Ali Sethi’s many musical projects to look out for
The cross-cultural Ali Sethi is a great example of just how a singer can offer variety whether it is pop tracks or classical ones or experimental ones. He is also finding a healthy balance between corporate projects and non-commercial ones.
Presently seen in the third season of Cornetto Pop Rock with the mash-up ‘Dil Karda Ay’ and ‘Agar Tum Mil Jao’ where he is joined on the vocals by Quratulain Balouch (QB) as well as in the video, this version and the video accompanying it, is nothing to write home about unless you like ice cream cones. However, Ali Sethi has plenty of projects under his sleeve that have us far more excited.
First is his recent collaboration with Faris Shafi for the song ‘Waasta’ which was released late last month. With music produced by Sethi’s longtime collaborator, Saad Sultan, composition by Sethi with lyrics also by Sethi (and Shakeel Sohail), rap lyrics by Faris Shafi and music video directed by Abdullah Harris, this song is one of the strongest releases to emerge in 2018.
A change of sound for Sethi, it speaks of the void within the heart before entering the territory of reality: children begging on the streets, surgical strikes, and the violence in our midst. Sethi is in full form on this song, as is Faris Shafi and both pull no punches as they tell you about our burning reality which is fueled by guns, dead bodies and where forgiveness is expected to be given to murderers. The anger, sorrow and depression that citizens carry in a country like Pakistan is showcased here and it is also authentic expression, which is so very important for artists. The video for this song is as it should be: atmospheric, bleak and contemporary even as it feels like it’s been shot in a dilapidated house; smoke blowing, the boys carry the weight and emotion behind their words. Abdullah Harris has done a beautiful job of bringing the sentiment of this song to the screen. And it should be said that there’s no ambiguity, from the single to its audio to the video, and that lends the entire exercise, ingenuity.
While you overdose on this song, if you haven’t already, more Ali Sethi projects are underway. Among them is his presence on the latest album by Red Baraat, a Brooklyn-based music outfit that counts Sunny Jain as leader. The album titled Sound The People, a follow-up to the band’s earlier release, Bhangra Pirates, features several collaborations and artists including Ali Sethi; he is also a member of the music outfit Resident Alien alongside Red Baraat’s Sunny Jain. On Sound The People, Sethi is featured on a song called ‘Kala Mukhra’.
Ali Sethi, who also collaborated with Swet Shop Boys (rappers Heems and Riz MC with producer Redinho) last year for a song called ‘Aaja’, is joined in Resident Alien by Grey McMurray and Shoko Nagai besides Jain. The group made its debut at Joe’s Pub in New York City this year.
Additionally, the cross-cultural musician is also collaborating with Narcos producer Noah Georgeson and though not a lot is known about the project, Sethi did reveal in an earlier story with Instep that the project will consist of more than one album, and will involve input from Harvard’s well-known Islamic scholar Ali Asani. “I’m looking forward to being a little radical here — a learned vandal, if you will! — with lyrics and melody and arrangement,” said Sethi, before adding, “I would like our music to feel both original and intelligible.”
Ali Sethi has also featured on multiple Coke Studio seasons and has collaborated with artists like Abida Parveen and Ali Hamza, among others. He has also contributed to the soundtracks of several Pakistani films including this year’s 7 Din Mohabbat In.