Pakistani Music: Diverse Musical Culture.

The Music of Pakistan also popularly known as “Pakistani mosiqi” consists of diverse elements of music influenced by South Asian, Middle Eastern, and modern Western music as well. It has evolved a lot due to the historic phases that this land has gone through, after Islam; the Sufism music became more mature and developed adding a new distinctiveness to it. Similarly, the last decade has been some of the greatest years in the history of Pakistani music as we saw a rise in the traditional, modern, regional and religious music in the form of Coke Studio, Nescafe Basement, Bisconni music seasons, and some of the greatest Pakistani artists. Let’s have a look at some of the greatest achievements of Pakistani music in the last decade:

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Coke Studio:

Like every society, Pakistan’s culture is also distinguished between ‘High’ and ‘Low’. This high and low culture defines the music categories in any society. In Pakistan the high culture is the music that is refined, more developed, and is accessed and enjoyed by only a few privileged classes of people, however, is glorified by all such as calligraphy, qawwali, and Sufism music. Low culture music, on the other hand, is more easily accessible and understandable by more people as it has low entry barriers such as rap music which consists of everyday language. Some traditional forms of culture still consist of high/low dynamics however, a new trend of merging English with the Urdu language has seen an increasing trend over the past years. This is quite common as we also merge Urdu words with English while speaking in everyday life. This became sensational when some local artists started rapping in both English and Urdu languages (bilingual). Till a few years ago, Pakistani society and culture operated within the bounds of Urdu and some regional languages. This process was underway even at the time of our great musicians, like Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Madam Noor Jehan. The best example of this is Coke Studio, the prime aim of the Coke Studio seasons was to re-ignite old Pakistani classics and folk music and appeal to a younger, more hip nation. One of the best examples of this was “Allah Karesi” of season 11, Esakhelvi and his son performed this classic folk with a twist of EDM remix, this combination of music became popular among both the adults and young generation. Other than encouraging a new way of perceiving the music, Coke Studio also re-invented the traditional music as the trend of folk music like qawwali started decreasing. The makers of Coke studio recognizes what was attracting the young generation and applied it to folk music as well. A prime example of this is “Tajdar – e – Haram” performed by Atif Aslam from season 8 which held the title of most-viewed song of coke studio until “Afreen Afreen” from season 9 performed by Momina Mustehsan and the great Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. In earlier seasons’ of the Coke Studio, similar magic was created by Abida Parveen when she sang “Soz – e – Ishq” of season 3. The vocals were the same for which Abida Parveen is famous, however, the music gives the song a younger feel and this is what made Coke studio famous in earlier years. Some of the greatest songs produced by Coke Studio from all the seasons are as follows:

  • Sammi Meri Waar – Umair Jaswal and Quratulain Balouch: 

This is the song from season 8 that was loved by people all over the globe and has been watched by more than 50 million people to date making it one of the best coke studio songs.

Aaya Laariye – Meesha Shafi and Naeem Abbas Rufi: The song from season 9 became a sensational song, especially among the younger generation which was a great combination of fusion and rock.

  • Tera Who Pyar – Momina Mustehsan and Asim Azhar:

Another famous song from season 9 is a mashup of ‘Tera Who Pyar’ and ‘Nawazishein’ that was originally sung by Shuja Haider. Beautiful, soulful, and transcendent are some of the words describing the song.

  • Shikwa/Jawab-E-Shikwa – Natasha Baig, Fareed Ayaz, and Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Brothers:

This is another famous song on the list from season 11 where, Natasha Baig, Fareed Ayaz, and Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Brothers give a contemporary twist to two of the greatest poems of Allama Iqbal. 

  • Naina Moray – Akbar Ali and Javed Bashir

Another sensational song produced by Coke Studio in season 10, is one of the finest compositions to have come out of all the seasons of Coke Studio. The song has two parts, a thumri called Naina Moray (originally sung by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan) performed by Akbar Ali and a qawwali titled Mann Atkeya Beparwah De Naal, written by Sufi poet Shah Hussein, and vocalized by Javed Bashir. The two songs fuse fluently, augmenting the marvelous textures of Ali’s and Bashir’s singing.

  • Kangna – Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Brothers:

Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Brothers brought their 750-year lineage of qawwali to the 4th season of Coke Studio. The most mesmerizing part of the song was the jam session that allows both the singers to gallop like wild stallions, as the musicians follow them, allowing various variations during the song. 

