CD Bridges Western, Middle-Eastern Cultures
Last year, Haniya Aslam ’02 released a CD of her original
popular music, produced with her creative partner Zeb Bangash,
a Mount Holyoke College graduate. Normally, that event might
not warrant much media attention. But in some parts of the
duo’s native country of Pakistan, an album of popular
music by two women can be controversial.
The album cover of chup. Click
on the image for an enlarged view. To listen to sample
tracks, visit Web site. Also,
Popular music—and music in general—in
Islamic cultures such as Pakistan is met with mixed reactions,
from contemptuous shunning based on religious interpretations
to youthful exuberance, and everything in between.
“Music is a thorny issue in many Islamic societies,” writes
Margaret Sarkissian, professor of music, in the syllabus
introduction to her course “Popular Music in the Islamic
World.” “There is often tension between hardliners
who believe that music has no place in Islam and thus try
to prohibit it and those who tolerate it, albeit within well-defined
parameters. The debate intensifies in the case of popular
In Pakistan, while popular
music and female musicians are embraced around urban areas
such as Karachi, the capital city, Lahore and Islamabad,
in rural areas music is often considered antithetical to
the Kor’an’s tenets.
Ayesha Siddiqui ’08, of
Pakistan, has noticed mostly favorable attention given to
Aslam and Bangash’s album. “They
might face some issues when it comes to certain small parts
of the nation, such as tribal areas or the Taliban-controlled
locations in the north,” she explained. But “Zeb
and Haniya are being embraced by the younger generation and
really appreciated for their simple-yet-modern songs that
seem to draw on the best of everything.”
The Josten Library for the Performing Arts recently acquired
a copy of chup, the women’s debut effort.
a jaunty Western pop sound with drums, bass and guitars
backing up intricate layers of vocals. The melodies, such
as in the first cut “Rona Chor Diya” and
later, “She Na Sakay,” interlace Western harmonies
with lilting, middle-eastern modal intervals.
Some tracks, such as “Kabhi Na Kabhi,” weave
a mysterious, bluesy arrangement, scoring a sassy trumpet
solo amid the multiple vocal tracks.
The album displays the
women’s versatility as composers
and arrangers. The song “Paimana Bitte,” a melancholy
ballad with faded-in, processed guitar pads, and “Chal
Diye,” a simple, plaintive tune, are in contrast to
a sprinkling of driving rock numbers on the album. Throughout
the collection, the rhythm pulses some version of a four-beat
tempo, the most common rock meter.
“Zeb and Haniya have issued a well-produced, appealing
and danceable first recording,” said Marlene Wong,
head of Werner Josten Library. “They are a wonderful
singer-songwriter team. Smith has so many talented alumnae
that have gone on to have creative and significant careers.
This CD is a timely footnote in the exploration of music
and gender, with a Smith connection.”
Regardless of the language barrier, chup is
an accessible collection of music. Its ten songs provide
a spectrum of listening experiences while combining sounds
and styles that bridge Western and Middle Eastern traditions—a
reflection of its creators.
available for purchase on iTunes and on . It is also available to check out from the