PAKISTAN: Haroon Ka Nasha - Haroon
Updated: Jan 20, 2021
The Pakistani pop prodigy provides an eclectic pack of pretty perfect tunes
Sometimes on Around The World In 200 Albums I find myself struggling to find the right words to intellectualise an album that I have really liked, and when I am unable to do so, I feel like I am not doing justice to such a record by simply saying ‘I really enjoyed it’. This is very much the case with Haroon Ka Nasha, and yet, although my typical panic tactic is to then spend half the review writing about my musical idol, Stevie Wonder, (as you can read in my review of Belgian jazz virtuoso Toots Thielmans’ album Man Bites Harmonica and Burundian singer Khadja Nin’s compilation Sambolera) I feel like I should not rest on my laurels too much and can instead simply wax lyrical about how fun this album is whilst focusing on how he succeeds in creating such an eclectic record instead.
“On an album that is entirely self-produced, his accomplished attempt at a myriad of genres, which preserves a high-level of fun throughout, is only to be admired.”
Before I do, it is worth noting that Haroon’s album, which balances his Western and South Asian influences perfectly, is perhaps due to the fact that he was born to a Pakistani father and a New Zealander mother in London, which could have given him a unique perspective on the type of music he grew up wanting to produce. In its track listing, Haroon Ka Nasha combines a wide variety of genres that would be marketable for a Western audience whilst sticking to his Pakistani roots singing mostly in Urdu. Bridging the gap between East and West in such a way is quite an achievement that even in the pop genre, which one would inevitably expect a cross-cultural album, Haroon’s seamless attempt must still be applauded.
My favourite track is most definitely the opener, Jua Khela, which is an epic funk track (I will avoid the golden opportunity to crowbar a tenuous link between this song and Stevie Wonder’s music) that kicks off with a wonderful guitar riff played by Assad Ahmed. There is a short verse sung in English which seems to imply that the song is about the gamble that love is. By the time one would be able to perhaps slightly mock these cheesy lyrics, you would find yourself in too deep, basking in the unashamed fun of the song. At this early point in the album I assumed that the rest would transmit a similar upbeat funky vibe, but when I came to the next song I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The next track Nahin Hah Yeh Pyaar is, however, a great indie-pop acoustic track with a very memorable chorus that I have often found myself humming to myself even when I am away from listening to the album. This is not the only song of that style, Ibtaba-e-Ishq is another indie-pop track with a slightly more funky beat, which comes after Jiya Jaye, an electronic song which has a slight Latin twinge to it, sounding like it could be the start to a Shakira track. It is apparently about ‘extolling brotherhood and peace no matter what your religion or background’ according to a page that I found on a slightly questionable Russian ‘Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias’ website. If this is true it is ambitious and impressive that Haroon is trying to get across such a profound point on such an immensely danceable track.
Just like in Jua Khela, the subsequent track Yeh Raat kicks off with a great guitar riff before the only fully English-language track She’s No Good 4 U. This song was a bit of a surprise, not for the language it was sung in, but rather for the fact that once again Haroon shows off his talent in yet another genre, as the song is full of harmonies reminiscent of popular early noughties R&B. However, there is yet again another left field turn with Ishq Nasha which sounds like the sort of music that would be played at a South Asian rodeo hoedown (if such a thing exists). Whilst I personally feel that from here on in that, despite the success of tracks like the upbeat Ashiqa, the ballad Oh Saqi and the rocky finale of Hum Hain, the album weakens, Haroon succeeds in maintaining his consummate experimental nature throughout. On an album that is entirely self-produced, his accomplished attempt at a myriad of genres, which preserves a high-level of fun throughout, is only to be admired.