Natasha Noorani is a recent addition to the Pakistani music industry, but she’s already worn many hats. From organising the Lahore Music Meet, to being a general manager for Coke Studio Season 10 and completing a master’s in ethnomusicology, her passion for music has culminated in her forthcoming debut albumâ€”the first of many for sure. Here she sits down with Mehek Raza Rizvi to talk about her musical journey, the industry and more
A musician, ethnomusicologist, general manager for Coke Studio Season 10, marketing executive for CityFM89 and the co-director and co-founder of Lahore Music Meet (LMM) – you really have done it all. When do you remember being drawn to music for the first time?
Iâ€™ve been drawn to music since I was a child, as everyone in my family had a great relationship with music: my elder brother was the reason we had a guitar at home, my sister had a huge collection of â€˜90s RnB music and my mother had a great collection of music. In fact, she was the one who got me started on singing. Every car ride to and from school was used to taking turns playing mixtapes that my older siblings had made. Personally, I used to spend all my time curating music through Winamp playlists and mixtapes I recorded from the radio, and watching music TV channels including PTV, MTV & eventually Indus music. I knew early on that I would want to pursue music in some capacity. Itâ€™s also why Iâ€™m so interested in various aspects of the field.
How do you feel the internet has impacted the music industry, particularly the need for corporate backing?
The internet is a great game changer for anyone looking to gain traction for their art. Using the power of the internet wisely means itâ€™s less likely that artists will need to rely on corporate backing; Maanu, Hasan Raheem, Talal Qureshi, Young Stunners and others have showcased this in the last few years.
However, I feel that the internet era music and fame only works for a specific kind of artist in Pakistan. Beyond musical merit, itâ€™s harder for more reclusive and camera shy artists to really build a bigger audience because their â€œinstalifeâ€ might not be as thriving as that of other creatives around them. It will be great to see more artists finding audiences without succumbing to changing their persona.
When working on your music, are you concerned about it appealing to the masses?
Iâ€™d love for my music and my work to reach as many people as possible. However, I think Iâ€™ve found a comfortable space in my writing and creativity to ensure that Iâ€™m making music that fulfils me, while making music that fills the current gaps in the industry.
Who are some of your musical influences?
My influences keep evolving. Presently, Iâ€™m listening to a lot of Naheed Akhtar, Musarrat Nazir, Lianne La Havas, Prabh Deep, Rawshni, Jamiroquai & Towers.
Growing up, I listened to rock and heavy metal, along with local Pakistani pop-rock. I also had bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, mixed in with Missy Elliot, Beyonce, Imran Khan, Jay Sean & Rishi Rich on my playlists.
Tell me about the creative process behind your new album, â€œRonaqâ€.
This album is a culmination of all my research and practice in music over the last two years. My approach to songwriting has evolved and Iâ€™ve found some excellent co-writers and co-producers who are helping me carve out the sound I want. The album is meant to be a showcase of my ethnomusicological research, as well as my understanding of what the music landscape of Pakistan is currently lacking. The album is also a means for my music to make a point against all the typecasting female musicians have to go through. I refuse to be boxed into a singular sound and thatâ€™s been the driving force of the album.
RONAQ itself refers to a state of mind. Itâ€™s how Iâ€™d describe myself in my most fearless moments. Thatâ€™s the theme that brings in all these different genres together into an album.
Do you have a favourite from your own music?
Yes! But unfortunately a lot of that work is unreleased. The songs Iâ€™m working on with Talal Qureshi & Umer Ahmed are currently on loop from RONAQ.
What are the top five songs on your playlist right now?
â€¢ Lover by Diljit Dosanjh
â€¢ Artist by ZICO
â€¢ Maya by Prabh Deep
â€¢ Mein Chup Raha by Vital Signs
â€¢ Addicted by Niniola
What do you think goes into building a loyal fan base?
It requires an incredible amount of interaction. Most of my fanbase is under ten years old and these kids are so wholesome and quite ruthlessâ€”itâ€™s amazing! Itâ€™s lovely to exchange voicenotes and Instagram DMs with these children and their parents. Itâ€™s also great because I can still be playing shows when Iâ€™m fifty!
Whatâ€™s a piece of advice youâ€™d like to give the next generation in music?
Donâ€™t allow the insecurities of the people around you to become your own. Constructive feedback is great, but stay away from jaded folks who donâ€™t want to see you excel.
What is Natasha Noorani like at home?Â Tell us about your childhood and family.
At home, Iâ€™m super relaxed. Iâ€™ll mostly be in my nightsuit all day if I can manage to get away from meetings. I have a sister and two brothers who are much older than me, which means I get to be the baby (read: brat) of the house. I grew up surrounded by art and music and ronaq. It was also really valuable for me to grow up in a house of adults, because it made me so much more confident of what I could be in the future. Every step my siblings took in their lives made the world seem so much bigger for me. My parents and siblings are also the reason I never worry about staying grounded, because they serve both as my biggest fans and the biggest trolls I will ever have to encounter!
Photography: Farhan Lashari
Styling: Haiya Bokhari
MUA: Fizzah Iqbal
Wardrobe: Lulusar & 9Lines
Concept: Plum Media Tank