  • Nindya Re – Kaavish:

It is another masterpiece produced by Coke Studio in its 4th season, vocalized by Kaavish. The music perfectly complimented the vocals by Zaidi’s band (Kaavish) creating some sort of magic that made the youngsters groove to it. 

  • Garaj Baras – Ali Azmat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan:

This is another one of the viral songs from 1st season of Coke Studio featuring Junoon’s Ali Azmat and the great Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. It has also been used as a promotional song for John Abraham’s starrer Paap (2003), but it became famous widespread when Rahat Fateh Ali Khan also lend his voice in coke studio along with Ali Azmat hence, he is one of the prime reasons why this song is well-known across the globe. 

  • Charkha Nolakha Da – Atif Aslam and Qayaas:

One of the reasons that Coke Studio is famous is its style of producing Sufism genre music by complementing it with modern music and Charkha Nolakha Da is the prime example of it performed by Atif Aslam and Qayaas in season 5. It’s a fusion of Sufi poems, qawwali, and contemporary instruments perfectly complementing each other.

  • Rona Chhor Diya – Zeb Bangash, Haniya Aslam and Javed Bashir:

It’s from one of the landmark pop albums Chup (2008) beautifully crafted and performed by Zeb Bangash and Haniya Aslam in the 2nd season of Coke Studio. They were also accompanied by Javed Bashir, who recites Sargam thus giving modern music a traditional touch. 

  • Ranjish Hi Sahi – Ali Sethi:

Ali Sethi is one of the greatest singers that Pakistan has, they say when Ali lends his voice to any project, he ends up creating the magic. This also happened in season 10 of coke studio when he performed Ranjish Hi Sahi, a contemporary reinterpretation of classic ghazal. The song was, however, a modern version of the ghazal but he made sure that this tribute did justice to Mehdi Hassan’s ghazal making it popular among all the generations. 

  • Saari Raat – Noori:

The band Noori, one of the most popular bands of that time performed Saari Raat in the 2nd season of coke studio. The vocals were given by the brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, making the song a sensation of that time.

The Netizens feel that Coke Studio season 14, might be one of the best seasons so far that Coke Studio has produced. The first episode of Coke Studio 14 producing one of the greatest songs “Tu Jhoom” performed by the legendary Abida Parveen and Naseebo Lal, hasn’t stopped ever since and has been producing hits after hits. The Baloch-pop song “Kanna Yaari” not only gives chills because of the vocals and music but also promotes our Pakistani culture so beautifully that it was loved all across the country. “Pasoori” another masterpiece performed by Ali Sethi and Shae Gill, hits the fastest one million views of the season and the story behind it is quite interesting. While Pasoori with its gentle and to some extent pop music will take you to a happy place, the lyrics of the song were born from the frustration of two lovers not being able to meet. Another sensational song “GO” performed by Atif Aslam and Abdullah Siddiqui made the youngsters groove as it hit the internet, a phenomenal combination of English rap and Urdu lyrics making it a desi hyper pop track, thus creating real magic. The coke studio season 14 ends with a banger “Phir Mileinge” by Young Stunners and Faisal Kapadia which was a bridge between generations. The latest season was filled with experiments and blends of genres and music styles that made season 14, a huge success. 

Nescafe Basement:

Nescafe Basement is a music platform that provides an opportunity to showcase its talent to upcoming artists. From creating the entire digital journey of the music experience, from online audio submissions for shortlisting prospective artists to the grand finale’s encapsulating the entire story of each artist, including jamming sessions, behind-the-scenes jokes, and the final release of audio and video song pieces for each artist, allowing users to listen, view, download, and rate the songs. The campaign was a huge success as people flocked to Nescafe Basement’s social networks, web, and mobile apps, and the platform was a smash hit both online and offline while, blogs and articles were also published to support the campaign. Well, the aim of reviving Pakistan’s music was a successful attempt after the campaign. Every season gives opportunities to emerging musicians from across the country. With this raw talent, the producer of the show, Zulfiqar, Xulfi, and Jabbar Khan has managed to prove themselves time and again. Nescafe basement is a blend of cultures as it consists of some of the iconic music ever produced. The artists are selected from auditions and are then trained by Xulfi. Some of the greatest songs produced under the guidance of Xulfi are as follows:

  • Allah Hoo:

The famous melody was created by the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the song was covered by Hamza Tanveer, Rizwan Butt, and Sibtain Khalid in Nescafe Basement; they did justice to the song while adding modern music flair to the masterpiece. 

  • Mehbooba:

One of the greatest pops created by Nescafe Basement in season 5 was performed by Ali Asghar, Ali Tariq, Hamza Tanveer, and Sinan Salman. The music composition was also praised by the original singer of the song, Haroon Rashid.

