Beyond the Border: New Music From Pakistan’s Alternative Circuit
Alt rock to hip-hop and everything in between, here are fresh sounds from Ammar Farooki, Jay Alvi, Natasha Noorani and more
A little bit of Eddie Vedder and the winsomeness of Nineties rock are predominant on Lahore singer-songwriter Ammar Farooki’s debut single “Caveman.” Off his upcoming debut EP Songs From the Cave, Farooki has been active for just over a couple of years, performing across the country and in New York City as well. The aesthetic is a tad lightheaded, best reflected in the music video directed by filmmaker Taimoor Salahuddin aka MoorooÂ that follows Farooki walking across pristine terrain in North Pakistan.
A regular on Pakistan’s alternative music circuit for many years and co-founder of Lahore Music Meet, composer-singer Natasha Noorani’s debut EP Munaasib is a vibrant, refreshing dose of R&B and soul fed through modern electronic and rock production. The five-track EP pulls and pushes in all directions, from the stomping “Apocalypse How?” to the hectic “Fever Dream,” alongside sublime multi-layered songs like “Work” and “Occupy.”
A seasoned musician who put together rock band Overload in 2003, drummer Farhad Humayun brings out classic disco-funk with a heavy serving of filmi kitsch on his latest, “Kambakht.” If you need any more proof that drummers can be rockstars as well, look no further than Humayun, considering his powerful croon that goes with vocalist Faiza Mujahid on the song. It’s got a solid brass section and a glamorous music video to boot.
Lahore-based electronic music producer Abdullah Siddiqui ”“ who has been putting out music since 2015 ”“ goes beyond just making beats. On his latest single “Resistance,” for example, there’s dream pop passages, seismic club-banger beats and ”“ best of all ”“ an approach to lyrics that you don’t come across every day. Over an icy knock of a beat, Siddiqui sings, “I try to self-destruct, but leave myself intact/I like to dream and I’m not an insomniac.” We could do with more of this kind of emotive electro-pop any time.
Currently part of hip-hop collective Daranti Group, Karachi-based rapper Jamal Alvi aka Jay Alvi fires off with socio-political commentary on the country in Urdu and English on his new track “Kab Tak.” Although it’s produced by Pune-based Vedang Deshpande (sampling the Asha Bhosle-sung evergreen Marathi song “Harinam Mukhi Rangate”), “Kab Tak” isn’t Alvi’s first cross-border collaboration. Starting out in 2007, Alvi worked with Indian rappers like Enkore, D’Evil and KRU-172 on his D.E.S.I. Mixtape and went on a break in 2012, restarting with Daranti Group in 2016 to get back in the ring for old school-flavored politically conscious hip-hop.