Sometimes there’s nothing more rejuvenating than rejection. After being unceremoniously kicked off Pepsi Battle Of The Bands without so much as a TV audition, Sikandar Ka Mandar have released a genre-blending pop song that plays to every strength. And while many people lament about how Pakistani bands often sound 5 years behind the curve, ‘Gehri Neend’ is refreshingly modern.
Lyrically, the track is a riff on the Rip Van Winkle fairytale, telling a surreal story of a man stuck in a deep sleep, dreaming of a jinn stuck in the closet. The magical imagery of the song makes it difficult to extract meaning but the final refrain – ‘Khallah main hai, wo urdaha’ – is so anthemic and enthusiastic that it sounds like a celebration of the man rather than a criticism. His deep sleep is something to be envied. Whether the song is playing off the image of closet and all the psychological issues that arise from that, or even just the theme of living in blissful ignorance of the world around you, this ‘gehri neend’ seems to be a desirable one.
Frontman Nadir Shahzad reaches into the top of his range here and, coupled with the stripped-back chorus guitars, backing vocals and sultry bass-line, gives the track a vaguely r’n’b vibe, like it’s sinking back into a groove.
That is until the switch. Two thirds in, an acoustic guitar cuts into the mix with such a bright and poppy melody that it’s difficult not to break into a big grin. Structural moves like this are difficult to pull off, and hearing a band pull it off this successfully is incredibly rewarding.
I was going to put a pun about the band ‘waking up’ in this final paragraph, but it doesn’t really seem fair to a band that has been hustling and generous with it’s music output over the years. Nevertheless, ‘Gehri Neend’ suggests that Sikandar Ka Mandar are entering a fresh dimension, exploring different sonic territories. If the upcoming album is as strong as this single, we’re in for a treat.