There’s no doubt about the fact that Pakistani music is, perhaps, the best in the world (highly biased, you say? We agree, but it’s still true). The newly introduced pop culture, in the 1980s and 1990s, completely turned around the industry. And while we had artists like Alamgir, Hassan Jahangir and Nazia and Zoheb pioneering this revolution, the younger lot came, took charge, and fulfilled their responsibility, fully. These were artists and bands that literally defined our teenage years, growing up in Pakistan. They experimented with music, genres and instruments, and changed the way people heard music. Here are just some of these Pakistani bands (in absolutely no particular order) who helped us be just a little saner, as life went on.
Entity Paradigm was the literal face and voice of a whole generation, in Pakistan. They were an outlet for the angst that teenagers face, and they helped a lot of people let their frustrations out, in the best way possible.
Call concerts were the best. The sheer energy, the raw power, and just the whole band coming together, so cohesively, with the audience were another worldly experience, altogether.
Co-VEN was always the underdog, in the Pakistani music scene. Their sound was eccentric, but they had their following. Established in 1993, co-VEN are amongst the first rock bands of Pakistan. With a mix of eastern folk and rock, with their socio-political commentary and portrayal of the human condition, they reached out to hundreds and thousands of young adults, trying to find their footing in life.
4. Vital Signs
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will be more familiar with Junaid Jamshed’s than you are with your own. You know who you are, ye Pakistanis in your 20s and 30s, who know every single Vital Signs song by heart. And every Vital Signs song will always be tainted with a bittersweet warmth because every Vital Signs song will remind you of the legend we lost.
With the vocal powerhouse that is Ali Azmat, the swagger of Brian and the general coolness factor of Salman Ahmed, Junoon led us all into a whole new world of music. Introducing Sufi Rock as a whole other genre, they did what most don’t even try treading into.
6. Dr Aur Billa
Who can forget the maasoomiyaat of Jawad Bashir and the adorable dynamics of Dr Aur Billa? Yes Love, No Love, Ab Kyaa Keroun, all were the words of those who love.
Even after multiple changes within the band, Noori still stands, stronger than ever, changing lives. Suno Ke Mein Houn Jawan, Peeli Patti Aur Raja Jani Ki Gol Duniya, and more recently, Begum Gul Bakauli Sarfarosh literally changed the way people listened to music.
Haye if Faraz Anwar and his magic with the guitar weren’t enough, Mizraab produced some really really really good and hard-hitting music.
Nobody says Mizraab without taking Mizmaar’s name. The band went on hiatus, came back with ex-Kashmir vocalist Mashhad Shahryar, and made insanely good music all over again. But we kinda don’t know where they are, right now, but we really want to.
This Islamabad-based band was one of the few who explored the grunge genre. Overdrive was proof that there were Pakistanis out there listening to 90s era grunge. Woh bhi Pakistani.
Knumb wasn’t just another band with Khurram Waqar in it. While he was in a lot of bands, they stood out. They had a bunch of amazing instrumentals and even better original music. And it was at that point in time where everyone realised it’s okay to listen to different music.
Aaroh always confused me. What was their genre? Was it Na Kaho? Or Sawal? Jalan? Raag Neela? Yaara? Jeeyay? What was it? Whatever it was, it worked. They garnered quiiiite a bit of a following, in no time. And they made people fall in love, hate their parents and generally feel a lot of things.
13. Aunty Disco Project
The absolute cutie that was Omar Bilal Akhtar, and the rest of the awkward members of Aunty Disco Project, they were perhaps the first mainstream band with an indie feel. But. Boy oh boy, they were so good. From the Ali Alam days to OBA. For some reason, whatever they did, it worked.
More funk. More yessss! Omran Shafique, Sikander Mufti, Sameer Ahmed and Hamza Jafri came up with some greaaaaaaaaaat music, together. They made you move, made you sad, and even made you happy.
If you haven’t seen Karavan live, have you even lived? These men used to make entire venues go batshit crazy, and for good reason. Their music was insane, and so were their videos.
These broody men from Islamabad made some of the most gut-wrenching music. Although they’re fairly recent, compared to some other bands in this list, they reached out to a massive audience.
These funk-driven, well-dressed men from the 80s not only took over the airwaves, and ruled them, they also made women go a leeeetle cray cray with their jaadoo ke chiragh.
Back when Babar Sheikh was the shit (ucchey waliiii), Dusk took over our airwaves, and they still haven’t given up. Two decades down, Dusk is still making and releasing music. While metal is still such a niche genre in Pakistan, Babar Sheikh and co. did full justice to it.
Strings is one of the few bands, off of this list, that is still around, and are still going strong. While they’ve gotten more into music production, now, and they make us miss their old sound, more and more, they’ve given us enough memories to last a lifetime.
Messiah was one of the first/only heavy metal bands to have come out of Pakistan. I still remember their first video and how scandalised my parents were, as soon as the garage-esque video started. But man were they good or what!
We leave you with the most mellow of them all. Jal came, conquered, broke up, got a new frontman, got the old frontman back, but they never lost their essence. They’ve still stayed true to their music and to their sound. Because, you know what they say, na? The music must never die.
It breaks our hearts to realise that most of the bands on this list aren’t together anymore. We’ve lost so many, we’ve let go of more. All we’re trying to say is, we miss actual good music coming out from Pakistan. And we hope that changes soon!
Cover image via pakium.pk