Noori will next be playing in Gujranwala. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: As one of Pakistan’s most popular music acts, it comes as no surprise that whatever Noori does attracts plenty of attention, especially when they set out on tour. The dynamic duo – along with other musicians such as Annie, Falak Shabbir, Arif Lohar and Kami Paul – is currently on a tour of Punjab. In fact, brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza have just returned from Sargodha to make a quick pit stop in Lahore before they head out to Gujranwala again.

According to Ali Noor, the Punjab Group of Colleges organises such a tour every year and get different artists on board. “It’s been a real eye-opener, this entire experience,” the singer told The Express Tribune. “We have been meeting a whole lot of people and mingling with the different subcultures of Pakistan. We already know a lot about Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad but this is different because we’ve realised that people in big cities don’t have time for smaller things. Life is slower in smaller towns; the people are more enthusiastic.”

To lend credence to this viewpoint, Ali Noor added that the vibe he receives from the crowd whilst performing is similar to the one he felt back when Noori first started out. For him, this is an opportunity to gel with the crowd more. “A lot of the people who attend the concerts have never heard of Noori, except for one or two songs, so we have to explain it to them,” he said. “We just take it for granted that everyone will know our songs but it’s a unique experience there.”

Work really seems to be taking Noori around the globe as the band was recently in Sri Lanka to record a song for Miss Veet Pakistan 2016, along with singer Sara Haider. “The brand got in touch with us about making a song that spoke of transformation and we felt that Dil Ki Kasm reflected the idea,” Ali Noor revealed.

So they had to rework the lyrics for 2004 hit, as most of Noori’s older songs are about social concepts wherein women are encouraged to come forth with their talent and try to be equal members of society. Ali Noor also shared that Ali Hamza will soon be launching a new project called Sanwal that incorporates a very different style of music.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2016.

What can we say about Noori that hasn’t been said before? A big victory at the Lux Style Awards for their third studio album, Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh, a thrilling stint on Coke Studio as music directors, a bunch of captivating music videos and several singles later, music group Noori is going strong as ever as the year winds down.

In fact, as this story is being written, Noori, one of music’s most cherished names, have embarked on an extensive more-than-a-month-long Punjab tour. Starting on November 3 in Okara, it will go on till December 12.

After memorable shows in Okara and Bahawalpur, the band is currently in Multan. In the coming days ahead, they will also play shows in other cities like Faisalabad, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Islamabad and Lahore as part of the tour.

And if there was any doubt about Noori’s popularity, their Instagram and Facebook accounts, updated with pictures from this tour, will crush that myth aside. Scores of fans have been coming out to see the band across cities. Not surprisingly, Noori seem to be in jovial spirits, a sign of which can be seen in how the band has been indulging their many fans with photo ops.

Joined by Annie, Falak Shabbir and Arif Lohar, Ali Noor, Ali Hamza and Kami Paul look like they’re having the time of their lives and giving music listeners across the province of Punjab a chance to experience the band’s colorful shows. If you are in the area and close to any of these cities, look out for their shows.

Published in The News, November 7th, 2016.

Both Ali Noor and Ali Hamza are Coke Studio veterans and most of their performances on the show have been extremely well received. PHOTOS: FILE

Both Ali Noor and Ali Hamza are Coke Studio veterans and most of their performances on the show have been extremely well received. PHOTOS: FILE

LAHORE: Ali Noor and Ali Hamza are undoubtedly, the most celebrated musicians on this year’s Coke Studio. After appearing on season two and three of the show as featured artists previously, the brothers – who together form rock band Noori – have made a fantastic return, this time as music directors. And while their latest offerings from the platform, Baliye and Aaja Re Moray Saiyaan, rule the airwaves, the dynamic duo has been making greater plans. In fact, in Ali Noor’s own words, they are looking to “change the future of music in Pakistan”.

With that statement, Noor refers to Noori’s brainchild BIY Music – an initiative to promote original music across the country. “You have to BIY (Believe in yourself) to DIY (Do it yourself),” says the singer, explaining the name of his record label.

“Initiatives like Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement are commissioned projects so we needed to have a place we could use as our own platform and are working hard to develop that.”

Beginning as a record label, BIY Music metamorphosed into a space where artists can brainstorm and generate originals. The premise is simple; “The output shouldn’t be cover songs. We want people to bring something new to the table,” says Noor. According to him, current Coke Studio members such as Junaid Khan, Ali Azmat and Momina Mustehsan are already on board.

