Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meeting Zeb and Haniya, A perfect blissful experience

Ever since I came to know about Zeb and Haniya through an accidental search on the Google, I have come to fall in love with this cousin duo. Actually I was searching for Shafqat Amanat’s album and then came to know about a certain Zeb and Haniya who have made a superb album the same year. A little more YouTube search and I finally came across their Aitebar video and Chal diyay. Slowly, the intoxication grew more and somehow I got links to all their tracks. Then there was a continuous week I was listening to the whole album again and again. After years, I found some music which I can become obsessed with. Then suddenly through more Googling, came to know about Coke Studio. After listening to the CS version of “Paimona”, I officially became a Zeb and Haniya devotee. From that point in the year 2009, I followed them on their Facebook page (then it had some 6-7 thousand members, today it has 1.15 lacs !!)

My comments and words attracted their attention several times and they were nice enough to comment reply back thus establishing a communication between (which many stars and celebrities carefully avoid). From day one, Z&N were always keen on having a direct contact with their fans. I had some memorable commenting and counter-commenting with the duo on FB (but I really don’t know whose there on their FB page ? Was it Zeb or was it Haniya?)

I had always wished Zeb and Haniya to come to India and feel at home, expand their fan base in this country and establish themselves at par with the local talent that we have got here. India is living through a dark age of pop/independent music. Although there is no dearth of bands as such but the monstrous Bollywood has blocked all avenues of communication for them to prosper. Moreover it has successfully alienated the masses from the concept of band-music, something that we had very fresh and live during the 90’s. The situation is just the reverse in Pakistan, bands and fresh acts are flourishing. Indeed unstable political condition has deterred the growth of such bands in Pak but due the rise of internet and media, bands have gained huge visibility. Pakistani youth of today have developed a fine aptitude towards listening and appreciating band-based indie music which is not the case with contemporary Indian youth [on a mass scale] who would not accept any song if it’s not from a film or has stars dancing in it or lacks gimmickry and show off. This is what I think. Hence I always thought, that popularizing Pakistani acts can really improve the musical taste of the Indian youngsters and that’s why bringing acts like Zeb and Haniya, Mekaal Hassan Band, Noori, Areib Azhar is anything but compulsory apart from encouraging the local artists who are struggling to break free from the toxic cyst of Bollywood music.

I had been dying to meet Z&H since two years. They promised a Blue Frog concert during January, 2009. I kept waiting for it and Jan, Feb, March all passed, they didn’t (couldn’t) come. I was saddened . While facebooking continued, I came to know that they would come this year in August. I was determined that I WILL MEET THEM ANYHOW this time. And thank god it did happened. Zeb and Haniya were so kind that they appeared in a fan meetup-tweetup during the last day of their tour(maybe they had my case in mind) which was organized by Only Much Louder under their Dewarists project. (have no idea what Dewarists mean, something to do with wall?)

The meetup was organized at Zenzi,Bandra. For those who regularly travel to Mumbai, they know what hell does break in Mumbai’s streets. I couldn’t afford to bunk my classes so I left at 4:30 and ran for Mumbai. On the way, God presented me with every kind of difficulty and obstacle. I couldn’t find an auto, had to catch a Sumo(Tata) paying double fees because otherwise I was getting late, there was tremendous traffic jam at Pune itself, Mumbai welcomed us with its suffocating traffic jam, I lost my wallet with ATM, driving license and collage id card,………..what worse can one expect. Really I felt, God was taking a test of my desperation.

