“Hum Duniya Badlien Ge

Hum Ne Khaayee Hai Dil Ki Qasam”

For all those who have been ‘Noori,’ fans since the 90’s would need no introduction to the band and the song itself.

Their most recent collaborative single ‘Dil Ki Qasam’ with the Coke Studio famed vocalist Sara Haider adds a special twist for fans.

A song originally sung by the rock band is now chosen as a soundtrack for a beauty brand reality show, ‘Miss Veet 2016.’ Shot in Sri Lanka.

The new version of the song talks about transformation and finding courage.

Good thing for Noori fans, they managed to make it through without losing their edge.

Sara Haider while talking to Pakistan Today reveals about the experience re-working the song with the revered music band.

“The song is about finding your courage, strength and changing perspective,” says Sara.

Revamping the song is a huge challenge on its own, but what the team was trying to achieve was far greater than that. Bringing a female on board for the new version was a whole new experience. The lyrics needed to be re-written and Shuja Haider came into the scene and wrote all the lyrics.

The basic idea of the show is to take regular girls and not ‘supermodels’ and show their transformation journey. Thus, the song was chosen because ‘it fits into the idea of the show-transformation’.

Another reason why this song was chosen according to Sara is, “This song was never seen in the context of young women fighting to find their own place in the world.”

“It’s about creating a new idea; of not empowering women, but allowing them to find the strength that they already have and channel it towards changing their own circumstances,” added Sara.

When asked about her experience of working on the new version of ‘Dil Ki Qasam’, Sara told Pakistan Today that it was ‘Fantastic and scary at the same time, but all in all, it was a great opportunity to create something new, something different for the audience to see.’

“As someone who has done this for myself, I know how important it is to be reminded that you are strong enough all on your own,” she added.

The video as mentioned earlier was shot in Sri Lanka, and being the beautiful place that it is added a whole new element of ‘WOW’ to the whole Miss Veet 2016 experience.

Talking about her experience the singer tells us, “It didn’t feel like being at work at all because the girls and I bonded very well.”

“We even had a great time bonding with the judges, the place where we stayed ‘Balipitaya’ was an amazing beach, so it felt like a vacation with friends,” she added.

During the interview, Sarah thanked her fans for the immense love and support throughout her journey – the good times and the bad.

Sara also stated that because of all this love she is here to stay in the industry.

“Keep your family close they really get you through the hard times,” she told her fans.

Sarah is all set to release her new single ‘Bhaisaab’ along with a Close-Up web series.

Not only that, she has written and performed a track for Mehreen Jabbar’s recently released ‘Dobara Phir Se,’ something she has been really happy about.

So what the future holds for Noori and Sara Haider, only time will tell.

Watch out for more.

Published in Pakistan Today, December 17th, 2016.

The talented Ali Noor and Ali Hamza of the incredible band Noori, take us all the way to Sri Lanka and break down the day they spent shooting their new song ‘Dil Ki Qasam’ with Miss Veet Pakistan


We wake up early, before 10am in an Ayurvedic resort — a place where we have to be peaceful and quiet. They are very punctual here; they serve us vegetarian food, sometimes we get chicken, but mostly it’s all detoxifying food. The rice has some kind of purple dots on it.


For breakfast we are served fresh fruits and eggs of our choice. The tea and coffee here doesn’t taste like actual tea and coffee.


We go for a stroll on the beach and talk about the video, and then we head to the Veet Academy. They have booked the whole mansion. It is pretty awesome! It has gorgeous views, and wherever we go we see beautiful beaches, and lots of girls. As soon as we enter the mansion, we spot Aamina Sheikh’s daughter playing with a python.


As sunlight is the strongest right now, we begin shooting the mansion shots.


We hijack all the girls and bring them back to our place!


We find ourselves on the beach again — flying kites and playing cricket. We meet an aeronautical engineer, who flew from Sydney to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Sri Lanka just because we were coming. This guy is great, so we hang out and party with him. Not that you can do much in an Ayurvedic resort, but we make the most of it.


We go for a swim with Fahad Ashraf, director marketing of Reckitt Benckiser. We begin having long, drawn out discussions with him about how the women of this country should evolve and how we want to open schools together. Other than being in Sri Lanka, and shooting a music video, this is the graver reason why Veet and Noori are working together. Fahad explains how for the last three years the competition was becoming meaningless and he wanted to add meaning to the concept. The girls that are being chosen in the competition are regular girls. The idea behind selecting regular people is that you are not choosing them for their appearance, but for completely different reasons. We talk about what else we can do in the future, how to turn this into an institution, and even discuss the future of the girls who don’t win. It’s very important for them to stay connected because it isn’t about winning and losing, it’s all about exploration and transformation — different people, different backgrounds, different stories, and stories cannot just end.