But this is hardly all that Noori has been up to recently, seeing as how the band seems to be on a roll since the release of Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarafarosh (BGBS) last year. With the album, Noori made a solid comeback after a 10 year hiatus and even brought along a collaboration with Indian folktronica duo Hari and Sukhmani. And now, with a Lux Style Award for Best Music Album under their belt, the Lahore-based band is clearly just warming up.

Apart from Coke Studio, Noori’s latest work also come from relatively new music show Cornetto Pop Rock, wherein the band has collaborated with singer Qurutulain Balouch (QB) on a song called Pyar Wyar.

“This was QB’s first project; the first song she wrote herself. Now, we will develop it further, along with her,” shares Noor. A behind-the-scenes video on Noori’s BIY Music page shows Noor and Hamza’s encouragement and direction for QB, the result of which is a noteworthy, original melody. The coming days will also see the band work with Azmat.

With so much on their plate, Noori wishes to create a crescendo effect and encourage other Pakistani artists to create original content. In fact, it was with this aim that the band came up with Aja Re Moray Saiyaan, a song written by Zehra Nigah that features Zeb Bangash.

“The melody had been with us for 20 odd years but we kept going back and forth with it. The real credit goes to Bilal Maqsood, who really helped us put it together,” says Hamza, who also lent vocals to the song.

His son has also sung the number in a home video that recently went viral. “I think my son feels he’s a star in his own right. Ever since that video went up, he acts like a rock star and even has the attitude! He’s got a good mind for music and makes his own lyrics and melodies too.”

Baliye, on the other hand, is the fusion of an original track written and composed by vocalist Haroon Shahid with a Musarrat Nazir classic, Laung Gawacha.

“All our other songs from Coke Studio are originals, although the show’s format is to work with existing classics,” reveals Hamza. The duo shares that they became very friendly with Strings and forced them to get involved. “We were working more as composers and they were doing the producing. We made songs from scratch on Coke Studio, along with Strings and the house band. If there was one thing I could take away from the experience, it would definitely be production,” he adds.

If all of this isn’t enough, there is another Noori original coming up on Coke Studio, with Indian singer Shilpa Rao and Noor and his mother who plays the sagar veena on it.

“She’s the only one in the world who plays that instrument and her father Raza Kazim made it for her,” says Noor, adding that while there is ample material ready to put out in an album, he is focusing on releasing other peoples’ work through BIY Music.

“When you’re a producer, the entire responsibility falls on you,” he claims. “Now as musicians, we want to experiment with new material. No one is pursuing music, which makes it perfect that we keep on exploring sounds and that’s what Coke Studio has helped us do.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2016.

Under the BIY Music banner, an initiative that is meant to promote the cause of original music and as part of the first season

of Cornetto Pop Rock, Noori has teamed up with one of music’s most gifted names, Quratulain Balouch for the song ‘Pyar
Wyar’. Not surprisingly, the song has amassed over 2 million hits since its release.

Currently sizzling on Coke Studio 9 as music directors,
Noori give fans exactly what they promised with BIY Music.

You have to tip your hat to Noori, one of Pakistan’s most cherished music outfits, for not only making a strong comeback last year (with a new studio album) but for doing so in a way that it is slowly making up for all those years when we went without a Noori single.

It is a vigorous return that began in 2015 with ‘Aik Tha Badshah’ and the record, Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh, beautifully spilled into 2016 and will be remembered for years to come since Noori seem in no mood to slow down.

In the coming days ahead, Noori and Ali Azmat, as part of Cornetto Pop Rock, will release their collaborative single,
In the coming days ahead, Noori and Ali Azmat, as part of Cornetto Pop Rock, will release their collaborative single, ‘Dildara’. The great news here is that its going to be an original song.

A spanking music video (‘Pinjra’), a cross-border collaboration (‘Yaarian’ with Hari and Sukhmani) that doesn’t play up hate values – seen in supreme form during India-Pakistan cricket matches and on political talk shows – and instead speaks of friendship and tolerance is how Noori began the year but that’s not how they plan to end it.

Having picked up the Lux Style Award for Best Music Album just last month, which has simply strengthened their resolve, Noori’s wearing many hats and are shining in each role as brightly as the next.   While Coke Studio 9 has brought their musical capabilities front and center (more on that later), it’s the birth of BIY Music and the band’s association with the first season of Cornetto Pop Rock that is just as important to discuss as their CS stint.

BIY Music – Believe in Yourself – a motto by which Noori brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza lead their lives and one they wish to pass on to the industry and their many, many fans, is an initiative that is meant to promote the cause of original music. It is meant to push artists to create their own records, write their own songs and push their own limitations.

