- This event has passed.
Ali Sethi w/ Zeemuffin
February 19 @ 7:00 pm$30.00 – $65.00
“A love song that sounds like a threat,” is how The New Yorker describes Pasoori, Ali Sethi’s “earwormy” single that topped Spotify’s viral chart and put South Asia on the music map of 2022. An ingenious blend of Punjabi folk tune and zany beats, “global phenomenon” Pasoori (Guardian) has garnered over 300 million views on YouTube and 115 million streams on Spotify since it released in February 2022; now, after featuring on a Ms Marvel’s episode, the song plays nonstop in American clubs, restaurants and wedding halls
What’s the method to Pasoori’s madness? “I wanted to write a song that was rooted in ancient traditions but also spoke to the world as I find it,” says 38-year old Sethi, an author and Harvard alum who trained for 12 years with gurus of voice in his native Lahore, Pakistan. Drawing on the classical theme of forbidden love, Sethi says he wrote the rebellious lyrics for ‘Pasoori’ (“set fire to your worries, to waiting and to hurries”) in response to the travel ban on Pakistani musicians in next-door India, where many of his fans reside. But he was also thinking of other prohibitions. “As a queer person of color who now lives in the West, I wanted to write a song that gestured at my spiritual inheritance, which elevates longing and marginality from a place of powerlessness to a site of artistic exuberance.” It’s no wonder that the music video for ‘ragaton’ banger Pasoori, which Sethi helped design, is full of sights and sounds that sit on the cusp of “folk” and “woke” sensibilities: a dark-skinned girl with gemstones on her face; a pair of boys twirling as they perform a traditional kathak dance, the hems of their skirts flaring; a harmonious blend of three stringed instruments, related in twang and timbre but originating in different parts of the world (the Spanish guitar, the Turkish baglama, the Balochi banjo)
Such playful connections — between masculine and feminine, East and West, folk and woke — have always figured prominently in Sethi’s music, which transforms South Asia’s love of metaphors and multiples into a panacea for our polarized world. Whether imagining a traditional poetry recital as a congregation of refugees in the video for his lullaby ‘Chandni Raat’, or vocalizing the monsoon in a symphony about war and migration at Carnegie Hall, Sethi insists on making connections between disparate identities and genres until they come loose from their associations. “I load my songs with baroque themes and metaphors because they allow for multiple interpretations. It’s a gloriously campy worldview that gave me solace as an out-of-place kid in Pakistan. The imagery invites you in, teases you, seduces you with its romantic symbolism. Then it breaks your heart. Is this a song about forbidden love between two countries, two tribes, or two people? I want to make songs that empower every member of my audience.”
The ‘ragaton’ revolution is just getting started.