Photo Credit: Naman Saraiya
Find many more photos of this event on Naman's Flickr stream

Photo Credit: Naman Saraiya
Find many more photos of this event on Naman's Flickr stream

After crossing all the hurdles I could finally reach the Zenzi bar at 10:30. By that time, their performance was over and there was nothing but a whole lotta guys/girls from the celebrity circuit. The faces which I could immediately identify were Cyrus Sahukar (MTV Vj), Neha Dhupia, Konkona Sen Sarma (Actresses), Shantanu Moitra (music director of Parineeta), Dhruv Jagasia (manager of Indian Ocean and Mediaval Punditz).
I quietly went up to the guard and asked if the Z&H thingy was happening or not and the answer was “it’s done”. So was there, poor “I”, after surviving through such a huge ordeal, I could not meet Z&H. I just stepped back into a corner. I was finding myself highly isolated in that environment. There was a crowd of Mumbai’s rich elites from the celebrity circuit, all dressed up and make-uped well , and there was me, a vada-pao guy who whose middle class sensibilities would never even allow him to step into that place. After a full day’s travel I knew I was looking like a “Salam Bombay” star. I had no time to shave and my dress too was very soiled as well. I was being repelled from that environment, I have no entry card. What to do? After a bit of thinking I finally approached Cyrus Sahukar and asked him if Zeb and Haniya have left or not. He said that they might be inside. OK! So I made no delay went into the bar and straight to the washroom. Took out the “Fabindia” long-kurta which I bought the previous day. Long Kurtas are really nice and safe since they cover most of your body leaving no scope for the style polices to detect disgraceful seams in pants, belts and all. But my face was greasy like a frying pan and no shaving. I know you’d say that I am too much self conscious, but then that is how I am.

After a bit searching I could see Haniya having a drink at the corner. I went up to her and introduced myself, the immediate reaction was a buddy hug. Here was me who just said “Hi” to a billboard celebrity in Pakistan and received a hug, what can be more blushing than this. She went in and called me up to meet Zeb. Both of them were really sweet and said that they felt very nice that I had come to meet them. Z&H introduced me to Obeid Bangash, Zeb’s brother and Z&H’s manager. They told that they follow my activity on FB and all. Obeid took one pic of me, Zeb and Haniya. Then I had a talk with both Zeb and Haniya. We had only a few minutes of conversation. I asked them I they would like to come to Pune. Zeb said that she’s is excited to come to Pune since Pune has a good reputation for its underground scene. They will be coming back to India during November-December. I am trying to put my resources so that such a Pune meetup/concert can be organized. How many Puneittes are interested?

The best moment of the meet up was when I gifted Z&H a CD of their own album. What? What’s special in that. Ha ha, I know that’s what you’d think. But this CD is a special one. This CD contained 15 of their greatest hits and the album cover plus the cd sticker had everything written in Hindi. I just collected their pics from the net and created a CD cover/ album artwork with Indian touch. Zeb is trying to learn to read the devanagari script and she looked into each letter of her name, trying hard to read them. You can see the CD in the pics below.

There were a few moments of pure blush. Zeb once told that she’d like to get the CD signed by me. During our conversation I told that how I have clung to Pakistani music and my consistent (over) activity on Facebook in favor of the Pakistani music scene has drawn a good amount of goodwill from Pakistanis, even the Facebook friendship of Jal’s manager. Zeb told me that even Mekaal Hassan knows me (FB-wise) and all. I was on the seventh heaven but at the same time I am completely puzzled too. Haniya asked me to come to Pakistan and they’d introduce me with Noori and MHB and likes. Having gained so many Pakistani friends on facebook, I feel like visiting Pakistan more than ever.

At last they had to leave after posing for the last shot on my camera. The meeting was very pleasant short but pleasant one and I hope this small meet up would cascade into more productive results.
A few people who must be thanked.
Vijay Nayar and the whole OML team for formulating such a nice concept and actually materializing my 2 year old dream to meet the duo.
Arjun S Ravi aka @paperslut (on twitter) for putting me up in guest list.
My co-passenger on the Tata Sumo who lent me some bucks after I lost my wallet. I could reach back home only for you. As we parted, I gave him a Zeb and Haniya CD.


  1. Very nice post, but it's basic courtesy to give photo credit or seek permission before using someone's photos. :)

  2. Sorry Naman. Will credit the right photographer with all possible backlinks