Editor’s note: Notes on Zainub Khawaja’s lovely recording from contributor Laila Dodhy. You can also hear Ali Abbasi and I talk about Zainub Khawaja’s in our podcast episode covering the Hamnawa Select June playlist.
Zainub J. Khawaja is a hidden gem. For a long time, she and her sisters have presented their work as a trio group called Harsakhiyan which has also appeared in Coke Studio. However, Zainub has now embarked on a solo journey, seeking to express herself in her own unique way.
In the captivating cover photo of her song Rilli, skillfully captured by Baneen Mirza, Zainub is portrayed sitting alone in a studio, surrounded by pictures that seemingly depict significant moments from her life. Her distant gaze and brooding expression add an air of mystery and introspection to the image. This feeling is the essence that resonates through the song – its tone carries a haunting bitterness that lingers in the air.
Rilli starts off with the line “mein tor jor ke” which can be said to be the overarching theme of the song. In a sense, it is about being reborn repeatedly, yet being trapped in a cycle that spans a lifetime. While Rilli technically means patchwork, its lyrics evoke the symbolism of the ouroboros, representing the anguish and struggle of enduring endless rebirth.
The composition of the song is beautiful, partially because it never rushes towards its peaks. In contrast, many modern songs seem to strive to catch the listener's attention as quickly as possible with their maximalist style. The instrumental solo features a flute-like instrument that prompts one to sway, not unlike the hypnosis of a snake charmer.
In essence, Rilli seems to inquire whether one should remake themselves to fit into the world.