Pashtun rhythms, jaunty rababs and perky clarinets – Zebunnisa ‘Zeb’ Bangash wields all of these with panache in her soundtrack for Lipstick Under My Burkha.
The soundtrack has all of three songs, but Bangash manages to display a range of sounds and styles, from playful rababs and tambourines in Jigi Jigi, zesty keyboard riffs and smoky vocals to convey the retro, let-your-hair-down feel of Ishquiya, and a delightful accordion and clarinet in the fast-paced Le Li Jaan.
Bangash has worked with these elements before. Her girl band Chup, with cousin Haniya Aslam, used strong Afghan folk influences in the songs, with sleek contemporary arrangements and lounge vibes.
In the foot-tapping Dilruba Na Raazi for Coke Studio, Bangash and Faakhir Mehmood work up a storm, rabab and accordion in tow. And in Haminastu, composed by Amit Trivedi for Fitoor (2016), her robust voice complements the vigorous rabab and bouzouki, backed by a solid rhythm.
For Lipstick, Bangash also regroups with an old collaborator, Brooklyn musician Michael Winograd. Jigi Jigi actually recasts Jegi Jegi Lailajan, which was featured in their collaboration Sandaara, an audacious fusion of Bangash’s Pashto sounds and Winograd’s klezmer (the traditional music of Eastern European Jews). Here is the original folk song that inspired all of it, by Haji Saifuddin.
And here it is, in its third avatar.
In Le Li Jaan, Winograd’s clarinet syncs effortlessly with the carnival spirit of the song, resulting in a whirligig of sounds that never jar despite their distinct genres.
It’s not Pashto themes all the way, however. Bangash made her Hindi film playback debut with Ajnabi in Madras Cafe (2013), followed by the tender Sooha Saha in Highway, composed by AR Rahman. And from among her prolific singing for Pakistani films and television, here’s a fine sample, with Abida Parveen, for Bin Roye.
As a composer, Bangash is as audacious as the theme of Lipstick Under My Bukha. With her skill at blending musical traditions and genres and her astute selection of artists – Malini Awasthi in Jigi Jigi is a good example – Zeb Bangash is one to look out for.