Turri Jandi: Shazia Manzoor Takes Us On A Time-Traveling Odyssey

I will just say it upfront. Judge me all you want. Actually, please don’t. I believe Coke Studio Pakistan season 15 lost steam somewhere in the middle of its purported 11-song discography. Maybe it wasn’t the songs as much as the mood of the nation for the past few weeks (looking at you T20 World Cup) that caused weariness upon the release of ‘Chal Chaliye’ and ‘Blockbuster’. CS season started feeling too bloated, too high-concept, too Punjabi, too samey.

But I am pleased to report that Coke Studio Pakistan has found its groove back, or rather created an entirely new groove for itself with its last two releases. First ‘Jhol’ and now ‘Turri Jandi’

– both incidentally Punjabi songs – have turned the tide and how. Turri Jandi, which came out on World Music Day, is Coke Studio Pakistan at its most controversial. It’s a daring move by a platform that claims to be the sound of the nation but has largely remained apolitical and secular (post the Rohail Hayat-era) choosing to be a saccharine cultural export, proudly and safely celebrating the diverse new sounds of the country and its musical heritage. But ‘Turri Jandi’ has something more to say.

Who else but the legendary Shazia Manzoor to take on the mantle and transport us, quite literally, into the future. You see, the song is set in a futuristic disco cum restaurant aboard the TJ 2056, a time capsule that transports the person away from all his earthly worries and personas and into a dystopia where anything goes. Is it physical time-travel? A VR simulation? Alt reality? Who knows. But Hassan Raheem all plugged-in to enter TJ 2056 Matrix/Terminator style is a sight to behold.

Once aboard, Hassan Raheem does what he does best; blend in his signature style with indie-pop and R&B but this time with sleek hair and a mustache (I am not complaining). He jams and flows exquisitely singing about the freedoms he enjoys in this parallel dimension. The beats are vibey, not even the servers of the club are immune to the carefree tempos of the music. The musicians, all eclectically dressed, have a swag we haven’t seen them wear all this season. It is all very spirited, infectious and frankly unreal.

Then the chorus hits, and in comes Shazia Manzoor, the captain of the ship, the manager of this dystopian hub, the lead jazz singer straight from Anurag Kashap’s ‘Bombay Velvet’, in a long electric green dress and her signature cropped hair to dazzle and enchant and bewitch. Manzoor has a magnetic presence which overpowers Raheem’s with ease. There is a layer of deception and wisdom in her verses, adding a much-needed layer of intrigue to the ‘plot’.

The ‘Laal Kabootar’(2019) director Kamal Khan, who has previously directed ‘Pasoori’ and ‘Peeche Hut’ for Coke Studio Season 14, builds a retro-sci fi world here.The opening sequence of ‘Turri Jandi’ features an AI-powered Sitar. The contraption reminded me of Arati Kadav’s ‘Cargo’ (2019) where the future looks more like the past. Even the song narrative hints at coming back to where one starts. The car turns around and returns to the inception point, which feels changed after the long journey. Does Coke Studio hopes for a future as not too different from a 60s Karachi disco bar? Where a person could be what he wants to be, no questions asked, no judgments passed.

Do we long for a future that resembles our glorious past? A fluid, easy, free-flowing world away from the divisions and radicalizations of today? Is it really an alternative reality if we have actually been there in the course of our history as a nation? ‘Turri Jandi’ raises these thorny questions all the while giving us a jazzy Punjabi rhythm to shake our shoulders to.

Written by Tooba M


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