ځه سته پشان نه یم

Naseer Afridi, as narrated to friend of the show Haifa Yousafzai, soon after their appearance on Coke Studio:

I want to push people to realise the importance of breaking free from their shells and creating something original. I deliberately experiment with accent, tune, and lyrics. Yes, I face criticism for how unconventional my music is, but I believe in change. Culture is dynamic and constantly evolving. Pashto rock is my way of contributing to an evolving culture.

Za Sta Pashan Na Yam, Naseer & Shahab’s breakthrough song, is at first glance a standard rock tune. An invigorating rhythm guitar sits underneath an effortlessly powerful vocal. I call the song standard because it is so familiar, even if you’ve never heard it before. Audible delay and reverb on the guitar tone, a call and response chorus, an accessible time signature. You’ve heard it all before. I think that’s the point of this song. Because it is the words that are supposed to be different.

In Lahore, with no direct links to Pashto cultural produce, Za Sta Pashan Na Yam was my first meeting with Pashto rock. I feel as if it was this way for many people. And it speaks to the fact that innovation must be understood in context. It has been 8 years since this song was released. It’s hard to believe that the use of Pashto in mainstream rock felt like a breakthrough so recently.