New Ali Sethi single: پہلا قدم
Ali Sethi’s music is a rebuke of many lazy opinions about Pakistani pop. The first is the idea that classical music, and ghazal in particular, is an old person’s art form. Ali Sethi has offered the argument that the themes of ghazal are in fact more relevant to young people. The second, and related opinion, is that this music cannot be performed or appreciated in a popular setting. Specifically the idea that ‘slow’ songs do not belong in concerts. Artists seem to agree that the culprit here is not audiences but the people around the music, such as concert organizers. The third, is the idea that Ali Sethi is primarily a cover artist with nothing original to offer. Ali Sethi’s Coke Studio appearances where he has performed old songs in new shape further this impression. In fact Ali Sethi’s own songs and their accompanying videos, as he has lamented, are original and consistent. He says to Dawn:
“The other thing I need you to spell out in this piece is that I really resent people calling me a cover artist now because I’m the only one in Pakistan who’s actually making original tunes, arrangements and lyrics, and videos that are original in every [expletive] sense of the word.”
In quarantine, Ali Sethi has owned the art of live streaming performance on Instagram, building a loyal following. His time spent abroad, and international outlook give him an in to international audiences that many other Pakistani musicians do not have. The genre in particular lends itself well to finding Indian audiences. Through his international position Ali Sethi is able to utilize a number of international collaborators, as on this recording.
I find it interesting also that Ali Sethi links to his Wikipedia page in the caption of YouTube videos. Especially in the context of recent studies that show that a strong Wikipedia presence provides international visibility that can be directly translated to economic outcomes, at least in the West.