Instep Today

Coke Studio Explorer introduces the art of ‘Nar Sur’ in third episode

July 12, 2018
By Maheen Sabeeh

After Kalash and Sindh, Coke Studio Explorer heads to Balochistan to introduce a group of throat singers who present a song called ‘Naseebaya’.

Darehan, Mangal and Shayan, the trio who practises the art of ‘Nar Sur’. All photos by Insiya Syed.

After releasing ‘Pareek’ by Ariana and Amrina from Kalash and ‘Faqeera’ by Shamu Bai and Vishnu from Sindh, Coke Studio Explorer heads to Balochistan for its third episode.

The idea behind Coke Studio Explorer, a new module introduced this year, is to discover music stories from around the country and with that in mind, co-producers Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi, in their quest to find a sound and story that is representative of Balochi culture, music and folklore found a music troupe featuring Mangal, Darehan and Shayan. What’s so special about them? They are throat singers and practice the art of ‘Nar Sur’ which is described as “deep, cyclic, low overtone vocals”.

As we learn in the BTS video, in Sohbatpur, Balochistan, where this group is found, the art of throat singing, they tell us, “is passed on through generations”.

As Mangal reiterates, “This is a Balochi sound; it is a Balochi art.”

When the actual song begins, it transports us to the vast, rugged and gorgeous landscape of Sohbatpur, Balochistan, where once again the entire journey that has gone into the making of this song is unveiled. Mangal’s incredible vocals are mixed with the instruments of Dambora, which is played by Darehan and Shayan, and with urban electronic elements, it is a very modern take on an art form that has survived through generations. The video is not just a video; it’s got visual gravitas, not only because of the brilliant musicians or the rugged landscape but also how the medium has been played around with technically as we see artists in mirror imaging, and other such wizardry. The culture of community is also captured, the trio is joined by Balochi dancers at one point and gets their own place to shine as a unit.

The lyrical material feels very much like a folklore tale and is exquisite as Mangal sings at one point, “Mela bhi naseebaya – tuniye dilaniye” which translates to “If it is meant to be, then these hearts will be one again.”

As the press statement notes, “The trio plays around with cyclic melodies, drawing on a pulsing bassline with deep overtone vocals – making ‘Naseebaya’ a replay-able tribute to a widely unknown genre.”

Co-producers Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi

As for Coke Studio Explorer, among the many things done by design including going to record artists in their own space, another is the length of the songs. ‘Naseebaya’ has a running length of two minutes and four seconds, ‘Pareek’ runs for three minutes and twenty-three seconds and ‘Faqeera’ is three minutes and twenty-three seconds long.

In past seasons, particularly the ones featuring multiple music directors, Coke Studio songs had started to sound less like fusion (which Coke Studio Explorer has managed to do very well until now) and more like two separate songs that wouldn’t end. This module embraces the electronic genre, the fusion element but also remembers that after so many seasons, people need to hear long songs only when they come together in harmony and aren’t forced.

Back to ‘Nar Sur’, speaking to Instep about it, co-producer Ali Hamza noted, “The group sits in a tent and they sing. If you count, not a lot of them are left. In the world, it is practised in very few territories like Mongolia and Africa, apart from Balochistan.”