A friend passed on a YouTube clip of Pakistan’s rising female pop duo, Zeb & Haniya, or Zeb Bangash and Haniya Aslam. The cousins released their debut album, entitled Chup, on July 19th nationwide. The music video for the song, Aitebar, meaning ‘Trust’ in Urdu, also began airing this past Saturday, [see clip below].
This duo is especially interesting because of their back story. Zeb and Haniya are Pathans, [although the band is primarily Lahore-based]. In fact, noted a Newsweek article, “Zeb & Haniya’s brand of folksy music draws on that Pashtun heritage and can easily fit into the province’s longstanding Sufic tradition. Their songs can be playful and sensual, addressing the themes of love and longing “to God through the conceit of a lover,” says Bangash.” Their music uses a combination of guitar, drums, and trumpet, “as well as more exotic stringed instruments like the sarod, to express “Western and Eastern melodies arranged for a global audience,” says Bangash.” According to the Newsweek piece, “Aslam and Bangash are at the forefront of a group of independent-minded Pashtuns [Pathans] who have harnessed the power of the media to beat back the conservative tide.”
Perceptions of the NWFP and Pathan culture are often linked to the Taliban‘s brand of extremism, a fact that was fueled by the former provincial government [headed by the MMA, a coalition of religious parties] banning the singing and the playing music in public places, including in vehicles. According to a news piece, “When militants bombed music shops, it did nothing to stop them.” Singers and bands like Zeb & Haniya, therefore challenge these perceptions. In a recent interview, Zeb asserted, “We are not fighting our culture to make music. When Pathan families get together, there’s lots of fun, lots of food, lots of meat, and lots of music. That has been fading away from our experience and other people’s perception of Pathan culture. It is something we want to reclaim.”
The same interviewer noted,
Pakistan has not lacked women singers, but Zeb and Haniya are the first vocalists to be writing their own songs and composing their own music. For Chup, Haniya also plays the rhythm guitar. They describe their music as a fusion of American folk, swing, jazz and blues, Bollywood, along with influences from Turkish and Lebanese music and the homegrown qawwali and ghazal, quite unlike what Pakistan has heard so far.
Below is their first music video. To hear more of Zeb & Haniya’s music, you can visit their official website. [Image above from Dawn]