If advancement means more dependency on gadgets and technology, we are far more advanced than ever before today. Like other areas, the field of music has been tremendously impacted by progress in technology. While the technology brought upon better equipment to compose and record songs, what critics call a drawback is that the new sound has started gaining more attention than the lyrics. The words take a backseat today, and more focus is on making something which is groovy and can increase their popularity by being played in functions.
Yet, there are some artists & groups who take up the job of redefining music by bringing in something new to the table. Though rare, such gems make sure our joy of music isn’t limited to tapping our feet and shaking our bodies. This is something that every lover of poetry, especially Urdu poetry, needs. Their focus on different aspects, especially the lyrics, make for an unforgettable, even soul-searching experience. I was unaware of such a phenomenon until I came across Bayaan. This Pakistani band has performed in Nescafe Basement and has won Pepsi battle of the Bands and have been winning millions of hearts everywhere.
For an Indian like me, it’s no surprise to see yet another gem coming out of the neighbouring nations, whose Coke Studio is such a hit among the masses here. I had been avoiding the music video of arguably their most famous song Nahin Milta which popped up now and then in YouTube suggestion. The thumbnail had let me assume that it’s just another song by a band with average lyrics and loud music. But then, everything is destined. While exploring songs on the website, another suggestion came up. Teri Tasveer was the song. Its thumbnail was intriguing, and I clicked only to be mesmerized by everything that happened to me for the next five minutes.
Teri tasveer bana kar rang bharoon
Har pal ko teri jaageer karoon,
Neendon ke bina raatein meri,
Kis sapne ki taabeer karoon?
I learnt that the soothing, captivating voice behind these heart-warming lyrics was of Asfar Hussain, the lead vocalist of the band, and he should know he’s got a fan here. This man can travel through many different lanes with his voice with such an ease that it feels he’s already familiar with every place his vocal cord visits. And this is true.
This world of Bayaan is a different one; it’s an entirely new dimension altogether. Here the poetry refuses to take a backseat and very much drives the listening experience. Here, the experiment with words as well as music is continuously at play. The lyrics are derived from the depth of the songwriter’s soul, and thus they sound unique yet resonate on a whole new level. Asfar’s dynamic voice has the advantage of automatically being at the forefront of the soundtrack. His mesmerizing command over Urdu lifts the song several notches high.
Love is one of the themes of their songs. Hope, letting go, humility, liberation, life and even comment on the society are some of the themes they have touched in their songs that vary from each other, thus giving their listeners significant elements of surprise with every different soundtrack. Their meticulous arrangement of music is a treat.
When I listened to their first song, and then went on to other ones that appeared in the list of related videos, I felt I had hit a treasure. These songs became my songs. That first note of Teri Tasveer brought upon a new world to me. The serenity with which Asfar sang it, the drummer Mansoor Lashari behind him, and the poetry that went beyond lyrics and encompassed the entire composition was enough to make me a devoted fan of the band.
As I was on an exploring spree, I came across Suno¸, which is the name of their first album as well. This song talks about holding on to yourself, and to challenge the shackles if need be. What sets Bayaan apart from other bands is their focus on songwriting, which is their forte. If you’re a poet at heart, you will take cues from them. The next thing you know, you will sit down to write your poetry. And this is not a coincidence. At least I feel it isn’t. For me, Bayaan is a group of poets who are also skilled in music. The depth that their words carry, their finesse at touching hearts with their exceptional music, the zest to ‘create’ something can be attributed to their curious reading of poetry, which I am assuming they do.
Gar Khuda unka hai toh phir
Wo kaun hai jo mujhse mukhaatib hai?
Jo meri harkaton pe mutmain nigaahon se
Shokh aise hansta hai jaise
Maa ka dil apne bacche ke masoom ghusse pe
Pyar ki phuhaar se qehqahe lagaata hai
Suno talks about finding yourself, about one’s connection to the Divine. The lyrics remind me of Allama Iqbal’s famous poem ‘Khudi’, which is an urge to dive into your own soul and elevate it. A human is created by the One, and that is a reason enough to know you’re not meant to crawl. This message is echoed in both Iqbal’s words as well as this song by the band. And this isn’t the only song which seeks to inspire a soul.
