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.

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.