The soundtrack of the much applauded recent release Cake pays homage to the Sindhi folk tradition. It is a reminder of the soulful Sindhi music of yore. For much of its history, Sindhi music has been fused with Sufi elements, and has generated a distinctive sound. But, as with anything else, the millennial generation has adapted this sound to their own tastes. And perhaps no one represents this trend as perfectly as Abid Brohi.
In 2017, the story of the errand-boy turned rapper from Balochistan caught the nation’s imagination, and his debut track held on to it. Courtesy producing duo Somewhat Super, ‘The Sibbi Song’ was an upbeat number which melded Sindhi poetry with rap techniques and electronic dance music, and even sneaked some references to older folk melodies. More than a year on, as Abid Brohi’s second song is prepared for release, it is worth reminiscing over the young sensation’s brand of music and his never-ending appeal.
The Old and the New
When Abid Brohi first made his way to the public sphere, as a part of Patari’s much lauded Tabeer series, he essentially became an overnight sensation. From music journalists to Mahira Khan, ‘The Sibbi Song’ was being talked about – by everyone.
In many ways, young Brohi’s debut track was the perfect Pakistani song, because it included something for everybody. Casual music listeners could have it on repeat as they drove to their jobs, enjoying the campy tune. Sindhi music fans could appreciate the fresh take on the region’s melodious tradition, which formed a playful contrast with the highly conventional image of Sindhi music. And, those of us that like to write about pop-culture could appreciate how music-literate the poetry was.
As you listen to the words, the references become apparent. Most obviously, the hook of ‘The Sibbi Song’ is a clear reference to ‘Tiri Pawanda’, a song that was penned by seminal poet Sheikh Ayaz and immortalised by Allan Faqir. But, young Brohi also included references to other artists, like the Pakistani-American rapper Bohemia, of whom Abid – by his own admission – is a fan.
In many ways, young Brohi’s debut track was the perfect Pakistani song, because it included something for everybody
For art’s sake
Following the success of his debut song, the teenager from Sibbi found himself in the midst of media attention. He was the talk of mainstream media, even landing an interview with the BBC, and most publications called his catchy song their earworm of choice. Soon, Abid Brohi also made it to the big stage, first performing at the 2017 Lux Style Awards, and then making his way to the 2018 Lahooti Melo. In 2018, the Lux Style Awards even nominated him for Singer of The Year.
But the media attention also served as inspiration for his upcoming single. Titled ‘Ama Chahay Thi’ (which loosely translates to ‘my mother wants’), the song recounts the story of a young man who isn’t literate, but understands the tragic contradiction of being educated and yet not being able to make ends meet in Pakistan’s turbulent economic climate.
Talking about the inspiration behind the track, Ahmer Naqvi of Patari reveals, “The song really came out of Abid’s first round of interviews after Sibbi Song, that we did for TV or when we talked to people. They’d all ask ‘What is going on with your studies?’”
In his new song, we are told, Abid questions the state of affairs where people with an education aren’t able to earn a living. Ultimately, reveals Naqvi, this songs is Abid Brohi’s attempt to “take on society on his own terms.”
Albeit a far cry from the upbeat ambiance of his debut track, this new song has Abid Brohi’s stamp all over it. According to Ahmer Naqvi, while he can’t read or write, Abid was heavily involved in conceptualising the lyrics and the song.
Last year, Abid Brohi became a welcome addition to Pakistan’s rap scene, which in itself has been gaining traction.In no small part, this is because of the success of acts like Rap Engineers, and Xpolymer Dar, whose ‘Power Di Game’ was an explosive addition to Verna’s soundtrack last year.
The merging of local languages and culture with rap influences is a staple for Pakistani rap, and hence not a new experience for local audiences. But, Sindhi rap hasn’t gained the kind of attention that Abid Brohi has brought it. Prior to this, even promising acts were relegated to social media circles. But, with his unabashed demeanour, inspiring story and decidedly unique sound, Abid Brohi has taken this brand of Sindhi sound to the masses. His upcoming number may encompass a different ambiance, but it has the same potential to get people listening, and add another dimension to our collective understanding of Sindhi music.