Hadiqa: The Sky's The Limit

Hadiqa Kiyani’s latest album, Aasmaan, is aptly titled. If you think about it, the sky’s really the limit as far as she’s concerned simply because of the amount of distance she has covered musically in her career.

Her music may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but then again, how many Pakistani female musicians have actually performed abroad and alongside international artistes, won accolades, and have had a consistent career for the past 14 years?

Her first album Raaz was released in 1995 to much fanfare but she was quickly shrouded under the shadow of the late Nazia Hasan, who herself had only just stopped singing two years prior. Kiyani persevered and went on to appear on TV channels abroad, work with the likes of Bally Sagoo and appear on stage with stars such as Lisa Stansfield, Wet Wet Wet, Michael Learns to Rock, All 4 One and The Brand New Heavies.

All this and just after releasing her first album. Two more albums followed; Roshni and Rung, and during this time she also appeared on television and billboards across the country. Soon one saw her performing for international dignitaries at political and social conferences. She was also part of a rather interesting collaboration with guitarist Aamir Zaki in the form of an album titled Rough Cut. The English album for Hadiqa was yet another avenue of diversity since the singer has already sung in numerous dialects and languages.

Putting things into perspective, it would seem that her career is one of many firsts and no matter what happens, as bands break up and musicians come and go, Hadiqa has been a constant musical presence in the country and abroad.

That constant presence now takes the form of a fourth album, Aasmaan, albeit six years later. British producer JKD and Ifran Kiyani, her brother, act as producers for it. They establish a myriad of sounds, a dash of dance, a spatter of rhythm and blues, all added up to the distinctly eastern voice of Hadiqa herself with which she sings in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindko, Pushto and many other dialects. Thanks to her past experiences in the West, she can carefully blend that same voice from eastern to western effortlessly. Take Az Chashme Saqi for instance, a distinctly eastern poem penned by Allama Iqbal moulded by Hadiqa in song and a vocal performance.

There are good songs and there are songs that prove she can sing, and the same is the case with Sajna Sajna. The song proves that she can but knowing Hadiqa, we know she can do better. Sohnya features rapper Nas-T, whose sporadic interruptions make you wish Hadiqa had left him out. Nevertheless, Hadiqa is not one to shy away from experimentation which this track clearly does with it delving in funk and rap.

Tuk Tuk is a bouncy, tongue-in-cheek track all about being silly. The song will surely be a crowd-pleaser at live performances. Zara Zara shows indications of too much tinkering. It has diverse beats which rollercoaster through to being wired and techno, but it still sounds much better than its own remix which was clearly unnecessary. Baqir Abbas brings in his powerful and resonating flute on Wanjhli and Hadiqa brings her own singing up a notch to meet Abbas. Together on this track, the two of them take the album on another level. On Jab Se Tum, producer Irfan Kiyani joins in for a duet and the result is a sweet little number that also shines through the rest of the songs in the album. Could it be that Hadiqa sings best when she sings with others? These last two tracks are a clear indication of that.

This is Hadiqa’s first foray into the music scene in almost six years. Other than this, she has been around in terms of concerts and as brand spokesperson. Aasmaan is probably the most drastic image change for Hadiqa so far, and she’s taken on these changes throughout the course of her career on each of her albums.

Much like the changing of her image, her sound changes too, as this album shows that being away from making music for so long has scattered her direction on this album. It seems like she wants to go all over the place rather than concentrate on one direction or sound.

Perhaps this is yet another experiment by Hadiqa, who has crossed borders all her musical life. First by being a female musician in a predominantly male musician dominated industry and being a constant presence in it, then by performing abroad with musicians over the world and now by crossing borders within her own musical world where the sky is perhaps not the limit.

No comments: