Unbeknown to the rest of the country, from being a place unknown for its pop music, Peshawar is quietly and slowly emerging with its own local music scene. There are newer and newer bands coming out in the city, which are giving their own twist to conventional forms of pop and rock music, planting the seeds for a new chapter in the pop music history of Pakistan. The work that is being done is exciting, novel and experimental and in the process of defining its own unique identity.
Here, Images on Sunday focuses on some of the most prominent acts — folk, fusion, rap and metal — that are in the process of breaking through from the northern capital of Pakistan.
Ismail and Junaid
From the new wave of pop music from Peshawar, Ismail and Junaid reign on top. Along with their increasing popularity, however, they perform sporadically and shy away from making too many public appearances.
They first made their debut on the media in January 2010, and have to their credit, runaway hits like Qarar (peace) and Ranra (light). Ismail Khan, who is the main singer songwriter in the band, hails from a family of a political background from Charsadda and met Junaid Javed while they were still in college. Junaid’s family settled in Peshawar after his grandfather, a businessman involved in the textile export industry, moved there. He began playing the guitar at 15 years of age and is also the backing vocalist and co-composer of the band. They first began jamming together after a dinner during their second year in college.
They’re passionate about promoting awareness of their culture and heritage; and in renewing a sense of pride among the youth when it comes to their cultural identity. As university students they’re not completely focused on their music, but having said that, they do have several projects lined up which include an Urdu song whose working title is Raat, a song based on an eminent Pashto poet, Ameer Hamza Shinwari’s (Hamza Baba) poems titled Pakhwa, and an attan that would incorporate 15 dialects of the Pashto language.
This is perhaps one band from Peshawar that does the most live performances and not surprisingly so; their music may be completely instrumental, but has a wonderful element of fun, fusion and heritage that keeps listeners engaged and tapping their feet, whether by listening to their music through their videos on YouTube or at a concert.
Khumaryaan (People engaged in a state of intoxication) is composed of Farhan Bogra on rabab (and the frontman for the band), Aamer Shafiq on guitars, Shiraz Khan on zeer baghli (an Afghani hand drum, similar to the djembe from West Africa) and Sparley Rawail on guitars. They have recently begun featuring Hammad Baig on keyboards as well.
Some of their more popular numbers, accessible via recorded live performances hosted on YouTube, includes their most recent release, an original composition by the name of Bela. Other popular originals include Khumaar (intoxication) and Tamasha (ruckus). Their performances of Qataghani, mystic music that originates from the Heart province in Afghanistan; Sheenay (blue eyes), a composition that takes its roots from Gilgit-Baltistan and a cover of Babu Laley by one of Afghanistan’s most recognised singers, Sadiq Fitrat Habibi (popularly known as Nashanas) are also well-admired by audiences.
Yasir and Jawad
They made their debut on the mainstream media via a music-based reality TV show, Uth Records, and had the nation humming to their composition of Reidi Gul — a song whose lyrical content was based on the poetry of one of Pashto literature’s most popular contemporary poets, Khan Abdul Ghani Khan.
Founding members, Yasir Khan plays the rabab and hails from North Waziristan whereas Jawad Iqbal on the rhythm guitar is from Mardan. The third featured member of the band, Wali Aurakzai, their popular lead singer, is originally from the Orakzai Agency.
Between their appearance on Uth Records and now, Wali Aurakzai was recruited into the Pakistan Army. He managed to record several songs prior to his recruitment and continues to perform with the band whenever he can. Jawad Iqbal tries to step in for him as a vocalist whenever the band performs in his absence.
The 2 Dees