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Zain Zohaib, the young qawwali duo, are a striking example of a digital-native presentation of a traditional South Asian art form. It is heartening to me to see how they modernize the delivery of qawwali to fit today’s media needs.
An obvious example of this is their recent appearance on Coke Studio, and previously, a stint on Nescafé Basement. On Coke Studio, Zain Zohaib deliver a love song with some aesthetic attributes of a qawwali performance, and split vocal duties with Quratulain Baloch – to make it a duet in Coke Studio tradition. This sort of collaboration is not entirely novel in the world of qawwali – Nusrat is the obvious torchbearer in this regard. It is with Nusrat that Zain and Zohaib’s grandfather performed for 40 years.
More interesting to me is the fluency with which Zain & Zohaib command social media, and the consistency of their music production. For many established artists of traditional South Asian musicals genres, these skills are not in abundant supply. As a result, their music is less accessible and risks irrelevancy. There are few younger names popular in these genres, and this makes digital nativity even more difficult. In this particular context, Zain Zohaib’s presence is even more commendable.