­MUSICAL NOTES

August 9, 2020

Asim Azhar drops a new single, ‘Soneya’

Asim Azhar drops a new single, ‘Soneya

2020 has been a significant year for Asim Azhar. From being featured on the soundtrack of Indian film Malang, to an all-star track featuring the likes of Shamoon Ismail, it has been a time where his star power has grown - irrespective of controversies.

The song ‘Tum Tum,’ a recent release that featured several names including a cameo from Hania Amir may not have been his best work but the song has captured a whopping 6.2 million views on Asim Azhar’s YouTube page. Building on its success as well as a genuine desire to do better – as he said recently – Asim Azhar has dropped a “heartbreak anthem” called ‘Soneya’ that he composed himself. It is written by Kunaal Vermaa.

Before the video begins, a message from Asim Azhar on the screen states: “This video was shot under challenging circumstances. To the ones who made it happen and to all my fans who have stood by me. This one’s for you.”

The video is the slickest, coolest video Asim Azhar has ever dropped; between the shades of darker hues under which he stands to the static tones that open the music video, the clean white background, the fierce fire and the anxious graphics, it is a definite change of pace and a worthy one at that. A music video is only as good as the artist allows it to be so here Fida Moin (the director) and Asim (the artist) must be applauded for stepping out of the box.

Apart from Asim himself, the music video – directed by Fida Moin – also stars Roshanay Afridi and Reham Rafiq. It is not only unconventional for Azhar in terms of visuals but also audio wise. The control and restrain with which Asim Azhar sings this melancholic song, never showing off those high notes unnecessarily. It is also palpable that Asim has put his soul into the song, where both the composition and vocal delivery show a different side of him. This is Asim Azhar at his best – so far. Check it out on YouTube.

A for Aleph launches record label

What started as a recording studio and residency program has morphed into a record label as well. A for Aleph, a state-of-the-art recording studio in Karachi took eight months to be designed and is owned by Umair Dar of The D/A Method and Cosmic Fluid. What started as a small team with Umair Dar, Daniel A. Panjwaneey and Istvan Csabai has now expanded.

After a two-week residency by Takatak, a Lahore-based music group at A for Aleph during which they recorded their debut album, the recording studio also played host to Zishan Mansoor from Malang Party.
During his residency, Zishan Mansoor - along with the latest iteration of Malang Party - featuring drummer Kami Paul and bassist Anas Alam - began work on the group’s debut album, titled Ziyarat.  With tentative plans to release later this year, Ziyarat is fast becoming one of the most anticipated albums of the year.

A for Aleph, however, also understands that making a record is not enough. Putting it on digital mediums that allow artists to make money (however much) is just as significant so they can continue to build on their ideas.

Some of the artists tying up with Aleph Records - with Anas Alam having sunk his teeth to the cause of musicians - are finally getting their music to all the right digital platforms such as Tidal, Apple Music and more under the right names. Copyright understanding is limited but Aleph Records is armed with knowledge.

Aleph has also launched its own YouTube channel. It gives a sense of A for Aleph life and times as well as the shared camaraderie between musicians. The A for Aleph YouTube channel is home to some performances as well as behind the scenes with the likes of Takatak and Malang Party. Huzzah to the new independent label. More on this later.

Surkhwaab arrive with debut music video

Surkhwaab, a music group formed while Malang Party was recording their debut album at Umair Dar’s super slick A for Aleph facility, has arrived. And since coming into being, Surkhwaab has (among other things) taken the stage during the third edition of Creative Karachi Festival (2019) that was a celebration of the life and times of its slain founder Sabeen Mahmud.

Though Surkhwaab has gone through certain iterations, its current line-up includes Zeeshan Ali (vocals), Jasir Abro (bass), Jon Saville (keys), Ajay Harry (drums) and Zishan Mansoor (guitars). Surkhwaab’s sound is unlike Malang Party, known for tracks like ‘Dil Jaley’, ‘Uth Malangi’ and ‘12 Meel Duur’.

“It’s totally different; it’s Balochi-inspired, folk inspired,” Mansoor had told Instep during his residency at A for Aleph, in Karachi.

Those of us who’ve seen them live can tell you this is an intriguing band to follow. Even though they have just arrived, they have great plans. Among those plans is the idea to release approximately six to seven songs that will make up the first album of Surkhwaab, as Zishan Mansoor had confirmed to Instep.

To that end, their first official song, ‘Sanval’ has been released and comes with a music video directed/edited by band member Jasir Abro. And while it is a performance-based video, it is also cutting edge in how it introduces the band to an audience that may or may not have heard them. ‘Sanval’ is, as Surkhwaab notes, “a rendition of Khwaja Ghulam Farid’s poetry composed in Sindhi Bhairavi by Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. The band has incorporated jazz fusion elements with sufi folk and eastern classical music.”

The result is a sound that is neither superficial nor routine for the music scene. Though it may be fusion, it is the kind that is a welcome relief because it has dared to be dissimilar to anything else out there and is different in the truest sense of the word.

­MUSICAL NOTES