Not for the longest of times has a piece of music mesmerized me the way this song has.
The first time I heard (and saw) this rendition of Khawaja Ghulam Farid’s Husn i – Haqiqi by Arieb Azhar, I was totally consumed by it. I was totally lost in the song, the singer, the words, the meaning. The next time I heard this – and my iTunes tells me I have now heard it nearly a hundred times in four days – it took me back to the first time I had heard Muhammad Jumman singing yaar daDDi aatish isq or Pathana Khan singing meinDa isq ve tou, meinDa yaar ve tou.
This is the same genre, but not really the same style. And that is part of its enchantment. This is rooted in its own time just as those were rooted in their. Even as the words of all three remain timeless. The magic of this song, as of those, comes from the words – in this case, the words of Khawaja Ghulam Farid – but it cannot be completed without the singer’s imbuing it with his own passion.
Here is a song that needs to be seen as much as heard. Just as Mohammad Juman and Pathana Khan before him, Arieb Azhar has become one with the song. It is the passion, the reverence and the engagement that he brings to the rendition that brings it alive. That look of absolute and unadulterated joy in the mile-long smile on his face as the recording ends captures that magical connection between art and artist that no words of mine ever could.
I must confess, in some embarrassment, that I had not heard this song or of Arieb Azhar before I saw it at Rohail Hyatt’s amazing creation, the Coke Studio. It turns out Arieb is the son of one PTV’s founding father Aslam Azhar, someone for whom I have the highest of respect and someone who showed such kindness and encouragement to me when I was much young.
Now knowing that, it is no surprise that Arieb knows his cultural heritage. But the talent is, of course, all his own. And it is clearly in abundance. I did go back and saw and heard a lot of other videos of Arieb’s music, including many performances of this same song. The portfolio there is immensely impressive and getting hold of his CD Wajj is on my to do list. But this rendition and video really surpasses all others. And for that credit must also be given to Rohail Hyatt (who readers remember from the original Vital Signs) and his amazing creation, Coke Studios. For my money, that is one of the single best things that have happened to Pakistan music in a long time. But more on that some other time.