Osama’s dead. Cricket is mostly fixed. Noori’s back.
Text & Photographs by: Insiya Syed
What is it about words that conjure all kinds of images? Really take you someplace other? And leave you there with nothing but a strange-shaped hole in your heart and scratches all over your soul. That is the power of a song. That is the power of he/she, who made that song. ‘Goray Rung Ka Zamana’; “Neend Aati Nahi”; “Tere Ishq Main Jo Bhi”; “Puraani Jeans”; “Aap Jaisa Koi”; “Mera Pyaar”; “Pal Do Pal” could possibly trace the glorious journey of popular music in Pakistan without even needing to specify who sang those words.
Music, more than movies or images or any other form of art is probably the one that really tug at your heartstrings with this familiarity of sorts. With different songs meaning different emotions that it had once managed to arouse in the listener. Sometimes even more to the listener than to the artist that recorded it. Everyone and their grandmother have memories attached to the hundreds of tracks that they grew up listening to. That just about everyone has an “our” song; the song that’s the OST of that first breakup which hurt the most; the song that remind you of the girl that dumped you; the track you sang-along to with your siblings in the car or your friends at a karaoke bar and so on. That while listening to some of the top-rated most-played songs on my iTunes, I often think if a performer ever gets tired of performing whereas the listener could listen to a record on repeat for days and weeks and sometimes even years (Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon released in 1973; Thriller by Michael Jackson released in 1982; Self titled Vital Signs 1 released in 1989 et al) – in a very sticky-humid auditorium, I think I may have found my answer. At least a few clues if nothing else.
Clue no. 1: Never perform in a hot and humid venue, it makes you sweat and unless you’re as hot as Federer, no body cares about your sweat.
Clue no. 2: Do not stay up all night long, the night before your show browsing facebook, blogging or worse: tweeting.
Clue no. 3: Do not tell the hundred people who showed up at your show and paid 800 bucks (seriously!) and I quote “The problem with this concert is that I am really tired because I have been up all night!”
Clue no. 4: That you don’t want to throw a party at your house – for the FIRST time in SEVEN years – and invite a diverse crowd with only one thing in common: you – because 30 minutes into the get together, you’d have to be mind-blowingly entertaining in order to keep the crowd, well… entertained and not leave them hot and sweaty. They’re not Federer either.
Clue no. 5: When you make a comeback, make a comeback.
Clue no. 5(a): When you title anything – a book, a picture, a song, a movie – think twice.
Clue no. 5(b): In case you end up calling it “a gig not to be missed” – make it a gig that shouldn’t have been missed instead of could’ve been missed.
Osama’s dead. Cricket is mostly fixed. And Noori’s back. And please don’t get me wrong because if push comes to shove – they’re the only band I’d cheerlead for. That the hundred of fans who have followed the news of the ‘surprise’ the Noori-brothers spoke of for days, are nothing less then ecstatic at the return of the original-four line-up from the "Suno Ke Main Hun Jawan" days of year-2003. That despite the sea of emotions that one could visibly feel between the four – Ali Hamza on Vocals and Rhythm Guitars, Ali Jafri on Bass, Ali Noor on Guitars and Vocals, Gumby on Drums – the whining and cribbing of being tired and emotional and just being tired got to one. That, in a nutshell: this was a great show that had a feel of a jam session – we’ve seen better though by Munchkins, several times, at the same venue even – but not worthy of a show that came seven years too late.
In the end, the best versions are the simplest ones. Sung with conviction, such as “Aarzoo”; “Bol”; “Aik Alif” – the songs nagging melodies shone bright that night and heart-rending lyrics were harrowing enough. Somehow on tracks such as a mash-up of “Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night & Gana No. 1” the buzz of enthusiasm was missing as did the confidence of coming together and the combined-potential of four of some of the bestest and in Gumby’s case, greatest musicians on the circuit. The possibility of taking the experience of having done so much even during the long hiatus – Coke Studio, Uth Records etc – and taking everything to a new level and leaving everyone breathless, and translating the emotions the band felt into the crowd that remained loyal, all these years – was missed with an absolute lack of excitement.
The band had moments – Noor asking Jafri how he feels, “Aap ko kaisa lug raha hai?” and Jafri repeating the same to him; of Noor trying effortlessly to bring the otherwise backbencher Gumby to say a few words in front of an audience that screamed his name throughout chanting for the infamous drum-solo; or “Manwa Re” dedicated to a very emotional - Mandana, almost if not entirely the fifth band member. The thought on my mind when I left the venue was hunger for more (and food!) and not that adrenaline rush after having witnessed something so amazing, considering I was at the bands very first ‘sponsored’ performance, their debut in Karachi – many years back and have almost religiously followed their journey since the sold-out M-Live ‘weeks’.
They’re lucky though, what with positive memories of their formative years and nothing very extraordinary happening in the music scene as such – save from a new season of Coke Studio launching on May 22nd (Still can’t get over the mega-disappointing comeback of Entity Paradigm on the last season! Another sign of a bleak music industry!).
In Hamza’s words, “There’s a Murphy’s Law and then there is a Noori Law. If something is supposed to go wrong. It does with Noori.” It certainly did and one can’t really pinpoint why exactly. It’s almost like one cannot really explain that awkward-silence. It’s just… awkward and the only saving grace could be someone saving the day. The performance will soon slide into a past tense with a new record that’s probably in the making – apparently they have some classic ‘Noori’ songs that have already been penned and close-few await the release of those, that will supposedly change the face of the industry in general and the four in particular.
Boys, we were saddened by the departure, let us fall off the couch with the arrival. You’ve done it before.