Easy style of Zeb and Haniya takes audience by surprise

Easy style of Zeb and Haniya takes audience by surprise
Saturday, March 07, 2009
By Ishrat Hyatt

Zeb and Haniya
In keeping with promoting culture whether its own or Pakistan’s, the embassy of Turkey, under the aegis of Ambassador of Turkey and Mrs Engin Soysal, arranged a concert by Pakistani artistes Zeb and Haniya (Zebunnisa Bangash and Haniya Aslam) accompanied by Zishan Mansoor (guitar) and Hassan Ameen Mohyeddin (percussion). Name sound familiar? He is the son of the well-known artiste of many talents, Zia Mohyeddin. The small auditorium of the embassy had a ‘house full’ attendance with avid fans and first time listeners bowled over by the duo’s easy style and audience interaction. The factthat they are Pakistani girls from what is generally believed to be a very conservative area was surprising for the expatriates in the audience and they were quite candid in admitting it!
Attractive Gizem Emel, third secretary of the embassy, welcomed the guests on behalf of the ambassador and his wife and introduced the girls with a brief account of their musical achievements, adding that the global sound of their has already been recognised by the international media, with ‘Time’ magazine singling them out in February as ‘the album Time picks for the week’ while BBC describes their music as ‘soft with a lot of blues influence and some eclectic pop flavour, their music blending eastern and western influences seamlessly.’

The programme began with a song from their album ‘Chup’, followed by ‘Islamabad Song’ then Haniya vocalising a song of Tracy Chapman’s — one of her favourites. A ‘Darri’ and ‘Pushto’ folk song preceded ‘Aitebar’ another well known song from their album followed by ‘Chup’; a song by Paul Simon; a song about loss and ‘Roana Chor Dey’ (stop crying) They concluded with two Turkish compositions and for the encore repeated one Urdu and one Turkish song as demanded by the audience. Zishan’s expertise on the guitar is just amazing and it was a pleasure to listen to him during the instrumental interludes while Hassan’s ‘tabla’ playing was more enjoyable than on the drums, although he is acquiring expertise in both.

The duo was presented a ‘baglama’ the most commonly used string folk instrument in Turkey which Gizem had asked her brother to send from Turkey. Addressing the audience, Ambassador Soysal said the young people of Pakistan and Turkey can play important and vital role in further promoting the traditional, brotherly and strong relations between the two countries. “This is the basic motive behind today’s concert. Tonight you have witnessed marvelous bit of musical tourism: a musical diversity and discovery of a broad spectrum. The variety is fascinating with samples from Turkish (Baris Manco who passed away ten years ago would have been so happy to see his songs performed beautifully by Pakistani artistes) and Pakistani music and a lot of genres combined with the peculiar geographical confluences as is also the case of Istanbul merging eastern and western styles. Listening to these songs, in fact I recall the beautiful documentary film ‘Crossing the Bridge’ directed few years back by Fatih Akin. This film is about the rich musical life of Istanbul with touches from all over Turkey. Visiting the city of Lahore, my wife and I have always found this cultural capital a similar place. Istanbul and Lahore are in fact twin cities and it would make sense to have a similar documentary about Lahore.”

The two musicians are based in Lahore and both are ethnic ‘Pashtuns’. They began writing music together when studying as undergraduates at Smith and Mount Holyoke College in the United States but say that music was always a part of their life at home. They are also the first Pakistani all-girl band. The group’s songs are mostly in Urdu, but some lyrics are also in Pushto and Persian. Their profile describes them in these words — ‘though the music and sound of Zeb and Haniya is hard to confine to one genre, it has been described at various times by western media as Alternative, Art Folk, Ethnic Blues and World Music. The artistes skim across decades, genres and borders to produce a truly innovative sound. Their songs seamlessly mix blues grooves and jazzy rhythms into complex melodies grounded in local traditions. Finally, we have a sound that touches the brilliant kaleidoscope of language, history and culture that is Pakistan.’ They have been featured in the very successful first series of ‘Coke Studio’ and are also featured in the second series, which is being recorded these days.

Source: The News International