Charity Concert Review: Zeb and Haniya – Stretching the chord

Zeb and Haniya: Stretching the chord

Sameer Ahmed on bass, Haniya and Zeb at the gig

lt has been a while since a band has prominently featured women — where setting aside the basic appeal that is sought when females are plugged into a band, women are at the forefront. Front women who are writing songs, deciding arrangements, and working with a full-throttle band, not a pop duo which just sings to background music.

Zeb and Haniya, true to their emancipation anthem Rona Chor Diya which speaks of action rather than complaining, prove exactly that. Three nights in a row, Zeb and Haniya performed alongside Sameer, Sikandar and Hamza (the boys from Co-VEN) in Lahore for a charity event. Witness to one night, it is safe to say, the girls have made their mark in the very masculine music industry. Not as pop artistes, or metal heads, but as musicians of a stature.

In a cozy softly-lit environ, the entourage of the odd five made their way through sound check, evidently comfortable with the relationship and the dynamics of their rather newly formed musical relationships. Each artiste was dealing with the pre-show jitters without stepping on any toes or stray nerves. As Haniya mentioned later, the comfortable, established roles and interpersonal relationships of the Co-VEN boys were somehow reflected in the camaraderie between the two girls, who have been singing together since they were six or seven. Between all five of them, there was a natural settling of roles and dynamics that were evident during the sound check, and later at the show.

The charity evening began with a smooth number Aitebaar. The audience, which was the true to Lahori-tradtion charity event ensemble, was not an easy lot to hold to attention. The initial number turned heads and henceforth, many stayed turned to the soulful, soaring vocals of the girls. Even though it took the audience the first couple of songs to realise the full force of the musicians they were facing, the emancipation anthem Rona started off with Sikander Mufti on the harmonica which immediately transported one into the warm dusty roads of plantations growing sweet corn, where black men sang songs to scaffold their spirits.

Their most well-known song Chup broke the line between the audience and the musicians. Its highs and lows created the dramatic lines of a dance with the last words hanging on a clean sharp pirouette. Summertime, the only song performed by Haniya was a song many a seasoned artistes shy away from. Once performed by the timeless artiste Ella Fitzgerald, Haniya did her own version. Not perfectly sung, but a testimony to Haniya’s powerful full bodied vocals. The girl, had fun with it and no one in the audience could complain.

Where the crowd (i.e. the gentlemen) were reeled in, hook line and sinker was with the rendition of Paimana, a Persian song that Zeb sang and Daglar, a Turkish song that they both sang. Perhaps it was the romanticised beauty of a foreign language or the mere fact that both languages are unknown to most, hence allowing one to dwell and bathe in the complete beauty of their vocals without paying attention to the lyrical content.

The last two songs of the evening were a mild upper. Saw her standing there, a song by the Beatles not only made one want to move about, twist and shout, it vividly painted the delicious cinematography from Across the Universe, the movie created around Beatles numbers.

Hit the Road/ Spiderman caused everyone in the audience to smile and tap their foot to the rhythm. It also provided everyone with the opportunity of listening to a crazy solo by Hamza followed by Mufti with his dazzling drum solo that, in all its subtlety screams his talent. His drumming with all its subtle and brilliant punctuations gives any song a lift. It’s like the pair of stilettos that makes that plain black dress the sexiest number in the closet.

Speaking to Haniya post show gave that tidy package of insight. Working with the Co-VEN boys has been a good experience, enough for Zeb and Haniya to want to work with them further. The boys with their tight knit groove incorporated Zeb and Haniya smoothly.

With a record deal under their belt, the girls would most definitely be catapulted into commercial madhouse success where concerts and marketing require a band that is well-knit on many fronts, not only musically, but ideologically and stylistically. This concert was a good WIP (Work in Progress) preamble. If one were to gauge anything from it, it would be that the range and dynamics of both sets of musicians can very well compliment each other. But the real question is: Will it last?