We go to Galle. It’s a full moon and there is a large Portuguese party here. Suddenly, Aisha Khan starts feeling sick and we need to take her to the hospital, but we find out that there are no hospitals. No one is sure what is happening to her. We take her home, and she sleeps it off.


We go back to our room and jam with the guitar. We only have a few night sets. After a while we are hungry but we can’t find junk food. We are seriously craving chips and Pepsi at this point. We decide to make fries ourselves, so we cut the potatoes, only to discover that these weird Ayurvedic potatoes just won’t fry!


Still awake, waiting for the potatoes to fry…


Three hours later, finally the fries are ready! After quickly munching down the fries, we finally go to bed, as we have to start the day early tomorrow.

Noori brothers sit down with Instep and talk about the remarkable year they’ve been having, the ongoing Punjab tour and cultivating a serious listener base

The ballad of Noor and Hamza

As I listen to the tape of my conversation with Noori brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, who front and form one of Pakistan’s most cherished and still active music groups, what’s instantly palpable is that they refuse to conform to the norm and remain unpredictable.

While most artists who started out around the same time as Noori have either turned to acting in TV, films or both or have split up or split their focus to other facets of the entertainment business, for one reason or another, Noori remain a loveable anomaly who are still making their brand of music, presenting rock permutations that go beyond riffs and rage and weave a musical narrative that is both personal and national.

We meet on Sunday as Noori carve out precious time from their ongoing Punjab tour to come to Karachi for a whirlwind 24 hours where they not only met with the press but also gave fans in Karachi a chance to see them in action (alongside Sara Haider) at a popular mall.

Meeting at a PR agency’s office on a warm afternoon, I’m greeted by a mostly deserted office barring a few individuals.

The lethargy of Sunday, however, quickly vanishes upon meeting the band.  Inside a room, lit brightly, brothers Noor and Hamza sit, dressed casually in jeans, t-shirts and Noor sporting a hoodie jacket, greets me warmly and with a hint of nostalgia as we reminisce my first interview with them, in Karachi, which happened almost a decade ago on the heels of the release of their second studio album, Peeli Patti Aur Raja Jaani Ki Gol Dunya.

When you meet Noori, you instantly feel invigorated not just by how passionate they are about what they do but also because they have this inherent ability to make people feel involved and connected. Whether it’s the fans or other artists or even a commissioned corporate/brand related project(s) – it is this quality that sets them apart from other entities.

I take out several sheets of paper, inundated with questions and they laugh heartily before quickly agreeing to answering as many question as I want. It’s a far cry from PR-coordinated interviews where ordinarily the questions often don’t veer away from one particular topic or occasions when artists remain reticent and inch away from saying anything about what matters most to them. Part of it is weariness induced by the cycle of persistently talking to the media but Noori thankfully show no signs of jaded cynicism.

Long story short, we want to cultivate a brand new listener base and take out lots of new songs,” says Noor. “When I say cultivate I mean listeners who take out time to listen to a song/record and not while you’re using Facebook and playing it on the side.

As we open our conversation from their most recent effort, a song that serves as the soundtrack to a beauty supermodel contest, Noor and Hamza admit that they agreed to do the project mostly because the idea behind it is to appreciate beauty in the mundane, and inculcate the simple but powerful belief that ordinary people are beautiful; it also speaks of internal transformation. In this day and age of photo-shopped images, Noori’s approach to the project is certainly important.

Having collaborated with Sara Haider on the said song, our conversation invariably moves to women in music and Noori, who have worked with several artists this year including not just Sara Haider but also Momina Mustehsan, Quratulain Balouch and many more, maintain that the current crop of women working in music are exceptionally hardworking.

“Sara Haider is very driven and she wants to learn a lot and she’s very serious-minded. Not just her but Rachel (Viccaji) and Zoe Viccaji,” says Ali Noor, a rock god who can be outrageous one minute, laughing infectiously, and sober the next with ease.

Hamza, the poet and the more restrained of the two echoing Noor sums it up best: “The artists of this generation, the ones coming into the music scene… a) they are very-talented, b) they have a good head on their shoulders, that’s the really good part.”

“None of them are in a hurry and they have a vision,” adds Noor. “The reason why I’m talking about this is because I had a chance to speak to them and work with them during Coke Studio.”


