Zeb and Hania have an aura around them that encapsulates the listener, making him flow along with the rhythm and the pure beautiful vocals. You stand mesmerised even if the lyrics surpass you. That is the magic they weaved with their Coke Studio performances like ‘Paimona’ and ‘Bibi Sanam’ and that is how the spell binding ‘Kya Khayal Hai’ can be summed up.
The track is from an Indian television show ‘The Dewartists’ that is part travelogue and part music
documentary. As the participating musicians travel across India they are brought together to fuse their talents and create something new. Each group of artists gets around a weeks’ time to compose and record an original track. The show has had famous artists like the Grammy award-winning singer Imogen Heap and folk band Indian Ocean along with many others, to collaborate with committed Indian musicians such as Vishal-Shekhar and Mohit Chauhan – Shantanu Moitra. It is with the latter that Zeb and Haniya were brought together as the two groups heard each other’s music, understood it and organically begun to create a musical piece of their own.
The episode showed the team’s journey in Mumbai as they visited an old Iranian restaurant and the famous chor bazaar where a Bollywood poster shop stole all their attention. It was the ease with which Zeb, Haniya, Mohit Chauhan and Shantanu Moitra got off with each other that inspired the theme of ‘Kya Khayal Hai’.
The song is about people coming together and sharing memories – a simple concept which when weaved together with the purity of these fine artists has produced such beautiful results that you don’t want ‘Kya Khayal Hai’ to end.
The song is a mix of Hindi/Urdu, Bengali and Dari language – with so much complex structure that its mind-boggling how the track can be so simple and soothing at the same time. Using languages that are extremely rich and have an aura of their own, the team managed to create something that merged every language, every emotion together without the listener realising how and when the singers switch code.
Minimum instruments have been used in this track and the vocalists get room to shine. Haniya accompanies Zeb as she hums line from the song “Ap say do batain… ”
“What we agreed on right from the beginning is that we actually wanted this to be a real collaboration. Nothing about this song was standard procedure for us but it all seemed very familiar. We decided to take from Afghanistan and Bengali Music and bring that together and do something of our own with it. It’s got the feel of a folk song,” says Haniya as she explains how the team collaborated.
“It was really lovely to find people who were willing to have a musical conversation with not just us, not just the people of India and Pakistan but of Afghanistan as well,” says Zeb. “The song, lyrically is just about connecting.”
This collaboration not just brings together some very talented musicians, it also highlights musical traditions that are fast diminishing. With ‘Kya Khayal Hai’, Zeb and Haniya have far surpassed the bar previously set by them and created music that is much more refined and diverse than what they had done before.