For all those decrying the death of creativity in Pakistani music, the rise and rise of Pakistani rap is an eye-opener. While Pakistani rap started with Fakhar-e-alam, once the comic Ahmad Ali Butt (White boy from L-town) was the only rapper of note in the Indus Music (IM) days. Most of the recent acclaim however, has been garnered by the witty Waderai Ka Beta fame Ali Gul Pir. The well-produced Adil Omer from Islamabad (BC Kholo), along with Osama Cum Laude (I’m Zoning), both of whom rap primarily in English, have also been making waves.
There is however, bubbling under these acknowledged rappers, a startling range of young rappers who are lyrically doing perhaps some of the most incisive and insightful work in Pakistan. Artists like Talhah Younus, Talha Anjum and the Young Stunners, Abid Shareef, Emmad Aziz, Young Desi and the brilliant Faris Shafi find their home on soundcloud.com and proffer free tracks of jaw dropping quality and wit.
In the first part of this two part series on the rise of rap in Pakistan; one delves into the history, growth, and separation of the two Talhas.
Of the younger rappers, the two Talhas from Karachi are very promising and very young. Talhah Yunus broke away from the band Young Stunners, which also consisted of the equally compelling Talha Anjum. Maila Majnun and Burger-e-Karachi are the most well-known tracks they worked on together. However, Talhah Yunus, in his subsequent tracks, demonstrates that there is more genius to him.
Why So Quiet might be musically weak, but it is a groundbreaking and harrowing tribute to a dead mother. It demonstrates the emotional honesty which for all its melodrama, is unmatched by other Urdu songs. Given Talhah’s age, his flow and delivery is not as yet fully developed, but his rhymes and content are spectacular. On other tracks too, while production skills could be improved, the sheer diversity and creativity is stunning. The songs vary in vibe from novelty, to tracks with great depth (Thoughts; Fikar-e-Akhirat). Thoughts is brilliant in the rap parts though the rock bits featuring Intishaar are poor. Naam Tau Suna Hoga is a nasty song on the state of relationships on the streets of Karachi. International Bhikhari is novel, but lesser of a song as its anger is more unfocused. It hits out at Zardari, Amir Liaqut (Har Pakistani Chor Kai Moon pai aik daarhi hai), Eye to Eye, and many others).
Talha Anjum and the Young Stunners compare well with their old band mate. They have their hits, the aforementioned tracks Maila Majnun and Burger-e-Karachi, but lack the emotional nakedness of Talhah Yunus. They compensate by having a lot of earnestness. Main Hoon Pakistan is brilliant in its rap parts, terrible in the sung parts. The lyrics are awesome, 1 marra apna tou agay se 4 unke maaray 4 ke 8, 8 ke 16 musalmaan maaray saaray, tou kyun na ho mera khuda mujhse naraaz. (After one of ours died, four of theirs were taken, from four to eight, eight to 16, all the Muslims were killed, so why wouldn’t my Lord be angry with me?)
Laam Sai Chaura is rude, brilliant and very specific. After it finishes kicking Karachi-ites around, it takes on Lahoris for good measure. Fire in the Hole is a brilliant anthem of youth empowerment and celebrates Karachi Paseena kam yahan pe khoon zyada behta hai, Par Karachi jaan hai meri dil mera ye kehta hai (Blood flows more than sweat here, but my heart says that Karachi is my life), while making minced meat out of politicians Tabdeeli ai, lekin thori se ganji hogai, qaum jaagi lekin humari qismat so gai. Jo hakumat ne qaum ke saath kiya wo zannaa hai, Bathroom mein likh diya meine Yahan kharaab karna mana hai, (Change came, but it was a little bald, the nation woke up, but our fate slept. What the government did with the nation was blasphemous. I wrote in the bathroom that it is not allowed to be made messy)
Dil Shakasta and Qasurwar are weak musically and lyrically and the latter needlessly drowns the vocals with effects. In trying his hand at various styles of content, Talha Anjum ends up with uneven results: some songs work, some do not.
Adding spice to the scene is the fact that there is a beef already brewing between the two rappers. Talha Anjum and Talha Younus seem to be taking potshots (Fire in the Hole: Talha Anjum ne tumhein rap karna sikhaya aur tu ne apne gaana mein mujhay he chiraaya) (Talha taught Anjum how to rap and you have teased me in your song) in rhyme at each other. These two may end up being the Biggie and 2Pac of Pakistan, hopefully without the violence, one hopes. Overall, both Talhas take on all comers: The two are not political in their raps, but politically aware with some killer lines. Mr. Zardari seems a frequent target (possibly because it is an easier rhyme than Nawaz?) and Even Imran Khan gets some hate.
Don’t forget to read the second part of this series next Tuesday, April 28 2014.
The writer is a Barrister-at-law and Managing Partner at Qayyum & Associates Lahore. He has been an avid music critic for 10 years and tweets @maqsimillion
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.
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