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After a ten-year hiatus, does Noori still reign supreme?

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Zahra Salahuddin

It was 2005 when Noori released its last album. The band has been dormant for around a decade. It did enjoy some commercial success, but that was through, well… commercials.

It takes a while for one to come to terms with the fact that it has been ten years since 2005. But the fact that Noori is finally releasing a new video (featuring no ice-cream or beverage) and soon their third album, has finally given loyal Noori fans something to look forward to in the mainstream music scene!

The ‘Aik Tha Badshah’ launch show in Karachi was held at the restaurant Orrery’s ground floor, and by 10pm it was jam-packed with no room for people to even move around. Before the band finally got on stage, Mandana Zaidi — director of the new music video and Ali Noor’s wife — introduced ‘Aik Tha Badshah’ after an almost two-hour wait for those who showed up on time.

“It’s lovely to see so many people excited about Noori’s new album and song,” said Mandana while addressing the crowd. “I’ve done so many videos for Noori before but this time we wanted to do something different. I’ve done this video and I’ve tried to tell a story in it.”

Mandana was not keen to divulge the meaning behind the video, urging the audience to interpret it themselves. The video shows Ali Hamza donning a crown, being spoken to by a man who resembles a Star Wars villain along with other characters, each representing a different message. ‘Aik Tha Badshah’ is a song from Noori’s new album Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh, which will be released in September.

The song itself is different from the signature Noori sound we are accustomed to, with some dubstep influences. It’s interesting to see mainstream rock bands incorporating that electronica element in their songs (the same was noticed in Mizmaar’s comeback song). That being said, the band did not completely shy away from that established Noori sound and composition style and the catchy chorus was somewhat reminiscent of the band’s earlier music.

Noori rocks out in the music video for ‘Aik Tha Badshah.’

The band finally took to the stage and brought the sweaty audience back to life with ‘Mujhay Roko’ — a single from the band’s early days, after which Ali Noor asked “Maza araha hai?”, his famous catchphrase that inspired years of inside jokes among die-hard Noori fans back in the day.

And thus continued a nostalgia-inducing performance, with older songs like ‘Saari Raat Jaga‘ and a mash-up of ‘Gana Number One’ with ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas, which left the crowd cheering endlessly. By the third song, Noori had everyone singing along. The gig also featured Noori’s frequent session player, Kami Paul, on the drums.

An enthused audience member randomly walked on stage during ‘Neend Aye Na’ and began singing, not quite on time with the rest of the band, but Ali Noor was kind enough to help him out. A group of fans could be heard in the distance screaming “Once more!” after the fan walked off stage, while some fans in my row were chortling uncontrollably. Ali Hamza cheered “Yeh water cooler aapka hua,” appreciating the man’s effort and asked him his name.

said that it will be the first song on the new album.

“I want to share a story with you about why we think Pakistan has become the way it has become…that is basically the whole theme of our album,” Ali Noor began.“It’s an insight and basically a question about what shall we do next to go forward in this country… hum he is ko kuch kar saktay hain. It’s time to go beyond our fake patriotism; it’s time to go beyond our sort of unrealistic optimism and at the same time our extremely easy pessimism which we have to let go of. So it’s time to find that middle ground. So this album is about a woman who actually crosses the border in 1947 and spends the rest of her life in Pakistan trying to understand what goes on over here and why it has become the way it is, so basically we are trying to share that story with you.”

“The song ends on a question, kya hum waqaee azaad huwain hain keh nahi huye.” Ali Hamza piped in.

The show eventually ended with a unique rendition of ‘Manwa Re‘, the song that arguably started it all for Noori, mashed up with the eternal ‘Sanu Ek Pal‘ by Nusrat sahab.

Despite the hashtags trending on social media, the gig was in fact not unplugged as Ali Noor rocked out on two electric guitars through out the evening without a single acoustic performance.

Noori’s third album Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh is expected to release in September this year.

Published in DAWN on 16th June, 2015

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