Paani Aur Mitti is soulful poetry which criticizes human behaviour but in a slow, soothing manner. It is bound to speak to the hearts of many. The light composition, for the most part, lets the poetry do the job. It is a common trait found in Bayaan’s compositions. The initial part of the song will have less and less music where the words shine, and by the time the guitar riffs come in, by the time the drums start to signal the flight the song would take from that point, you are already so much into lyrics that its effect won’t fade at all. This is one of my most favourite tracks.
Reham dil andar nahin,
Chaabi hai par dar nahin.
Simt hai beraasta, shukr se bevaasta,
Masjid hai, imaan gum,
Hai mitti, insaan gum.
Paani aur mitti,
Kahaan tak aa gaye ho tum?
Perhaps it actually does take the pain to create something beautiful and original, something which is capable of moving souls of people. In Asfar’s own words, it was during a painful phase that he sat down and wrote the first song, Nahin Milta, the song which I had avoided until now. I was familiar with Bayaan’s world now, and an urge to listen to this song emerged. Everything happens only at its appointed time, and neither before nor after it. The time had arrived.
This song feels like a training ground for Asfar, where he starts profoundly on a slow note, singing ‘Sehla do mann ko, kyun ye rota rahe, dhalegi phir ye raat, jo hota rahe….’ The song then gains crescendo as the note goes up and up. The instruments get louder; more sounds come in. And then Asfar goes on to a high pitch, and guitarists join in. He gets to sing in varying tones in this one song, and the shift also shows the mood of the song. While the initial part suggests demand for attention by the beloved, the parts sung in higher notes express defiance, self-worth and freedom. ‘Haan akela hai mann par mukammal hai ye, adhoore ho tum…balki ho hi nahin.’ These words have the power to mend a broken heart seeking others’ validation.
Jhooth ki zameen par fareb ke ye saare ghar,
Inme rehne wale tum, khoon safed dil patthar,
Zimma hai ye qudrat ka ya khata tumhaari hai
Jo bhi hai sabab so hai par saza humaari hai.
The band has created many other gems, and I wish I could talk about every one of them here. But as they say, you have to kill your darlings. But an honourable mention is a must. Mera Musafir, Tifl, Khel Tamasha, Din Dhalay and Farda are other masterpieces that will surely grow on you, never to leave your mind and heart.
It seems that Bayaan has taken up this mission to make people familiar with real poetry, and not just the experimental, captivating compositions their soundtracks are blessed. One of their many attractive features is the accurate pronunciation of Urdu words. There’s an emphasis on talaffuz¸, and so you will hear a clear ‘q’ even in words as common as qudrat and qehqahe. You will sense a clear difference when the words start with a ‘k’. Asfar’s voice has the gift of being crystal clear. The effortlessness with which he can easily switch between ‘q’ and ‘k’, or speak words like Khuda, with the voice clear enough for us to notice this change, gives you an impression of reading these lines.
This is where Bayaan is an anomaly. It is not speaking to us through music, voice and lyrics, but also compelling us to read their songs. The chemistry of the members, which is a reflection of their bond off stage is a major reason for their ability to deceive us every time with their magic. Their passion for the language is also evident from the fact that their official logo is in Urdu. The posters of their albums are in Urdu as well, and so is the case with the individual soundtracks of their album.
This alternative rock band which is all about progressive music consists of five members, with everyone talented enough to be noticed individually. Asfar Hussain is the vocalist of the band. Haider Abbas is the bassist, with Muqeet Shahzad and Shahrukh Aslam as the guitarists. Mansoor Lashari is the drummer. Their songs are available on platforms like Spotify, JioSaavn and Youtube.
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