The year 2016 has been a significant one for Noori. Picking up the LSA Best Album trophy for their third studio album, Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh, which released last year to critical and commercial acclaim after a gap of a decade, they’ve been working with the kind of regularity that is rare for a mainstream name.  A remarkable stint on Coke Studio as music directors, three original songs accompanied with music videos via Cornetto Pop Rock plus a gorgeous Indo-Pak single collaboration and the revival and reinvention of BIY Music, the brothers are in a space where they are not only enjoying creating music and playing it out for fans any and every chance they get but one which allows them to shape a vision and their place in the sometimes fickle world of music. And as always, their loyalty lies with the fans; the ones who stand in line to get a CD signed or like the gaggle of giggling girls who were hoping I’d introduce them to the band as I was walking one step behind Noor and Hamza at a Mall when we met in Karachi last summer to talk about their new record, which the brothers released in a classic DIY effort that they’ve become known for.

Surprisingly enough, despite doing commissioned projects, they are not big fans of it. “The problem with commissioned work is that you are always trying to satisfy the client,” explains Noor. “We’ve managed to find an interesting middle ground where we take all these clients and become very close with them on a creative level. We become good friends because if we don’t get along with the people, it doesn’t work. So the real story here is that we get them involved in the process. There is never a revision in what we do. It becomes actually very memorable as opposed to being a bearable experience.”

I tell them what I’ve said in other Noori stories before: it’s been a monumental year for the band and the amount of original work they’ve done including their smart tackling of Coke Studio as music directors, is worth infinite applause.

“We sat on our ass for ten years,” says Noor as Hamza corrects him, “We were playing live music…”

I press on about the collaboration with Ali Azmat, a song called ‘Dildara’ that is both endearing and iconic.

“Ali Azmat changed Ali Noor,” laughs Hamza.

Noor admits that the process of working with several artists through one project or another has led to a personal, internal transformation. “Not a perfectionist at all but within me, a confused, unsure man has decided to just say f*** it. Jo ayega dekha jaiye ga… After that, my whole funda changed, to be a doer. I think that is what’s happened.”

“I think the real thing that’s happening in all this is the changes that are coming from within us,” confesses Hamza.

“There’s a strange karmic thing going on,” says Noor introspectively on the monumental year they’ve been having.

As the conversation shifts again and I ask the brothers about their ongoing Punjab tour that is organized by Punjab Group of Colleges and is taking them to Okara, Bahawalpur, Multan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Islamabad and Lahore, the emotion in the room changes.

“You know how you have tours abroad, it’s like that,” says Noor. “The shows start on time, the audience is in place and the girls make the ultimate audience. The irony is that this audience goes neglected.

This audience is so responsive. We realized that the theme of Noori is so applicable to them. I kind of wish that we had planned some workshops; we can’t mess with the schedule but as we were singing ‘Suno Ke Main Hoon Jawan’, we realized that we may have gone ahead but this audience never got a chance to hear these songs.”

The shows that we as an urban audience can take for granted in bigger cities like Karachi and Lahore are a revelation to people in other cities. And Noori know it too. To them, the tour has led to the opening up of another world, a whole new horizon full of dedicated fans and this audience will, in all probability, earn more chances to see the band in the future.

I ask them if working on Coke Studio with so many artists from the music scene has changed their perception of the industry. What’s disarmingly charming is how quickly Noor makes it a point to say that as far as Noori were concerned, Bilal Maqsood was the third music director. “He was really involved in the process with us. And he was like the third director. Other people maybe opted for autonomy but for us without Bilal, we simply wouldn’t start. He would sit with us.”

Noori_4Answering the questions with his usual honesty, Noor says, “Working with other people gave us a chance to learn about their different aspirations.  It was also a reality-check that this is what it is.”

Moving towards the indie music scene, which unlike the mainstream side of music, is filled with artists who insist on doing quality original work and sadly go uncounted when one speaks of the music scene, Noori admit that they must be counted. “For that to happen, they have to cross the threshold.  Everyone has a starting point but they’re unable to find it. I really want to do indie, and I will do it. Indie artists are very talented.”

“No matter whom I listen to, they have something,” says Hamza.

“We did what we did because I thought every other band was shit,” says Noor. “I was uninspired by everybody and I’m sure they feel the same way. I don’t think Noori inspire them that way. They want to do their own thing, sing in English, do electronica but I guess the only thing I was able to figure out and what they need to figure out is how to cross that threshold.”

