In the last few years, electronic music has gained a lot of momentum in Pakistan. With the democratization of music through social media avenues, a diverse set of independent artists have risen up. You have acts like SomeWhatSuper (SWS) that have managed to make their way into the mainstream by experimenting with traditional house music coupled with elements of local folk. Then there is traditional techno with the likes of Faisal Baig. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have the Forever South collective, with artists like Dynoman, Rudoh, TMPST and more.
While it’s popularity may be recent phenomenon, electronic music has been around for roughly two decades
It sort of started in the early 2000s with only a handful of DJs and producers. Some stuck to the traditional circuit with music inspired by the likes of Tiesto and Armin Van Buren, while certain other producers focused more to create unique sounds., with time each finding their own niche.
For instance there was Zeeshan Parwez. You might remember him from the Peshawar duo Sajid and Zeeshan. With Zeeshan, it was more about infusing traditional musical instruments such as the guitar with digital sounds. The Duo released its album “One Light Year at Snail Speed” back in 2006 that gained modest success.
Dalt Wisney was another act from that era who pushed the envelope even further when it came to experimental music
Rudoh, whose real name is Bilal Nasir Khan, recalls that it was Dalt Wisney that sorta inspired him along with others to experiment with different sounds. In fact, Bilal, before venturing on his own was initially a member of Mole alongside Dalt Wisney’s younger brother Daniyal Hyatt. Consisting a total of 7 members Mole released its debut EP ‘We’re Always Home’. Using everyday sounds that would otherwise fall under noise as samples, Mole’s music was surely something Pakistan wasn’t ready for (not sure if it even is today). Despite catering to a very niche audience the band did once appear on Coke Studio.
Since leaving Mole, Bilal collaborated with a variety of like minded musicians, did a few gigs in Germany and formed Forever South with fellow musician Dynoman. Forever South is a collective of experimental electronic producers stemming from various sub-genres.
Dynoman who is the co-founder of Forever South has in recent years formed a solid cred in the electronic circle
“My albums Naubahar and Cheebay’s Imagination, part of the travels to Janaika series, take form within genres such as breakbeats, hip-hop, garage, house, two-step and electronica”. Dynoman in his own words describes himself as being heavily influenced by melody. He lists Jimi Hendrix, John Frusciante, Nusrat and Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan, Flying Lotus and Aphex Twin as influences which shows in his music. “I have enjoyed amazing reception which I had not anticipated when I released music as Dynoman. Since the release of Naubahar in 2012 I was nominated for a Lux Style award for best album in 2013” he said. Dynoman also produced song “Lyari Player” for L.U.G. for Patari’s Tabeer project.
As far as the mainstream is concerned however perhaps SomeWhatSuper is the only act that has received attention from the masses
“Initially we just wanted to break the monotony that was prevailing in the Pakistani Music Industry for a while now. We just followed the moto “break the rules” and we ended up discovering a whole other type of music to work with” said Feroze Faisal, one half of the EDM duo. The duo most recently produced the Sibbi Song featuring upcoming vocalist Abid Brohi, which catapulted the group into mainstream viral success.
“We discovered him during the Sibbi Mela and instantly fell in love with his work, his energy, his vocal capacity and more importantly that glare in his eyes and his dreams.” said Feroze. At a gig at The Mix festival in Lahore, the duo played an astonishingly schizophrenic setlist, from Abida Parveen remixes to ‘Panda’ by Desiigner, from snippets of old folk songs that crash against their own EDM drops. In may ways it’s exhilarating as well as disorientating to hear a group mash so many influences and styles together. And it’s evident that SWS is introducing a new crowd to the electronic genre. A SWS gig is like a buffet of electronic music: if you don’t like that, maybe you’ll like this?
Electronic music, unlike other genres, however, faces its own unique set of troubles in Pakistan
“The socio-political environment of the country is a major reason why it is difficult for electronic music to thrive here,” said Bilal Nasir. “Outside of Pakistan the audience for this sort of music is mainly found in nightclubs and other places that for obvious reasons cannot be built here” he added.
Its true that electronic music, for the most part, is synonymous with club and rave culture. Raves and dance parties do happen in the country but very rarely, and are even subject to police raids. Feroze points out that drug affiliation with the whole genre is the only concern that halts its growth. At the same time however, he remains hopeful that certain ‘big names’ in this genre would keep emerging from Pakistan.
If you think we have missed out on some artists, please let us know in the comments.