Zebunnisa Bangash, one half of the Pakistani duo Zeb & Haniya performing at the 2011 South Asian Bands Festival in Delhi.
Zeb & Haniya’s Bibi Sanem Janam was for many of us, the gateway to Coke Studio. I didn’t quite take to the song on my first hearing though. The lyrics felt close enough to Hindi to make the differences uncomfortable. Coke Studio on the other hand, I couldn’t get enough of. The folksy tunes, classical foundations and modern production values made for a very compelling musical package.
It was not until Paimona that I finally caught the Zeb & Haniya bug. Not only did the language variances stop bothering me, I actually found myself enjoying these subtleties. The Pashto, Persian and Turkish lyrics in their songs (besides Urdu) may not be very intelligible, but they carry a certain familiarity for the Hindi speaker. A common word every now and then, some similar sounds. But it was the music that won me over. Their compositions – surprisingly well arranged and orchestrated for a two-person band – manage to retain this soothing bluesy quality, giving the listener enough room to breathe in their own imaginations. The vocals though, steal the show.
My favourites: Paimana Bitte (in Pashto and Darri), Kya Khayaal Hai (with Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire), Nazaar Eyle (Turkish folk) and Aitebar.
Major props to Sumit for lending me his camera for this shot.