While the revival of Pakistan’s film industry remains the talk of the talks, efforts are also being made by some members of Pakistan’s music industry to promote our rich musical heritage around the world. Among these names is Zebunnisa Bangash or Zeb Bangash, a Pakistani vocalist and musician who started off her musical career with Pakistan’s first mainstream girl band named “Zeb and Haniya” along with her cousin Haniya Aslam in 2008. After the success of their debut album “Chup” Zeb went on to give many hits on Coke Studio and bagged the opportunity of singing for famous musicians like A.R Rehman, Amit Trivedi and Shantanu Moitra in Bollywood movies as well.
The flair for language and tradition made Zeb capable of cutting across all demographics in the country with natural ease. In pursuit of connecting the world with this rich and beautiful musical heritage of Pakistan, she initiated a project “Sandaraa” (‘song’ in Pashto) along with a leading Brooklyn musician Michael Woodgrad in 2013.
The project aims at celebrating traditional South Asian folk music using Klezmer influences. However, this was not some pre-planned collaboration. It all started coincidentally when at a shared gig Zeb and Michael explored the beauty of fusing sounds of their two different traditions together. This was the moment when they decided to embark on a creative journey to discover trans-Eurasian sonic possibilities through musical and cultural synthesis. Fortunately, it managed to garner support from the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, and the MAP fund.
Sandaraa blends the sounds of Eastern Europe and Balkans with repertoire of South Asian material. The group seeks inspiration from the work of experienced artists like Sabzal Saami, Beltoon and Haji Saifudin.
The other members of band include Eylem Basaldi on violin, Patrick Farrell on accordion, Yoshie Fruchter on guitar, Benjy Fox-Rosen on bass and drummer Richie Barshay. Since each band member has a different musical history, they all bring unique sound to the table. This diversity makes the synthesis more organic.
Sandaraa is out with its first album and has recently finished its CD launch tour across US. You can listen to a few songs of their first album on Michael’s Youtube Channel.
I hope more Pakistani artists initiate such cross-cultural collaborations so that the world no more remains unfamiliar with the treasure of arts and culture that our region celebrates.
To give you an idea of what kind of magic they produce together, here is a video of one of their gigs. Enjoy!