Aside from doing their own music, Noori have also revived BIY Records, now known as BIY Music, through which they released their own album BGBS last year and through which others hope to follow suit such as one Haroon Shahid of SYMT-fame.

“We’re figuring it out,” says Noor. “The only thing we’ve realized now is that we need content creation mechanism,” says Noor. “The amount of time in which we actually get things done. But most of all, our interest is, to be honest, not to pander to people’s existing sensibilities. It goes against the grain of what we want to do.  But we were doing it. We want to cultivate a serious listener. For example, you are a keen, serious listener. That number has dwindled to such an extent that it’s stupid. You’re doing covers because they are familiar, you are re-working old songs and they’re familiar too. What does that signify? That people are becoming dumb.”

“Everything is being dumbed down,” says Hamza.

“Long story short, we want to cultivate a brand new listener base and take out lots of new songs,” says Noor. “When I say cultivate I mean listeners who take out time to listen to a song/record and not while you’re using Facebook and playing it on the side. That’s f***ed up, yaar.”

To Noori, numbers don’t mean too much. They neither have millions of fans on Facebook nor do they care too much about digital statistics.

“You’ll die as an artist if you look at numbers, trust me,” says Hamza.

And unlike a lot of other artists in the spotlight, Noori are not trolled online or receive abusive messages.

“Once in a blue moon,” admits Hamza.

Noori fans are only angered when they think the band is doing commercial things. “We get hate-mail on doing commercial stuff but I think that number is small.” Noor says.

As we come to the end of the interview and only because of my realization that others are waiting in line to interview the band, Noori brothers confess that aside from the band’s revitalized return, they aim to diversify, create different spaces filled with different styles of expressions, pursue solo projects while keeping the promise of Noori alive.

“Noori is now going to fly in terms of creative ideas,” says Noor on a parting note. And given their recent track record, we, as longtime fans, can only say encore.

Published in The News, November 20th, 2016.

Noori Rock On

By Maheen Sabeeh

Revered music group discuss latest release ‘Dil Ki Qasam’ with Sara Haider.

2016 has been an extraordinary year for Noori and it’s not over just yet. As this story is being written, the much-revered music group is gearing up to headline a gig at Kinnaird College in Lahore, which will also feature other acts like Abdullah Qureshi, Hamza Malik, and SomeWhatSuper.

Their most recent release, a collaborative number with Sara Haider, ‘Dil Ki Qasam,’ which serves as the soundtrack to a beauty brand reality show, is certainly endearing them to fans. Shot in Sri Lanka, the song talks of transformation and has led Noori into unchartered waters and they’ve managed to navigate their way without losing their edge.

Talking to Instep about the song, Ali Noor revealed, “Basically, the idea was to take regular girls and not ‘supermodels’. So that was the context of the song and they wanted ‘Dil Ki Qasam’ because it talks about transformation. To me re-working the song didn’t make sense because the original song is very loud and aggressive so they wanted to bring a girl in (on vocals) and basically re-write the lyrics. So we got Shuja Haider and he wrote all the lyrics and that was very cool because usually it’s Hamza who writes.”

The process gave them a chance to work with Sara Haider and they had nothing but appreciation for her. “She’s serious-minded and wants to learn a lot,” said Noor. “Working with her was very interesting; she’s very genuine.”

Aside from playing shows across Punjab - where the turnout has been huge and a testament to Noori’s popularity - as part of a tour organized by the Punjab Group of Colleges, the brothers also have other ideas about what they will do next. One of those things is a solo project of Ali Hamza. Having sat down with Instep for an extensive interview, Hamza cheekily mentioned his project, “It’s called Sanwal, watch out!”

What they won’t be doing is film music. Having worked on the soundtrack of Wajahat Rauf’s Karachi Se Lahore with Shiraz Uppal in 2015, they are not treading that path again unless something extraordinary comes their way.

“For me, I will only do it if a brilliant project comes along,” explained Hamza. Reiterating Hamza’s point, Noor further explained, “Ideally if you make a film, making music for it would be fun. Or if it means working closely with someone and to be involved in the process. In India and even here, the driving forces are not what they used to be.”

“People who do it, great but not our thing,” explained Hamza.

Happily settled in their lives, having embraced a familial life and fatherhood, the brothers will, in the coming days, months and years ahead, use their perspectives to pen new songs. “In the next album, preferably I should write five songs and he (Hamza) writes five, and we come together and then finish the record.”

Published in The News, November 18th, 2016.