  • Bol Hu:

Another masterpiece created in season 5 of Nescafe Basement was performed by Soch Band and Hadiya while produced by Xulfi. The song was a soulful experience and it stands out due to the purity of its execution.

  • Tu Mera Nahi:

The song originally sung and covered by Rizwan Anwar was another beautiful piece of art produced in the 4th season of Nescafe Basement. 

  • Pee Jaon: 

The song originally sung by Farhan Saeed was covered by Hamza Tanveer and Momina Mustehsan, to which they did justice though some even claimed that it was better than the original version. 

  • Akhiyan Udeek Diyan:  

It is one of the most iconic songs sung by the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, reigniting the traditional classic music while modern instruments like electric guitar complement it.

  • Awari:

It’s one of the proudest productions of Nescafe Basement which was later adapted by Bollywood Movies. The song was performed by “Soch Band” vocalized by Adnan Dhul; it depicts very sad pictures and colors of your past that you can’t erase from your memory even after the song ends. 

  • Tere Ishq Mein:

Another soulful rendition was performed by Alan Faqir and Mohammad Ali Sheikh. It is a beautiful composition of Sufism music that gives the listener a sublime experience. The climax of fading music gives a sense of closure followed by a high octane chorus.

  • Tum Aik Gorak Dhanda Ho:

The song was sung by the lead singer of the famous Bayan band that also won the Pepsi Battle of Bands. It is a remake of Khan Sahab’s other famous qawwali, a bold move that could go wrong however, we can say that the boys pulled off it successfully making it a sensation.

  • Kitni Sadiyan:

The song is a tribute by Xulfi and his team to Faraz Anwar, one of the legendary singers produced by the Pakistani music industry. The nine-minute song is a soulful roller coaster consisting of variations of melodies that give you goosebumps. The song is a beautiful tribute and is so surreal that it creates magic in our hearts. 

Kashmir Beats:

After recognizing the increasing interest of Pakistani people in music as Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement’s seasons become hit, the CEO of Kashmir Cooking Oil, Mr. Akbar Muggo also decided to produce a music Television Show. The aim was to feature live studio-recorded music performances by established actors in the industry. The show distinguishes it from coke studio and Nescafe as it also features the actors as singers thus, bringing a unique concept. The idea was pitched by Haris Qadeer who is also the director of the show. The first and second season of the show features a lot of well-established actors in the industry including Faysal Qureshi, Adnan Siddiqui, Hira Mani, Asma Abbas, Kinza Hashmi, Faryal Mehmood, Zhalay Sarhadi, Zara Noor Abbas, Zarnish Khan, Hiba Bukhari, Nida Hussain, and Imran Abbas. It also featured the singers however, the actors showcasing their singing talent is a treat to watch in Kashmir Beats. Some of the songs that will make you groove sung by your favorite artists are as follows:

  • Teri Photo:

The song was performed by Zubab Rana along with Shany Haider, giving very cute and romantic vibes as the two lovers confessed their love in the song hence, a depiction of a cute love story. 

  • Banjaaray:

Banjaaray performed by Zhaly Sarhadi is a very filmy song in which one lover wants to part ways while the other wants to stay. The music in the song can make you dance thus a perfect song to play at weddings and parties.

  • Mar Jaavan:

This beautiful song was performed by Zara Noor Abbas which is very romantic Zara hooked us throughout with both her looks and voice. The song and her voice will mesmerize you, overall a beautiful romantic composition. 

  • Sawari:

It was one of the most entertaining songs of the 1st season performed by Hira Mani. It received very mixed views however, mostly was loved by the people as the song was influenced by the 80s Lollywood or Bollywood music like cococorina. The song was beautifully sung by Hira and can be played in Mehendi and weddings.

  • Haq Allah: 

The masterpiece performed by Ali Azmat and Shani Arshad in season 2 of Kashmir Beats gave a lot of people goosebumps as Ali Azmat hit the high notes. It can be said that Ali Azmat raised the bar of the show and thus people had a lot of expectations from the show.

