How Patari brought undiscovered Pakistani music to the fore with its Tabeer project
They already proved their unmatched skills as musicians to us, but turns out, technology start-ups in Pakistan are also flexing their muscles. In just about two years, Pakistan’s music streaming service Patari (Urdu for ‘container’) has become the go-to source for a wide range of Pakistani music and more importantly, an important gatherer of music from across the border that may have otherwise been forgotten.
Launched in 2015 by Khalid Bajwa, Humayun Haroon and Iqbal Talaat Bhatti and bred in Lahore by tech incubator Plan9, even a cursory scroll through Patari brings up artists so new and undiscovered to Indian audiences. And genre is clearly no bar — from the traditional to the fusion to the western. From the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz to the rock of Mekaal Hasan Band and Noori, podcasts as well as ambient post-rock leanings of Streams of Soan.
So well-received are their efforts that Patari has quickly turned into a platform for promoting the new and unknown along with the classics and not-to-be-forgotten artists. Like the best in the business, Patari follows the right ways of getting their listeners to stay and stream. That includes curated playlists like Pakistani Music 101, gleaned from whatever was featured during a video aired at Kinnaird Business Week 2016 in Lahore. Many more new names — unless you were hardcore into following the Pakistani independent music scene — emerge as you go clicking, from Best Singles to film soundtracks, weekly chart-toppers and monthly hits.
Available on Android and iOS, Patari seems to be as much about creating a community as it is about showing the world it’s got some pretty formidable artists. In India’s independent scene, one way we’ve been hearing about the growing scene across the border is due to the prominence of Karachi-based Foreversouth (FXS) record label, who even played a set at the Magnetic Fields festival in Rajasthan in December 2015. FXS’ latest stellar compilation, Collections Vol.4, can be streamed on Patari, which puts a lot of left-field electronic artists in the same shuffled playlist as rockers Call or acoustic artist Ali Suhail or ambient producer Asfandyar Khan aka TMPST.
But their latest move goes much beyond just curating playlists. Patari Tabeer is a project that picked six voices from across Pakistan and added hip-hop into the mix. Turns out chief operating officer Ahmer Naqvi was approached by a sweeper at his Islamabad flat to hear his songs, in hopes of getting sponsored to record his music. But turns out, Patari wanted to take it much further. In an interview with Something Haute, Bajwa says, “When we decided to bring in these artists, the most important thing was that they shouldn’t be exploited. This wasn’t just about Patari; it was about their journey.”
The playlist for Patari Tabeer’s five tracks released so far comes with a proud description, “Patari Tabeer is the culmination of six dreams. We brought together voices from those areas of Pakistan that the mainstream forgets about, and paired them with top producers to make six amazing songs. They include a sweeper from Islamabad, a rapper from Lyari, a peon from Sukkur, a tea-seller from Sibbi, a young girl from Peshawar and nomadic singers from inner Sindh.”
In addition to making these completely unknown artists famous, Patari Tabeer also features must-hear hip-hop artists from Pakistan, including Abid Brohi (‘The Sibbi Song’), Dynoman (on the song you’ll have on repeat instantly, ‘Players of Lyari’) and of course, the club-friendly song that Nazar Gill’s love song turned funky synth jam courtesy of producer Farhan Zameer, ‘Jugni’. The series so far also includes the dream pop-treated song ‘Chitta Chola’ by young Jahangir and producer Abbas Ali Khan and the guitar-led folk of ‘Sajan Moi Khay Yaad Payo’, created when Sufi band The Sketches teamed up with borrindo/clay flute player Faqir Zulfiqar, Hindu folk singer Bhagat Bhuru Lal, Rajab Faqir and Zamar Hussain (both part of an ustad and shagird duo). [Listen to all the songs here.]
And as Ahmer points out later in the Something Haute interview, they’re not aiming to create the next Atif Aslam. He told the publication, though, that they are surprised by the interest. “People want them to come on morning shows, perform at fashion weeks…We’ve been contacted by so many channels, I didn’t even know these many channels existed!”
With a lot of interest generated for Patari Tabeer, like the best in the music streaming business (Spotify, Saavn or Tidal), Patari would hopefully be on to conceiving their next project highlighting the margins of Pakistani music. We’re all ears.
See more of Patari Tabeer here.