On BIY Music’s official Facebook page, launched in 2016, Noori explained the ideology behind this initiative and wrote, “Based on the ideology of Believe in Yourself to Do it Yourself, we encourage serious artist across different genres to craft original music and learn the art and technique of live performances within a creative environment under the supervision and in collaboration with renowned and experienced musicians of the industry.”

Rock the Casbah: Ali Hamza doing his thing with the bass.
Rock the Casbah: Ali Hamza doing his thing with the bass.

The good news is that its not just talk. Under the BIY Music banner and as part of the music initiative Cornetto Pop Rock, the group has teamed up with one of music’s most gifted names, Quratulain Balouch and has collaborated on the song ‘Pyar Wyar’, which has amassed over 2 million hits since its release. The funk-rock laden track, as well as the psychedelic music video will remind you of the lost glorious days of music when videos released with regularity.

The thing to remember here is that it’s a song QB wrote herself with encouragement/guidance by Noori. Despite initial trepidation, she took the plunge and emerged victorious because ‘Pyar Wyar’ a thumping rock ditty, aside from the not-so-subtle branding, is charming. Most importantly, it’s unlike any other QB song and is as different from her claim-to-fame effort, ‘Humsafar’ as possible. It showcases the singer in a never-before-seen light. And as Ali Noor joins QB past the halfway mark on the song, you have to applaud Noori for pushing so hard the cause of original music.

It’s a common story now that original music is coming from either film quarters, which can be good (Dekh Magar Pyar Se, Karachi Se Lahore), great (Moor, Manto) or bad (everything else really) or from breathtaking independent artists (Khumariyaan, Nawksh, SlowSpin, Adil Omar, Talal Qureshi, Shajie Hassan and many, many others).

But with Noori’s resurgence and success, others from mainstream could draw inspiration and just might follow suit. Should that happen, the mission of BIY Music will be accomplished.

In the meantime, the coming days ahead will see Noori team-up with the god of rock, Ali Azmat and the result of it, well, let’s just say we can hardly wait. If the images coming from the BIY studio in Lahore on Instagram and other digital formats are anything to go by, this collaboration could surpass all others in recent memory and maybe even the classic Noori single, ‘Ooncha Hoon Mein’ on which Azmat made a small but deeply memorable appearance many moons ago.

Published in The News, August 23rd, 2016.

With season 9 around the corner, we look back at the biggest hits the show has belted out so far.

With season 9 around the corner, we look back at the biggest hits the show has belted out so far.

KARACHI: With the ninth edition of Coke Studio around the corner, The Express Tribune looks back at the biggest hits the show has belted out, over the years.

15. Zeb & Haniya – Laili Jaan

Laili Jaan, Zeb & Haniya
There’s hardly a Coke Studio song from this duo that did not click with the audiences. Season 6’s Laili Jaan is a Darri hit, originally done by Ahmed Zahir, that blurs boundaries with incredible ease.

14. Symt & Sanam Marvi – Koi Labda

Koi Labda HD, Symt feat. Sanam Marvi
Koi Labda from Season 5 is warm and extremely fulfilling. This is one collaboration from the show wherein everything fell perfectly in place.

13. Mai Dhai & Atif Aslam – Kadi Aao Ni

Mai Dhai & Atif Aslam, Kadi Aao Ni, Coke Studio, Season 8,…

While there aren’t many songs from the Strings era that make it to our list; Kadi Aao Ni from Season 8 is one that does deserve a spot. Mai Dhai shines in all her glory as we see glimpses of the Atif Aslam of Jalpari.

12. Rostam Mirlashari – Laila O Laila

Laila O Laila. Rostam Mirlashari
Laila O Laila was part of Season 6 that saw Rohail Hyatt bring in foreign musicians and eventually step down as the show’s producer. Not that we saw too many on the show, Laila O Laila was perhaps Coke Studio’s best rendition of a Balochi tune.

11. Ali Zafar – Yar Daddi

Yar Daddi, Ali Zafar
With this tribute to Ustad Muhammad Juman from Season 2, Ali Zafar completed a successful experiment with a very different singing style. The Flamenco chord progression is an absolute treat.

10. Sajjad Ali – Kirkir Kirkir

Kirkir Kirkir HD, Sajjad Ali, Coke Studio Pakistan, Season 4

Pop icon Sajjad Ali made his Coke Studio debut in Season 4 and gave us his signature product – an all-out entertainer; the show had not exactly had an upbeat number to offer before this.

9. Mizraab – Kuch Hai

Kuch Hai HD, Mizraab, Coke Studio Pakistan, Season 4
Kuch Hai is powerful, haunting and captivating. Season 4 showed the world why Faraz Anwar fans call him a guitar maestro.