Bisconni Music:

Bisconni Music is a Pakistani music television show that broadcasts live studio-recorded music performances from Pakistani performers. Bisconni, a local company, is putting on the first display of its sort. The show’s music is produced by Saad Hayat. On January 1, 2021, the show premiered with its first episode. The show features a broad diverse line-up of Pakistani musicians like Ahmed Jahanzeb, Shuja Haider, Natasha Baig, Sajid, Zeeshan, Alycia Dias, Haroon Shahid, Ali Khan, Ali Tarik, etc. Season 1 of Bisconni Music, directed by Saad Hayat, featured Ahmed Jahanzeb, Shuja Haider, Sajid & Zeeshan, and gave us tunes like Dil Bhara Nahi, Mughal-e-funk, and Surmai Ankhon Main, among others. Season 2 follows in the footsteps of Season 1. Season 2 is directed by Raafay Israr and contains some of Pakistan’s most well-known musicians. It’s a feast for the senses, with original music tracks and spectacular performances. 

Season 2 of Bisconni Music has brought us three songs about love in all of its manifestations. The first song is Aima Baig’s “Tu Mera Na Hua,” which is reminiscent of a Taylor Swift performance and demonstrates Aima Baig’s stage prowess. Aima takes us on a voyage of heartbreak and comes to grips with it, with her at the piano serenading us with a song about unrequited love. The next track is ‘Dharkanen,’ which features Amanat Ali and Maria Unera. The duet performs an energetic song that encourages us to let go of our fears and embrace love. Lastly, we have ‘Pul Ja’ performed by Asim Azhar, one of the recent hits produced by Bisconni. Season 2 also gave us some of the disco hit songs such as ‘Malang,’ by Asrar Shah, which is an exuberant Sufi-Pop combination that is easily our favorite song of the season. Similarly, we can imagine folks dancing to Rafay Israr’s “Ranjha” on mehndi night. Kashmir has been the best thing to come out of the Pakistani indie music scene, so you can imagine our delight when we learned of their collaboration with Mai Dhai. Bilal Ali wowed us with his singing, and Mai Dhai was fantastic as usual. Bisconni Music is new, however, is creating one of the best compositions thus increasing our expectations for the upcoming seasons.

Pakistani Musical Bands:

The rise of Pakistani musical bands began in the 1980s, when cassette tapes first arrived in Pakistan, bringing a flood of Western rock music with them. Underground events across the country began to incorporate Western-influenced rock music. In the 1980s, the rock bands Vital Signs and Strings rose to prominence in opposition to the totalitarian regime, gaining enormous appeal among the youth. The pop-rock band Vital Signs is usually recognized as Pakistan’s first and most successful. In a BBC World survey in 2003, their track “Dil Dil Pakistan” was rated the third most popular song of all time, and it is also known as Pakistan’s “pop national anthem.” Strings gained considerable fame after the publication of their second album in 1992, although they had been active since the late 1980s. Junoon, Aaroh, and Noori followed the way to success after Strings and Vital Signs. In 2002, Atif Aslam and Goher Mumtaz started their band Jal and released a song Jal that became a sensation among the youth of that time and is still famous. After this increasing trend of bands, the TV show Pepsi Battle of Bands was produced which gave 4 bands a lot of fame. The first band, Aaroh, is an alternative rock band from Karachi that was formed in 1998. Shoaib Mansoor came up with the name. The band was founded by Kamran Khan. It rose to prominence after singing songs such as Sawaal and Aag Ki Tarhan during the Pepsi Battle of Bands. It released two studio albums, one in 2003 and the other in 2013. In February 2018, Aaroh released ‘Jeet,’ a homage to the Pakistan Super League. The second band to achieve recognition was Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan’s alternative metal band ‘Entity Paradigm,’ which was formed in Lahore in 2000. It is one of the first prominent rock bands in Pakistani music history. It split up in 2007 but reunited in 2009. Kashmir was the third band in the series, a Karachi-based alternative rock band formed in 2012 that also won the Pepsi Battle of Bands Season 2 competition. The song ‘Kaaghaz Ka Jahaaz’ earned the band the Lux Style Award for Best Emerging Talent (Music) 2017 in 2017. The final band in the series is Badnaam. It was founded in Lahore in 2009. Bulleh Shah’s poems inspired the name of the Sufi band. Hassan and Roshan are a new emerging duo/band who has had a significant hit with the song Doobne de. Bayaan is another band that has sung a lot of famous songs in recent years like Farda and Teri Tasveer and has gained a lot of fame and love from the people.

Some Great Pakistani Musicians & Singers:

  • Atif Aslam:

Atif Aslam is a Pakistani Punjabi and Urdu singer who performs in a variety of languages including Urdu, Bengali, Pushto, and Hindi. The Pakistani government presented Aslam the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. He performs in Pakistani television dramas, as well as Lollywood and Bollywood films. He also serves as a judge for several singing events. Atif Aslam is one of the few Pakistani singers who have had the honor of signing the Pakistan Super League’s anthem. He is singing the PSL Song for 2022 with co-singer Aima Baig.

