4 Apr 2010
Speaking about the culture of the North West, I thought sharing this would be appropriate.
This is another song from Coke Studio, that I mentioned earlier. This time the featured artists are Zeb and Haniya (the new trend with Pakistani bands is to just call themselves by the names of their members, most duos prefer this way), two more artists educated in the West and and now back in Pakistan adding to the ‘cultural capital’. Both are from Mount Holyoke and Smith, which went to which always confuses me, but do leave it in the comments if you know.
This particular song is in Darri, a mixture of Persian/Farsi and Pashto, to the best of my knowledge. The band initially recorded this on their album as a folk song they remembered from their childhood. A Norwegian trumpet player was flown in, the track recorded into an album of jazz, blues, rock and the slightest bit of pop. The element of Indian Classical present throughout, but never too obvious. The band being women, and exploring genres not previously explored this extensively in Pakistan, have gained world wide acclaim and have even been featured in Time Magazine. They are frequently performing for dignitaries, often in embassies and abroad. They have also been credited for creating a positive, moderate yet outgoing outlook for women in a society where women have been both oppressed and objectified. This is how Instep think they have found the middle ground, talking about efforts from their media outlook to their choice of attire.
More on the song after the break.
When I met them for TEDx Lahore, an independent TED event I helped organize with other students last summer, Haniya recalled how they hastily recorded the song onto the album. Then when they were in for Coke Studio, along with Rohail Hyatt, the veteran producer and former member of the Vital Signs, they went back to the original 7-beat version of the song. This time with a rubab instead of a trumpet. The rubab is a Central Asian instrument, and many will identify its sound with the quaint valleys of newly-renamed province Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The instrument is also widely used in Iran and Afghanistan, from what I know. The response to his version was phenomenal, and has spurred an even greater trend for artists to move back into more folk music, perhaps refreshing it, but sticking to its core.
The band also later found out that this folk song was actually a rubai of Umar Khayyam.Every
This is one of those special works of art that comes to the mainstream bringing tides of a hidden culture. And it did the same for a lot of the North West in Pakistan, as this blog aims to do for the rest of the world.
The band itself shares some interesting insight on the recording of this version in this backstage video.
For more on Zeb and Haniya, here’s their website.