The ballad of Ali Noor and Ali Hamza

Courtesy Instep Today, The News published on August 22nd, 2009

In an exclusive conversation with Instep Today, Noori take us inside the songs they belted out at Coke Studio that have changed Noori’s perception to fans, critics and the industry at large…

Maheen Sabeeh


“More than being a musical performance, ‘Aik Alif’ was an internal/spiritual journey for the musicians involved.” – Ali Noor

“Saeen was quite particular about this track. It wasn’t like we had decided over a few phone calls that Noori and Zahoor would be doing a fusion track together. Ali Hamza had to go and meet Saeen at his house, record his tunes and ponder over them for a few days, then go back again and discuss not just the musical side of it, but the philosophical aspect of it as well.

It was clear why Saeen was being particular. For Saeen music is a medium through which he can spread ‘the message’. And that’s where Noori and Saeen found common ground.

On hearing Saeen sing ‘Aik Alif’ (Zahoor calls it ‘Buss kareen o yaar’), it was clear to us that this is the song we wanted to do. It is a very spontaneous performance for all the musicians involved.

Both Rohail and Hamza (who was mainly handling the song from the Noori side) were aware of this and they consciously chose not to rehearse this song to maintain the purity of the basic elements of musicianship. In Ali Hamza’s words, “we could either rehearse this once or twice and perform it, or we needed to work on this for a good year. The approach towards ‘Aik Alif’ had to be very different from the way we approached the rest of our songs.”

‘Aik Alif’, more than being a musical performance, was an internal/spiritual journey for the musicians involved. And we think it was the same for the listeners as well. The response we have received from all over the world verifies that. The way people have talked about being touched from within and being taken into another realm altogether has made the journey worth it.

Doing this piece has opened up a whole new world for us. For the first time we actually got to experience how our internal processes work to create all that. That’s the power of our indigenous, folk music. And we intend and hope to delve into this realm more often, and definitely, very soon again, with Zahoor.

“‘Kedaar’ is a song that contains all the different elements which define Noori. It applies very well to the current situation in Pakistan.” – Ali Noor

“Apart from other requirements, Coke Studio needed Noori to perform a patriotic/message-oriented song. Usually artists make one or two such songs, but in our case, almost every single one of our songs has a patriotic/message-oriented theme!

So then it was about choosing the best patriotic song we have. For us, that boiled down to a choice between ‘Dil Ki Qasam’ and ‘Jana Tha Humne’. These are the two songs we have performed over and over for 7 years. We have redone and revamped them at least 10 times. We really didn’t want to revisit them because we were looking at Coke Studio as a new beginning for Noori.

‘Kedaar’ was the next song we had in the pipeline of releases. It contains all the different elements which define Noori. Lyrically, the song is the next step in Noori’s evolution. It applies very well to the current situation in this country, and more than that, it fits in perfectly with the Coke Studio feel.

The times we are living in really require many of us to get actively involved in bringing about change, and it’s good to see that realization happening. The biggest change we see is that people understand the power of music in influencing mindsets. The musicians are beginning to feel a sense of responsibility which comes with their power to influence.

It was great seeing artists like Atif and Ali Zafar creating brand new patriotic songs, especially for Coke Studio. We wish and hope that this process is only the beginning for a long lasting journey.”

“‘Saari Raat Jaaga’ reflects best Ali Noor’s genius and maturity as a composer. It is a complete symphony.” – Ali Hamza

“Saari Raat is the first song we started work on for Coke Studio. Ali Noor had been working on this version for a few months. Revamping meant a complete deconstruction of the song and giving it a new face altogether. It took over two months to bring it to a point where we could share it with the Coke Studio team. We knew we were working with the best musicians in town, and that gave us the confidence to really experiment with the piece. And experiment we did! We would be up day and night stretching our minds to come up with the perfect melodic movements, the perfect rhythm structure and so on. We wanted to be true to the art, and we wanted to showcase our best skills as serious musicians.

When we sent the song to Rohail and the musicians to rehearse, we got texts from everyone within 20 minutes. They were all awe struck and super excited! At the same time they were cursing us for making probably the most challenging song they would do. But these guys are the best in town because they have consistently challenged themselves to reach higher and higher levels.”

‘Saari Raat Jaaga’ reflects best Ali Noor’s genius and maturity as a composer. It is a complete symphony.We are extremely proud of this song and strongly believe that it will set a new standard for Pakistani music.

In the words of Ali Noor …”Saari raat Jaga nay finally sub ko ’sari raat jaga’ hi diya!!!”

“The Coke Studio version of ‘Jo Meray’ is the beginning of my journey as a composer/producer. This song will evolve with my own evolution.” – Ali Hamza

The Coke Studio version of ‘Jo Meray’ is a glimpse of how this song was originally made. ‘Glimpse’, because Ali Hamza still feels that he hasn’t been able to communicate the actual feel of the song to musicians. Hats off to Rohail and all the musicians for doing an excellent job on the song, their skills are undeniable. But for Ali Hamza, ‘Jo Meray’ has been a defining song for his own musical career. It contains all the elements that are unique to Ali Hamza as a musician,” says Ali Noor.

“The Coke Studio version of Jo Meray is the beginning of my journey as a composer/producer.

I think the musicians at Coke Studio have done perfect justice to the song, given their own understanding of music, and I am very satisfied with the effort and creativity involved. It’s just that I feel that their is room for much more improvement and effort from my side. I must thank Coke Studio for giving me the opportunity to start my own individual journey, because without this happening, my own process would never have started. I would also like you to know that this song still doesn’t have any proper lyrics. I was not consciously avoiding completing this song by writing proper words to this melody, but now I get this feeling that the lyrics too will be completed with the completion of my own personal journey,” says Ali Hamza.

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