  • Hadiqa Kiani:

Hadiqa Kiani is one of Pakistan’s most popular female singers. She has sung a variety of Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi songs. Kiani was named Pakistan’s Most Powerful and Influential Woman by the Jang Group after receiving Tamgha-e-Imtiaz from the Pakistani government.

  • Rahat Fateh Ali Khan:

Rahat is the nephew of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a legendary vocalist of Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi. He is well-known throughout the world, and he is also regarded as a top Bollywood vocalist. Rahat has received over 20 national and international accolades.

Abida Parveen:

Abida Parven is regarded as the Queen of Sufi Music and is one of Pakistan’s best female singers. She is a female Punjabi singer from Pakistan who also sings in Urdu, Sindhi, Persian, and Arabic. Abida Parveen is another Pakistani Punjabi singer who has got the Nishan E Imtiaz and Pride of Performace awards from the Pakistani government. Abida Parveen’s new Sufi Kalam with Naseebo Lal has gone viral on social media, and both Pakistani singers have received a lot of appreciation for the lovely Kalam they sang in Tu Jhoom.

Sahir Ali Bagga:

Sahir Ali Bagga is a Lahore-based Pakistani singer, music director, and composer who writes music for Lollywood and independent artists. He recently composed the score for the Pakistani film Zinda Bhaag (2013). He has contributed two songs to the soundtracks of two Pakistani films, Hijrat (2016) and Tamanna (2014), the latter being Koi Dil Mein and Chell Oi. In addition, he composed the music for Hum TV’s Ishq-e-Benaam. By appearing on Coke Studio, he garnered even more notoriety (Pakistan). His renowned soundtracks include “Yeh Mumkin Tou Nahin,” “Malang,” “Baazi,” “Rab Waaris,” “Roye Roye,” “Dhola,” and “Badnamiyan.”

Asim Azhar: 

Asim Azhar is a singer, songwriter, musician, and actor from Pakistan. Before becoming a prominent personality, he began his career as a YouTube performer, re-signing contemporary Western music. His tracks recorded in Coke Studio 9 helped him gain popularity. With Ali Azmat, Arif Lohar, and Haroon, he co-wrote the HBL PSL 5 Official Anthem “Tayyar Hain.” He won The Best Stylish Performer award at PSA in Dubai in February 2020. After Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Momina Mustehsan, his song Jo Tu Na Mila featuring Iqra Aziz reached 100 million views on YouTube in May 2020, he became the fourth Pakistani musician to do so after Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Momina Mustehsan. Tera Woh Pyar, sung by Asim and Momina, has also received a lot of attention.

Young Stunners:

Two Karachi youngsters, Talha Anjum and Talhah Yunus, and their producer, Umair Khan, popularly known as Young Stunners, are probably the most successful Urdu hip-hop artists. These youngsters rose to prominence after releasing their most popular tune, ‘Burger-e-Karachi,’ in which they criticize the ruling class and their actions. Following that, their singles ‘Maila Majnu’ and ‘Laam se Chaurah’ were also hits and well-received.

Farhan Saeed:

Farhan Saeed is an artist of Pakistani youthful age. He is exceptionally renowned due to his excellent voice. He is a really attractive and youthful vocalist. Farhan Saeed rose to prominence after joining the band ‘Jal’ as the main vocalist. Some of his great compositions include, ‘Pi Jaun’, ‘Roiyan’, ‘Sajna’, and ‘Halka Suroor’ etc. He has also produced some great songs for Bollywood such as ‘Naam-e-Wafa’, ‘ Bhool Na Jana’, and ‘Thori Der’ etc.

Ali Azmat:

Ali Azmat began his career as the lead singer of Junoon, a legendary Pakistani rock band. He has been a solo performer since 2003, and his passionate and poetic fusion of east and west musical traditions has enthralled audiences all around the world. His original song, “Dosti,” catapulted him to fame while he was only seventeen years old. Dosti means “friendship,” and in 1999, the Indian Prime Minister invited Junoon to India to perform “Dosti” as a sign of peace between India and Pakistan. With the hit single “Sayonee” from their phenomenally successful fourth album “Azadi” published by EMI in 1998, Ali and Junoon grabbed Pakistan and India by storm. He then separated from the Junoon Band to start his solo career and some of his great songs include ‘Maula’, ‘Yeh Jism’, ‘Na Re Na’, and many more.

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