akistani music has undergone significant evolution, showcasing remarkable advancements in sound and aesthetics. Pop music gained immense popularity with the timeless track ‘Ko Ko Korina’ by Ahmed Rushdi in the 1960s. The creative legacy of this genre was further enriched by musical icons such as Hassan Jahangir, Alamgir, Nazia, and Zoheb in the early 1980s.
The music industry in recent decades experienced a revolutionary period with the emergence of diverse bands that brought forth fresh and captivating sounds. Pakistan saw the rise of numerous remarkable bands that laid the foundation for pop-rock, Sufi rock, and alternative rock music, swiftly capturing the hearts of listeners.
The following are some of Pakistan’s favorite bands from the post-1980 era, and some reasons why they have remained popular for so long.
Vital Signs emerged as Pakistan’s pioneering and highly successful band during the ’80s and ’90s. Comprising of Junaid Jamshed, Rohail Hayatt, Shahzad Hassan, and Nusrat Hussain, they exuded charm, confidence, and a sense of style that captivated a Beatles-like fanbase in Pakistan. They broke new ground by performing at large venues late into the night, attracting a significant female following.
Vital Signs achieved legendary status with their iconic track ‘Dil Dil Pakistan,’ often referred to as Pakistan’s unofficial second national anthem. They collaborated with renowned Pakistan Television (PTV) figures Shoaib Mansoor and Arshad Mehmood, recording several albums. However, despite their commercial success, the band faced personal challenges, leading to a revolving door of guitarists. In 1998, the band disbanded, and its members pursued individual paths.
Following the disbandment of Vital Signs and the rise of video music and satellite television in the ’90s, Junoon emerged as a band with a stronger rock influence. Led by guitarist Salman Ahmed, who was briefly associated with Vital Signs, Junoon was praised for their passionate approach to music. The New York Times even dubbed them the “U2 of Pakistan.” Notably, Junoon made history as the first Pakistani group to perform at the United Nations General Assembly in 2001.
Junoon brought a captivating fusion of guitar-driven rock, soulful tabla rhythms, traditional folk melodies, and poetic lyrics inspired by Sufi traditions. Their electrifying patriotic anthem, ‘Jazba-e-Junoon (Feeling and Passion),’ not only became their breakthrough hit but also propelled the success of their album ‘Inquilaab (Revolution).’ Although they briefly disbanded in the late 2000s, they recently reunited in 2018 and continue to perform together, delighting fans with their timeless music.
Formed in 1988, Strings primarily consists of Faisal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood. Initially, they performed songs penned by Maqsood’s father, esteemed writer Anwar Maqsood. After a quiet breakup in 1992, they were drawn back by the country’s evolving music scene. The release of their album ‘Duur (Far)’ in 2000, along with the single ‘Sar Kiye Ye Pahar (We Crossed These Mountains)’, garnered international acclaim. Their signature blend of rhythmic and melodious guitar, coupled with heartfelt lyrics yearning for emotional stability, evokes nostalgic memories. Recently, Strings celebrated their three-decade musical journey with the album ’30’. Additionally, both members have joined Coke Studio Pakistan as music producers.
Noori, formed in 1996, originally consisted of brothers Ali Noor and Ali Hamza, along with the renowned drumming legend Gumby. They became a prominent pop-rock band in the early 2000s. Their debut album ‘Suno ke mein hon jawan (Listen, for I am Young)’ and its popular single ‘Manwa Re’ were released in 2003 and quickly gained commercial success. Noori was praised for their unique ability to inspire young people to embrace social responsibility and contribute to the betterment of society.
Noori has not only excelled in pop-rock but has also dedicated themselves to promoting and recording folk music, often showcased on Coke Studio Pakistan.
In Season 9, they collaborated with the talented Indian singer Shilpa Rao on the beautiful track ‘Paar Channa De’, inspired by the tragic love story of Sohni Mahiwal. The song received immense love and appreciation from the audience. Notably, the track also featured a special appearance by the brothers’ mother, Madam Noor Zehra Kazim, who is the sole Sagar Veena player in Pakistan.
Jal, a band from Pakistan, achieved remarkable success with their single ‘Adat (Habit)’. This song, originally sung by Atif Aslam and composed by Goher Mumtaz, propelled Jal to new heights. Mumtaz and Aslam crossed paths during their time at Punjab University in 1998.
After the release of their first song, Jal unfortunately disbanded due to irreconcilable differences. Atif pursued a solo career, while Goher Mumtaz brought in Farhan Saeed as the new lead vocalist for Jal. As a reformed band, Jal went on to release several other hit songs including ‘Sajni’, ‘Kash Ye Pal’, ‘Woh Lamhay’, and many more.
Despite the unfortunate dissolution of many bands, their impact on Pakistani pop-culture remains significant, as they have provided a distinct sound that is uniquely Pakistani. Today, the key members of these bands have taken on roles as mentors and producers on shows such as Pepsi Battle of the Bands, Coke Studio, and Nescafe Basement. This has paved the way for new bands to emerge with fresh and experimental ideas, revitalizing the music industry in Pakistan.