Ali Sethi’s song Pasoori, a contagious forbidden love story, has become an international phenomenon, fusing poetic traditions with global beats and propelling the rise of the Pakistani singer-star.
The Punjabi song, whose title roughly translates to “a mess,” is the most Google-searched song of 2022 and has been viewed more than 5 billion times on YouTube, a passionate love song metaphor for the relationship between India and Pakistan. conflict between. Great for dancing flows.
The song’s origins stemmed from Sethi being asked to write a song for the popular Pakistani TV show Coke Studio, after the Indian Broadcasting Corporation pulled out of the creative partnership due to the 38-year-old being Pakistani.
“You’re Pakistani, India and Pakistan are at war, and now we really can’t put up a billboard saying we’re working with you because extremists are going to set fire to our building,” the singer recalls being told.
“As a Pakistani, I grew up like… ‘Oh, you can’t do this because it’s forbidden, yada yada.'”
“Ban All True Love”
The experience got his creative wheels spinning. “Of course, the forbidden theme is a constant theme in South Asian love songs — all true love is forbidden,” he told RT after a rousing performance party at the US music festival Coachella on Sunday. AFP. , a cherry on top of his remarkable year.
“So I wanted to write a song that was kind of like a flower bomb dropped on nationalism and heteropatriarchy,” continues Sethi, who is wearing a sombrero and black button-down shirt with colorful embroidery, alluding to the U.S. Southwestern style. “With all the fun innuendo and all this camp energy.”
Sethi said he borrowed from the Punjabi folk songs of his youth, adding puns and double entendres to his lyrics, “which is a great way to sneak in and subvert orthodoxy without really being outside the veil”.
He sang the song with singer Shae Gill, who was born into a Christian family in Lahore.
Sethi was “shocked” by the global response to the song, which features an improvised framework of traditional South Asian “raga” mixed with contemporary sounds from the region, along with Turkish strings, flamenco-style clapping and four-four A Latin reggae beat keeps the rhythm of most popular music today.
“I thought my bunch of nerdy fans would love something this indie, niche,” Sethi laughs. “It’s astounding to me how many people around the world – especially Indians – love it and embrace it.”
“Latest Crazy Idea”
The son of journalist Najam Sethi and politician Jugnu Mohsin, Ali Sethi, also a published author, began his formal training in Hindustani classical music after graduating from university. He studied Qawwali (a form of Sufi spirituality) and ghazal (a lyrical style dating back to ancient Arabic poetry).
Today, he lives in New York and enjoys a “fertile frontier,” experimenting outside the sphere of his education and collaborating with musicians spanning genres such as jazz, reggae, hip-hop, and salsa.
“It feels very exciting to have my stuff speak to it,” Sethi said, adding that it helped him embrace a kind of multiculturalism that was once denied by social constraints.
“800 years ago, in Lahore, where I was born, the Sufi shrine celebrated multilingual, multiracial, multivalued identities,” he continued. “And yet growing up, I was never really encouraged to think that way.”
He’s playing at Coachella on Sunday — and he’s playing again at the big festival next weekend — and he’s bringing in Raja Kumari, the American rapper and singer who was born in California to Indian parents.
“What we can’t do there we can do here,” he said as he shook Kumari’s hand on stage after their rousing “Pasoori” duet. “There’s all sorts of forbidden love here today.”
“If you ban it, we will!” he said to loud applause.
Sethi has recently toured the US and Canada, in cities where he can reach fans in the Indian diaspora. However, he was unable to perform locally in India, where he has a huge fan base according to streaming metrics.
But despite the apparent novelty of singing ragas in the California desert, Sethi points out that the form has flourished there for decades.
Hindu Hindustani classical musician Ali Akbar Khan was instrumental in popularizing the genre in the United States, establishing a music school and teaching at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
“There’s this pedigree … but it’s also very American in a way,” he laughs. “America is a land of wild ideas, and I’m just the latest wildfire.”
“I love it—it’s nice to be a little quirky, a little new, a little unexpected, a little extra, a little too traditional,” says Sethi. “It makes a lot of sense to me.”