8. Strings – Sar Kiyae

Sar Kiyae, Strings, Coke Studio Pakistan, Season 1

This Strings original is one of the best pop compositions to come out from Pakistan and is still as popular as it was in 1992. This Season 1 song is an early example of what Rohail Hyatt had set about to master.

7. Asif Hussain Samraat & Zoe Viccaji – Senraan Ra Baairya

Senraan Ra Baairya HD, Asif Hussain Samraat & Zoe Viccaji
He came. He mesmerised. He vanished. Asif Hussain Samraat’s Rajasthani thumri from Season 4 is like medication for anxiety. Coke Studio never saw better voice quality.

6. Atif Aslam and Qayaas – Charkha Nolakha

Charkha Nolakha, Atif Aslam and Qayaas
Qayaas were one of Pakistan’s most promising acts and Charkha Nolakha only reminds us what we have lost with their breakup. This ode to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Led Zeppelin from Season 5 is one of the show’s best-arranged songs.

5. Attaullah Khan Esakhelvi – Pyaar Naal

Pyaar Naal HD, Attaullah Khan Esakhelvi, Coke Studio…

Attaullah Khan Esakhelvi graced Coke Studio in Season 4 and gave us a love song to remember. Jaffer Zaidi’s piano and accordion; Amir Azhar’s mandolin and Essakhelvi’s supplementary recital of a nazm stand out in this heartwarming number.

4. Noori & Saieen Zahoor – Aik Alif

Aik Alif, Noori & Saieen Zahoor
This Season 2 song saw Noori delve into devotional music for the first time ever and come up with one of the most memorable songs from the show. Saieen Zahoor’s distinct tone, Ali Hamza’s banjo and Ali Noor’s impressive vocal range make this a sure-shot winner.

3. Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad – Kangna

Kangna. Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad
Kangna, in Season 4, saw Coke Studio engage with authentic qawwals and qawwali for the first time. A composition in Raag Malkauns, Kangna is yet another achievement of the Rohail Hyatt era.

2. Javed Bashir – Aj Latha Naeeo

Aj Latha Naeeo, Javed Bashir, Coke Studio Pakistan, Season 2
While Javed Bashir’s unmatched vocal prowess had already begun to gain attention long before this song came out, Season 2’s Aj Latha Naeeo announced his arrival and upped the ante of a show that was still establishing itself.

1. Noori – Saari Raat

Saari Raat, Noori

KARACHI: After wrapping up their fourth studio album, Viva la Vida, Coldplay took close to four years to release their next record. Wanting their next album to be “more intimate” than the preceding ones, the band re-evaluated their style of music, and the result was Mylo Xyloto — a concept album about how a fictional city is taken over by a supremacist government and the rebellion that follows.

Noori seems to have followed a similar trail, as they’re back as a more evolved band after a 10-year break. Currently on a tour promoting Begum Gul Bakauli Sarfarosh (BGBS), the two-member band recently held a preview of their next album for a limited audience.

Kicking off their mini-concert with the song Pinjra, lead singer-songwriter Ali Noor talked about the genesis of the track. Describing the song as ‘anti-Sufi’, he explained that it traverses the reality of how we’re all caged by society. “This song is a question about whether it’s right or wrong to be driven by our fear of dogma, and if we should live in this perpetual fear,” explained Noor.

With most tracks on the album dating back to nearly 15 to 20 years, Noor and Hamza shared how their third album is a sincere attempt to reach out to their loyal fan base. In contrast to the music featured on their debut album Suno Ke Main Hon Jawan, which was carefree and pop-oriented, their latest release seems to have a brooding soundtrack, especially with songs such as Aik Tha Badshah and Pinjra.

But the band clarified that even if their previous songs, such as Gana No 1, sounded like peppy numbers, they have a deeper meaning behind them. “Everybody thinks it [Gana No 1] was a fun song that people dance to. But if you listen to its lyrics, you’d realise how dark the song actually is,” said Hamza. Describing it as the “most depressing song” he has ever inscribed, Noor shared that it was inspired by a ‘vela’ guy that the brothers knew. “Not only would he waste his time but ours as well. And when I questioned him about his attitude once, he started crying and said that he considered himself to be completely incompetent,” stated Noor.

Despite the serious nature of the album, the band has managed to slip in two signature Noori sing-along anthems titled Hey Ya and 1947. Both tracks encapsulate BGBS’ central theme of rebirth, revolving around a woman who crosses the border on the eve of 1947 and is devastated after losing everything and everyone during her journey. When she arrives on this side of the border, she hears the announcement of the creation of Pakistan on the radio and feels her pain fade away, foreshadowing a new beginning in her life. BGBS is expected to release on September 30.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2015.