Ever since ‘Rock On’, I started believing that western instruments and the rock framework blended well with Hindi, Urdu or Hindustani lyrics. The seamless manner in which western and Indian instruments can be harmoniously fused add to the overall listening experience. However, barring a few exceptions like the bluesy rendition of the Sufi number ‘Chaap Tilak’ , many songs by Euphoria and the Indian fusion band ‘Advaita’, there aren’t many other practitioners of this beautiful form. Apart from these, one rarely comes across a band of this genre, not a musical extravaganza like ‘Noori’ anyway.
In 1996, what would you expect of a young economics graduate and a lawyer? Let me add, in Pakistan, where the culture was and still is extremely old school. Ali Hamza and Ali Noor, two blood brothers took the courageous leap away from the traditional mindset. They opted to pursue their passion-music. 12 years on, they are a successful and pioneering rock band from Lahore, Pakistan.
In the process, they have created whirlwinds in Pakistan, inspiring millions to gauge their true desires and pursue their dreams. They not only create intelligent music but also have hard hitting and meaningful lyrics. True to their name, which means ‘light’, they have created a positive impact in a country as traumatized as Pakistan. Noori essentially focuses on inspiring and motivating youth to contribute to the country and do something worthwhile with their lives. In their country, the youth are constantly looking for direction and Noori has done wonders in that regard. A band dedicated to social causes, they wrote a lovely song on ‘climate change’ for the UNDP.
Noori was initially a four piece band but have recently trimmed down to just the two of them. They both sing extremely well and play a lot of instruments, with an exceptional hand at the guitar. The diversity in their vocals often leaves you astounded. While Ali Noor packs a punch with his powerful voice, Ali Hamza (grandmum’s favorite) delivers the most soothing, calming and filling vocals that can send chills through your body. What I personally love about this band is their range. They don’t stick to a particular genre, keep experimenting with their songs, try different styles of rock, blend a variety of instruments, inculcate fusion into their music and yet make their stuff sound so good. My top ten Noori numbers in increasing order of quality:
10. Tere Liye Hai Mera Dil : A live acoustic cover of a famous Pakistani song, this is the one of those mushy songs that stay with you. Beautifully sung and performed.
9. Nishaan : Reminiscent of the likes of GNR and Scorpions, this is a powerful rock song packed with a decent guitar solo in between. What surprises you is the quality of the song, especially with the genre they are touching and the language barrier they are transcending in the song.
8. Jhoom Lay :This was primarily written as part of their brand ambassadorship with ‘Walls’ ice cream for the launch of their new product ‘Cornetto double chocolate’. The campaign was such a hit that within a month, the product was completely sold out in Pakistan. A crafty bluesy rock n roll number, Jhoom Lay is a feel good song, a mood uplifter.
7. Behen@%!: Nirvana had ‘Rape Me’, Noori have ‘Behen@%^! . Did I just appreciate a profane number? Now don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t we all use the term? Noori just went a step further and made a song out of it. This might just be the next cult song after ‘BC Sutta’. If you can take it, hook up your earphones and give it a listen.
6. Meray Log: This has to be their most inspirational song and applies well to the people of Pakistan. It’s one of those songs in which Noori’s class comes out. In many senses, it is a patriotic song, and a wake up call for the people of any country.
5. Saari Raat: Originally a rock number, the Coke studio version is the one that stands out. The rawness of Ali Noor’s voice and the fusion of the Sitar, drums, acoustic guitars, synthesizers, tabla and the violin just blend together perfectly to produce a magical number. The song constantly shifts between rock and reggae.
4. Manwa Re: I don’t have words to express the beauty of this number. It’s a soothing and pleasant song which makes for some easy listening in the evenings.
3. Aik Alif : The first time I heard this song, I was a little flabbergasted. A little because I din’t expect myself to like something of this nature and a little because it took my breath away. Originally written by Bulleh Shah, this cover exemplifies the essence of the fusion genre ‘Sufi rock’ . Performed in collaboration with Saaein Zahoor, the sufi virtuoso, this number is an amazing blend of the instrument ‘Ek Tara’ and a host of other western and eastern instruments.
2. Madinay Main: No literature required for this recital. Just one word, ‘Subhanallah’.
1. Hor Vee Neeva Ho: This was the first Noori song I ever heard. It encompasses everything about Noori. Although the verse has been picked up from the unmatchable treasure trove of ’Bulleh Shah’, the music created is unique and mystical. It showcases the depths and varieties both their voices have to offer. Their mother has performed with the ‘Sagar Veena’ for this song. Apart from that, the fusion created is grandiose.
For a nation constantly in turmoil, music may just be the perfect platform to attain some level of salvation in the world’s eyes. The likes of Meesha Shafi, Strings, Atif Aslam and Adnan Sami are already leading the way. Pakistan’s recent wonder ‘Coke Studios’ is a magical show as far as music is concerned. I personally feel Noori will be the face of Pakistani music in the coming future. Two fun loving, light hearted and educated individuals leading the way for millions.
If you venture into the video blog of Noori, there is a video of Ali Hamza’s wedding. It’s heartening to watch people including the two brothers dancing away to the tunes of ‘Kajra Re’ and ‘Dus Bahane’ without any qualms. Like wise there are tons of Indian fans of Coke Studios, Noori and even others like Strings and Adnan Sami. I know a few guys who are completely ‘fida’ over Meesha Shafi. Music is certainly bridging boundaries even if cricket isn’t. Lets make music, not war.
When contacted, they were awfully sweet and got back to us promptly. Their first ever concert in India was scheduled for Warrangal on the 12th of March, but rather unfortunately, their Visas couldn’t be managed. Through Emagzin, they have conveyed a message for their fans in India. ‘WATCH OUT FOR NOORI’, they say!
Noori have released two albums so far and going by the sneak preview of them jamming up their upcoming numbers, the third one promises to be a real masterpiece. According to me, Noori have just begun their musical journey and their best is yet to come. They are like the Chinese, ahead of their times. Thus far, they may be restricted to Pakistani acclaim, but are poised to become global revolutionaries in the field of music and that time is cometh, very soon.