8 Pakistani Musicians You Should Be Listening To

8 Pakistani Musicians You Should Be Listening To
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Music transcends borders. In that sense, it isn’t even necessary to understand its language for music to mean something to us. But when two nations have, for the larger part, shared a similar history, the borders of culture and art tend to become even more blurred. Much like India, our neighbours in Pakistan too have a rich history of poetry and music rooted in qawwali, Sufi, ghazals, and even film. It is no surprise then that even though we might be separated by borders, the music can still help us feel connected to the people there.

While most of us are well aware of the famous Pakistani musicians who have been able to create a mark in Bollywood or the ones we see on Coke Studio, the independent music scene there (much like India) is something that’s been flourishing and that needs to be on our radar.

Here are our top picks of Pakistani musicians that we love and think you should be listening to as well.

Lahore-born and Brooklyn-based vocalist and composer Arooj Aftab has an achingly beautiful voice that has garnered her a glorious reputation. The new-age musician is known for her ambient music that, coupled with her experimental electronic music, makes for a delightful listen. Her latest album, Siren Islands, which is a raw collection of ambient, experimental electronic music, revolves around strong themes of female empowerment is further proof of this. Her evolving lo-fi sound with a focus on deep musical meditation along with experimental analogue synthesizers, loop pedals, and electric guitar makes for an intimate setting that blends seamlessly with her enchanting voice. If her evolving sound is any cue, there are more interesting things on the way and we can’t wait for it.

You can check out her latest album here.

Karachi-born Haamid Rahim who plays under the moniker Dynoman is well-known in the underground Pakistani music scene for his innovative and experimental music. The music composer and DJ, who is now based in New York, has been credited with taking the Karachi music scene to New York. His music too has essentially evolved in the past few years and he now dabbles into a more high energy techno- sonic scape with a focus on rhythm, frequency resonance, and groove.

You can check out his music here.

Haniya Aslam’s musical genius lies not just in her ability to create a whimsical ambience with her dreamy voice but also in the honesty in her lyrics. Her soft melodious and soothing voice is the perfect combination for her music that owes its inspiration to her personal experiences. While she is best known for being a part of her duo with Zeb Bangash, ‘Zeb and Haniya’, her solo career is what we are the most excited about. Her latest single ‘Ayi Re released during the quarantine and is a product of several years in the making. Chipping at various compositions, it is the perfect example of the poignancy in her lyricism.

What sets bilingual singer-songwriter Natasha apart is the fact that her sound cannot be boxed down. Experimenting with both Urdu and English, she has the ability to explore the many moods of music. Couple that with her immense knowledge as an ethnomusicologist who studies Pakistani music, you have an artist you will want to keep coming back to. A multi-genre artist of sorts she fuses elements of progressive rock, Neo-Soul, Synth-Wave and R&B in her music.

You can listen to her music here.

20-year-old Pakistani-American songstress Rehma is an emerging voice of the Pakistani diaspora. Her RnB soul sound is both soothing and evocative and has the ability to stay with you long after you’ve left the song which almost has an Arianda Grande-esque sound. Her latest EP, Mercy, focuses on RnB/Soul and explores themes and narratives of love, identity, and growth.

You can listen to her discography here.

Islamabad-based singer-songwriter and composer Shamoon has managed to garner a loyal fan following over the years since he started releasing his original compositions on Soundcloud. His hip-hop sensibilities are a vibe and make his music quite groovy and catchy. Experimental in his music choices, he dabbles with different genres of music venturing into blues, R&B, electronic and Indie Pop occasionally. Ismail’s music is often accompanied by gripping almost noir-ish music videos.

Karachi-based rapper Sharjeel has a flow and rhythm that is envious. The experimental rapper dabbles into rhythmic and freestyle rap that can be reminiscent of Eminem’s style but it is more modern and streamlined in our opinion. His samplings make for an interesting listen. On his recent track, he sampled old Bollywood track Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si and interlaced it with his own rap lyrics that created a rather groovy spin to the original Hindi classic. With his creative compositions and interestingly sharp lyricism, he is sure to be one to watch out in the coming years.

You can check out his work here.

With soft instrumentation and melodious soulful renditions, Umer Farooq’s music makes for a breezy listen that has the ability to tug at your heartstrings. The artist is best known for his powerful and evocative vocals that have the ability to bring out one’s emotions. The honest lyricism coupled with their gentle strumming of the guitar makes for a soulful rendition that is able to enrapture his audience and keep them coming back for more.

You can check out his music here.

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