3, 2012 - 4:28AM

    @Zalmai: Pushtoons always drag ethnicity in every discussion and i cannot understand why?. Have you ever saw any comment on any media personality from Punjab or from Karachi to be associated with Ethnicity or people from those regions praising their Ethnicities and then using the the words Proud along with them in any comments on ET ??. You guys live in Pakistan but always want to distinguish from the rest of the people and only associate with Pakistan when something good happens otherwise Ethnicity and Racist Pride comes first for you in every walk of life


  • Fayaz
    Nov 3, 2012 - 4:52AM

    Can’t we say Pakistani women instead!!


  • Aviator
    Nov 3, 2012 - 6:05AM

    Zeb & Haniya, when will you be visiting United Kingdom, especially London??? There is a huge audience for live music here, and a large Pakistani community! :)

    Love your music.


  • Nov 3, 2012 - 6:18AM

    @zalmai ! Brother plz drop your ethnic phobia, its not good for anyone.


  • Farhan
    Nov 3, 2012 - 7:34AM

    these girls are fab. So glad to our culture being pushed out. We need to do more. State Dept’s initiative is always backed by corporate support. Any big names out there to get Coke Pakistan a world tour ??


  • Rana
    Nov 3, 2012 - 9:15AM

    Zeb and Haniya, Wow! Worth watching & listening, Bibi Sanam Jaanam specifically!


  • Thinker
    Nov 3, 2012 - 10:04AM

    Mummy Daddy singers for Mummy Daddy people. Though i give Zeb and Haniya credit that they started as singers and still singing. Unlike Meesha Shafi, who started as singer and then to modeling and now acting. some people want to “buy” fame at any cost.


  • Syed
    Nov 3, 2012 - 12:51PM


    I have sent Haniya and Zeb Persian songs to record in their own voice but they just ignored… never responded


  • Scooby
    Nov 3, 2012 - 1:05PM

    @everyone ,
    so one guy named Zalmai said Proud of Pashtun and you all started off critisizing , i want to ask one question from you all copiers who consistly started punching the dude , look on the positive side ,he said Proud of Pashtun woman ,the woman are Pushtun and he is proud of them , his satement wasnt followed by I hate being a Pakistani that you all started critisizing ,i guess he didnt had it in mind even the sick thoughts as you people have
    just start bringing the label of ethnicity everywhere ,and its you people who has always consider Pushton people seperate on every occassion be it sighting of moon of Eid-Ul-Fitr where shahadaas of Pashtuns are not heard ,and where you people support every kind of action against innocent pushtons where ever you think is suitable for the rest of Pakistan, what being a Pakistan Pushton i demand the army to put emergency in Karachi and over throw the Karachi govt and arrest MQM and ANP politicians there and have a major operation , will you people accept it ? definitely no


  • Khurram
    Nov 3, 2012 - 5:06PM

    @Scooby: The point is simple that any nation cannot progress without a unifying factor and this statement lacks that Sentiment. The point was simple that You will not see any Muhajir, Punjabi or a Sindhi to first write their ethnicity and then say proud and then mention any other thing and you will never see this attitude on any forum weather ET or any other. as they know Progress comes with Unity and you dont need mention of Ethnicity to listen to someone or to brag about.

    Also the word Proud if mentioned with Ethnicity then it have serious implications and atleast ET readers are educated enough to understand that words like these have some Associated meaning attached to them for being Different and Supreme than others. Do you know in West the Word White Pride is banned in many Regions only because of that reason!!

    Remember dont expect that you will arrive in Karachi or any other city and expect the larger group to transform themselves for a smaller group and all over the World a person who migrate and make their new home somewhere integrate not the other way around and i Hope if you are living in Sindh then your future generation will associate themselves with Sindh rather than with KPK as Sindh is giving you everything but you are dragging events of KPK in Sindh and that s not how things work actually.


  • Pakistani-Pakhtoon
    Nov 3, 2012 - 6:45PM

    @Khurram: He said “Proud of these two Pashtun women” and not proud to be a Pashtoon. but ya we are proud to be a pakistani and pushtoon whats ur problem and we have much more pakistaniat and patriotism then you moron’s…….


  • PaKhtoon
    Nov 3, 2012 - 6:48PM

    @Scooby: WELL SAID – GOD BLESS YOU BRO !!!!!Recommend

  • Pak-Zindabad
    Nov 3, 2012 - 7:04PM

    @Khurram: you must also proud of those Pashtoon Girls instead of thinking nagatively……


  • Khurram
    Nov 3, 2012 - 8:19PM

    @Pak-Zindabad: My upbringing is European and Pakistan is a sick place for me and And for me Mention of Race and Ethnicity and then making tall claims of Using words like Proud and signalling out some people based on race does not make sense especially my mother told me that in Islamic society there is no Racism but when i see around situation is something else and Europeans are less racist while unfortunately Middle Eastern countries and countries like Pakistan are plagued with this Ignorance so much that they even did not understand what they are saying and those things which are a Taboo in West are appreciated in the land of the pure and i could not comprehend what is going on here.
    Even Sorry to say I was appalled when recently I came to know that Racism is so ingrained in Pakistani society that apart from Using words like Proud they despise the people based on caste , color and ethnicity and despise the people especially the people with Dark Features and we are million miles away from any Civilized word.
    The Ethnic pride have many Implications but sadly our Ignorant crowds could not understand that all.


  • ali khan
    Nov 3, 2012 - 9:34PM

    Pride is inherent to pashtun culture. That is why no one can succumb them.


  • ali khan
    Nov 3, 2012 - 9:43PM

    I always wondered why she had a fair skin. Now i know


  • Zalmai
    Nov 7, 2012 - 8:48PM

    I am Pashtun from the US and I take pride in my language and ethnicity and that is all there is to it. Pashto zma laila da, Pashto zma mina da aw za par Pashto mayan yam. Pashto is my Laila, Pashto is my love and I am in love with Pashto. Deal with it.


  • Bulleh
    Nov 26, 2012 - 6:43AM

    Zalmai, cold in Kabul nowadays?


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