In the air tonight – and every night – there is only one scent, that of the fervor of cricket. At the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), which is in its seventh season, it was preceded by an anthem titled ‘Ágay Dekh’ (sung by Atif Aslam and Aima Baig and barred by the prodigious Abdullah Siddiqui). The song, like all PSL songs, has its detractors, but it’s also easily one of their strongest and boldest efforts in the PSL music arena to boost the spirit of cricket – which unites friends, families and strangers, hopefully without any aerial fire that can signal both celebration or loss.
Anyway, it is also true that like every year, as the PSL goes into game mode, each team (Multan Sultans, Islamabad United, Lahore Qalandars, Quetta Gladiators, Peshawar Zalmi and Karachi Kings) is rolling out what is an anthemic team song.
As the matches began on January 27, 2022, the music also followed. And some of the biggest names in music as well as folk legends, pop stars, rappers and more have entered the arena. In the efforts that have been put together, perhaps the biggest effort has come from Peshawar Zalmi, which counts Rohail Hyatt as executive producer and Ali Mustafa as producer.
Last year’s song change ‘Kingdom‘ by Abdullah Siddiqui ft. Altamash Sever is palpable with the variety of artists featured in this year’s anthem titled ‘Aaya Zalmi’. With the legendary Zarsanga as well as Sunny Khan Durrani, Zara Madani, Tayyab Rehman and Zoha Zuberi roped in for the song, the entire project is the result of musical minds collaborating beautifully.
The composition is by Zoha Zuberi, Zara Madani & Sunny Khan Durrani followed by acoustic guitars, piano, strings, drums and bass by Rohail Hyatt with rubab by Sannan Mahboob and arrangement by Ali Mustafa and Rohail Hyatt. Urdu lyrics are by Zoha Zuberi, rap by Sunny Khan Durrani and Pashto lyrics by Rehman Gul. The artistic collaboration aside, the song is described in the following terms: “This hymn by Zalmi symbolizes ‘the metaphorical representation of life’. It’s about finding your inner peace and fighting with yourself to reach your true potential. Where there is Mr. Hyatt, the metaphorical is often reflected in the aesthetic.
Mahira Khan is on board again and features significantly in the music video in a completely different way. An effort to highlight what can be “metaphorical” is present and Mahira Khan portrays this idea, shedding the image she tends to play in movies and TV series. You have to see how well Mahira Khan plays him before jumping to conclusions. Although the music video also features cricketers, Khan steals the show.
The combined result, as the song opens with the strains of Zarsanga and Khan’s vocals in a very different avatar, is welcome at a time when the louder, bigger bang is often valued over the subtle and nuanced. The song is so different from the usual that you don’t have to be a cricket fan to appreciate its diversity, fury and inclusion.
Rohail Hyatt may have acted as executive producer for ‘Aaya Zalmi’ – easily the best song heard so far on the music platform Zalmi, former member of Strings and now solo artist, Bilal Maqsood – no stranger to the arena of cricket music with Strings – also entered the scene. Late last month, he unveiled a tribute to Shahid Afridi, nicknamed ‘Shaan-e-Pakistan’. Alright, let’s put Afridi’s sexist views aside.
The song was released last month and is the official anthem of the Quetta Gladiators. Besides Bilal Maqsood in Quetta Gladiators attire, the song features Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Adnan Siddiqui, Ushna Shah and Syed Shafaat Ali.
Performed by Bilal Maqsood & Ahmed Murtaza, there is a whole team behind since it’s PSL, but the undeniable magician of the song is Bilal Maqsood. Throughout Strings’ 30 years, Faisal Kapadia was the lead vocalist. No more. And that might just be a good thing. Maybe as a group they were finished, but as solo artists Bilal and Faisal have new ideas. It remains to be seen what Faisal does, but Bilal taking the mic on a project like this gives him an edge that others lack. If we had to pick PSL’s top three, we’d pick their Anthem, Zalmi Anthem, and Quetta Gladiators Anthem. You don’t have to be a Boom Boom fan to find the beauty of this song.
– PSL is scheduled to end on Sunday, February 27, 2022