By Sonya Rehman
Pakistan’s largest music streaming site, Patari, recently launched Patari Tabeer, a project that has stirred up the local music scene thanks to its unique line-up of artists from Islamabad to Sindh, and beyond.
With its sixth and final song soon-to-be released, the project brings unexposed talent from humble backgrounds to centre stage: a tea-seller, a cleaner, a 12-year-old peon and more, pairing up each artist with a well-known music producer.
Far from the mainstream pop ditties and Bollywood-inspired numbers, the tracks part of the Tabeer series offer the listener earthy, unpretentious vocals paired with a contemporary sound: funk, downtempo and chill-hop lounge.
Speaking about the project, Ahmer Naqvi, the COO of Patari, revealed that Tabeer was inspired by a man called Nazar Gill, a sweeper who made a living working in an apartment building in Islamabad where Naqvi lived.
Approaching Naqvi one day by knocking on his door and asking him if he could give Gill’s song a listen, Tabeer was ultimately created to give unknown talents like Gill a chance at music and a chance at a lifelong dream.
“We thought of taking his ambition and talent and pairing him with a contemporary producer in order to let his voice be heard at a grander stage,” Naqvi states about Gill, “He composed a song about finding the Divine inside every heart, and on Christmas Day, we went to [his village near Faisalabad] and filmed [him and his family] hearing the finished product for the first time.”
The experience, Naqvi mentions, left him moved.
Talking about his song, ‘Jugni,’ which features as the fourth track on Tabeer’s playlist, Gill states in the project’s video; “What I am trying to say in [the] song is that when we love, we should love from the heart. Love shouldn’t be about empty words, it should be true,” adding that he hopes the “whole world” gets a chance to hear his song.
“[Gill] was our starting point, but every singer’s discovery was different,” Naqvi says, talking about how he and his team went about in selecting artists for the project. “There wasn’t any one process, just the same goal – to unearth a hidden gem from the places no one bothers to look at.”
But what comes after the last song is released, what’s next for Tabeer’s artists?
“There has been a lot of interest by the media, but generally in Pakistan, this is hype-driven and fades fast,” Naqvi states, “Our aim is to help each artist record at least one more song, and start getting them performances and gigs so that they can earn. We don’t expect them to become superstars, and certainly not overnight, because that doesn’t quite happen in our current state. So what we are looking to do is to create something more sustainable for them.”
With plans to launch similar initiatives which continue to highlight raw talent in Pakistan, Naqvi mentions that this isn’t the end of the Tabeer series.
But as a pop culture critic who has written on the local music scene for years, Naqvi thinks that while Pakistan’s current music scene has improved, the road ahead will indeed be bumpy.
Apart from issues such as “disengaged” audiences and the lack of security for live music performances within Pakistan, among others, a bigger threat looms for local music.
“Instead of sales or concerts dictating the economics of the industry,” he says, “It’s corporate shows that do so. And almost all of them have either immediately or over some time displayed a tendency to play it extremely safe and only choose the same artists that were popular ten years ago, but aren’t today. The solution is creating an ecosystem where fans and musicians are at the forefront, rather than brand managers and aging rock stars who currently dominate the scene.