Like most years in this country, this year too has seen its fair share of grief and trauma, the most recent being the untimely, unsettling death of Junaid Jamshed and 47 others in a tragic plane crash. But those of us who count on music to uplift us during times of upheaval, or provide a sonic escape, trigger lucid dreaming and relish the opportunity, when it presents itself, to listen to gradual evolution of artists over time by spending deliberate time with their creations, it has been a remarkable year.
In fact, the one positive that can be derived from this year is the regularity with which artists are releasing new music and not just through Coke Studio, film soundtracks and other corporate-funded gigs like Nescafe Basement and Cornetto Pop Rock – though these platforms have also led to many songs including originals, mash-ups and covers.
Perhaps mainstream names like Ali Azmat, Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar and Strings haven’t put out a full—length album for several years, citing the lack of the presence of exciting record labels, or because of immersion in other projects, or the changing music model, observed world over, among other things.
But, many new-age artists, keeping the spirit of DIY intact, have been releasing music and yes, records. Adding more excitement to the scene, some have announced full length albums such as Khumariyaan, Faraz Anwar and Sounds of Kolachi, while others have delivered on their promise of a cohesive music record.
One such name is singer-songwriter Taimoor Salahuddin, who plays music under the moniker Mooroo and has, over the last few years, delivered several memorable songs such as ‘Tasveer’, ‘Kahaani Puraani’, a rollicking cover of Abida Parveen’s ‘Gharoli’ among other work.
The video of the Mooroo song ‘Mariam’ landed its director a Lux Style Award for Best Music Video Director earlier this year. And as per earlier interviews, Mooroo has followed up the success by emerging with his first solo album called Pehli that can be found on Pakistan’s numero uno music streaming site, Patari. While times have changed and the question over the feasibility of producing a full-length album remains just that, a question, it is also true that a complete body of work, driven by creative ideas and personal narrative, still has an intrinsic appeal that cannot be matched by sporadic single releases.
Upon listening to it for the first time and the many times after that, what is obvious is that the album is a winner because it has enough matter and character to it to make it to your iPod and/or Patari playlist. It’s also relatable because the stories here reflect the dichotomy faced by young adults in this deeply polarized country.
During a recent interview with Instep, singer-songwriter Zeb Bangash, who needs no introduction, also told me that she enjoyed the Mooroo record very much.
All of the nine songs featured on Pehli have been written, composed and arranged by Mooroo himself and produced under his Aflatoon Studios setup. Tying up with artists like Abdul Aziz Kazi (drums), Lenny Massey (keys), Jasir Abro (guitar), Hamza Jafri (ukulele) means that not only is the sound not restrictive or predictable but their presence lends the album a layer of flavour while maintaining the sparse, raw feel.
The album opens with a song called ‘Roonay Laga’. With a duration of 2 minutes and 56 seconds, it serves as the perfect opener. Covered in playful guitars, it begins strongly; the lyrical prowess is hard to miss as the words could easily be taken as an introspective conversation one has with oneself, about the distance that can envelop personal relationships or how one can be wrapped up in criticism (tanqeed) and lose their way. Despite the title, the song is anything but weepy.
‘Khwaaboun Kee Rani’ sounds like a love song from the fifties that is drenched with an innocence that is no longer found in modern music on most days. Mooroo is doing interesting things with his voice on this number, lending it a kind of gravity that adds to the album’s identity. At 2 minutes and 42 seconds, it also features spoken words, a proclamation of love that is both simple and profound.
‘Mein Koun Houn’ is the constant change, at times cyclonic and at times fiery as the faces erase and burn. The song echoes a search laced with questions that are both internal and external.
‘Ma Ami’ is languid, personal and electronic while ‘Naach’ feat. Shamoon Ismail & Sunny Khan Durrani, is funk laden and rap-fused. ‘Davinci at Grave’ is in English and honestly feels out of place. ‘Bohran’ has an all-pervading ominous texture to it that is unnerving. ‘Khatma’, co-produced by Talal Qureshi, has a lingering aggression that grows stronger as the song progresses, a sinister overtone that reaches a crescendo before fading away and ‘Hun Kee Karaan’ is sparse and has a kind of quiet sadness that is unmistakable.
In a conversation, Mooroo revealed that a chunk of the songs featured on this album will make it to the soundtrack of one film or another. When that happens, one hopes that other music directors will take note and see just how raw simplicity that is aping no one has the power to stand out.
The length of Pehli is just over 30 minutes which means that the album is crisp and the songs don’t feel as if they’ve been extended forcefully or because of a desperate need to reach a certain time-length.
Charming, lyrical and inventive, Pehli is a reflection of Mooroo’s world, both internal and external and a journey that every curious music listener should take.