The stage is set with the eastern grace of carpets and rugs, wooden hues, a calming shower of blue, outlined bottles lit up on the corners, and an almost-glowing Atif standing behind the mic. The very first frame, before you even hear the sounds, announces a departure from what the show has been for the past five seasons.
Covering classics is an experiment that goes south quite often. But we had Tajdaar-e-Haram’s recreation in our minds so there was an understanding that this will go just fine. Atif proves that with the delivery of the opening line, freshening the rhythm with an elegance that is maintained throughout the seven minutes by the backup vocalists. Vocalists who are always complimenting, not competing.
A few minutes in you’re expecting this aptness to be broken with a shift in pace. That every instrument available will be imposed on the hamd. It doesn’t happen, though, because it’s not how Rohail Hyatt operates. There is a moment between the fourth and fifth minute where the lead takes a step back and looks at the guitarist for him to take over. That’s when the fact cements that this will not be a setup that burdens the music. Every movement, every hover over strings and percussion is calculated. All that is on set is in sync with the words being sung. It’s filled with over 15 musicians, but they’re all functioning in harmony. All in their orbits, as part of the nizam-e-hasti, not colliding with one another.
There are a number of subtle instruments at play that you only register when they’re visible in the video. The humility is pouring, instructing you on the etiquette of what to feel when you’re in the audience of the Khuda you believe in. And the set designer this year deserves equal praise for it. They’re as much a winner in making this opener what it is with by eliminating the loudness we had become accustomed to.
This is a piece that is not meant to be compared to the original. It is meant to be immersed in and come out the other side like you just walked through drizzle. We’ll only know for sure once they roll out the episodes, but I feel this was chosen as the opener to the season for more reasons than just because it’s a hamd. It has set the tone, the thought, the aesthetic of what is to come over the next couple of weeks, and we’re here for it.
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