Nautanki music review: Hasan Raheem’s album is not the dramatic debut we wanted – Moneycontrol

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“Baby sit next to me,” sings Hasan Raheem invitingly on the first song of his first full-length album . Produced by frequent collaborator Abdullah Kasumbi, the song opens with gentle drum-machine beats, before Raheem begins to vocalise his persuasion, equal parts flattery and tease. This verse, which he raps, ends with “I got the melodies, jo tasty kaleji si.”
Music Twitter has had a field day ever since “Kaleji”, along with the other eight songs on , arrived on music streaming platforms three weeks ago. “The audacity” of naming songs “Kaleji” and “Peanut Butter” has not gone down well with his fans. And don’t even get them started on the lyrics. On the song “Dil Fareb”, Raheem goes: “My shakar wait I mean my sugar, I love the way love the way you want me, My sugar we gotta lot to cover, Let me discover these feelings, Jo kiye ignite tunay hain.” This triggered an ingenious reaction from one user: “Ghalib walked so Hasan Raheem could run tbh”.

It has all felt particularly galling because, when Raheem broke through three years ago with “Aisay Kaisay”—the very DIY track and music video Raheem (with Adnan Abbas and Kasumbi) uploaded to YouTube as an independent artist—he was noticed for being something of a wordsmith.
Here was a young guy pairing lovely Urdu verse with contemporary R&B arrangements. Clean-shaven, shuffling in his pink hoodie and chequered Vans, he gave off a distinct Justin Bieber vibe. But it worked. The speed with which he amassed a following within Pakistan and beyond its borders suggested that a new pop star was born.
(Photo via Twitter/HasanRaheem) (Photo via Twitter/HasanRaheem)
Twenty-five-year-old Raheem’s star has only risen since, with an upward, spectacular arc that has left many speechless. After “Aisay Kaisay” came “Joona” in 2021, a more upbeat track with Urdu and English verse, and a guitar riff reminiscent of (and as sticky as) Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. A few more singles, and suddenly Raheem was everywhere: On an epic season of Coke Studio Pakistan, along with Justin Bibis and Talal Qureshi with the bouncy track “Peechay Hutt”. On the soundtrack. On “Spotify Radar” billboards at the Time Square in New York. Comparisons with Harry Styles had begun.

Through it all, Raheem—hailing from the Gilgit-Baltistan region of north Pakistan—has tried to keep the limelight at bay. He has, instead, focused on elegant, if simple, poetry communicated through his pitch-corrected vocals and mumble rap. That, along with a tight youthful musical identity based in fresh-sounding R&B, has gone a long distance in helping him form a strong connection with his largely Gen Z fan base.
Given all this background, the anticipation around Raheem’s debut album had reached feverish levels. , though, sounds like the product of the beginning of Raheem’s journey, something he’d have written in his early days of experimenting with music while still at medical school. Compare it with some of the singles that Raheem has put out, solo or in collaboration with other rising Pakistani artists—such as the lush, lustrous “Darr” with Risham—and you might be forgiven for wondering if there’s been some basic mistake here.

Sure, the songs here are consistent with Raheem’s quest for world-melding sounds and ideas. He still speaks his truth, as the truth would be for a pop-minded young adult in 2023. The instrumentation on tracks like “Peanut Butter”, “Dibs”, “Fursat”, “Accusations” is a smooth blend of soul, funk and electronica with a BPM high enough to be played in heavy circulation, in clubs or on long drives. It’s a perfectly good piece of work, and clocking at 31 minutes, perhaps fittingly short in keeping with its themes, and the times.
There are naturally moments of genius that sparkle through. On “Tareekhi”, a song about lost love, Raheem’s voice flows smooth and energetically between fluttery singing and punchy rap, again in Urdu and English, supported by a background score that switches between moody snare drum and keyboard sounds, and an arrangement of light tabla and tinkling bells. It is perhaps the most original song on the album—important as the one that highlights Raheem and Kasumbi’s potential for inventiveness, because mastery over their craft is now a bygone conclusion.
But perfectly good may not be good enough anymore. If you listen to it a few times, the songs do begin to feel indistinguishable. It sounds like a glop of vibey sounds. is unmistakably Hasan Raheem, but there’s nothing memorable or astonishing, nothing here to hook your brain in the way, say, “Joona” did.

Which is why, if you’re new to the cult of Hasan Raheem, is a pretty great gateway to the rising artist’s R&B-soaked musical sensibility. But if you’re not? If you’ve followed him since that “Aisay Kaisay” moment, felt you’d discovered him, and celebrated every big milestone he’s crossed in the three years since? Then you too, like the rest of us true Hasan Raheem followers, are probably typing your dissatisfaction on social media, yearning for the return of old Hasan Raheem.
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