“Oh my God! You’re a special animal on stage!” exclaimed Ali Hamza, in response to Natasha Baig, when he noticed a clip of one among her concert events, moments earlier than he and co-producer Zohaib Kazi instructed her she had been chosen for the present season of Coke Studio.
Standing at solely 5’1” the singer is a petite particular person with a giant voice. She appears considerably meek and demure in particular person, however when she stands in entrance of a microphone she is totally remodeled — each look, gesture, expression completely synchronised along with her powerhouse vocals, she owns her efficiency and the viewers. And she or he seems tall, very tall.
After years of struggling, Natasha Baig lastly obtained her huge break. She opened the season of the favored music present with a collaboration with Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwal on an improvised model of Allama Iqbal’s Shikwa — she was doing the Shikwa half and he or she held her personal towards what’s arguably Pakistan’s preeminent qawwal group.
However Coke Studio isn’t the one time she’s appeared on a music present. This proficient singer, who’s lastly gotten everybody’s consideration now, made her tv debut a number of years in the past in 2013 by way of Cornetto Music Icons. Round 20-years-old then, the heavily-fringed, skinny jeans-clad Natasha Baig that was a contestant on the present regarded and sounded utterly completely different in comparison with the artist she is now.
She oozed with confidence even then, and personally I really like her efficiency of one among her authentic tracks, Yeh Dil Manay Na — it’s a really hip, catchy love music. However then she gave the impression of an everyday pop artist. Nothing just like the artist who unleashes her energy on stage now and has even the likes of Ali Noor dancing to her efficiency.
“Again then, I got here from a really Western-inspired mindset,” she says. “However Hassan Ali Effendi, my supervisor, instructed me I wanted to review my voice and see meri awaz kahan pe baith rahi hai [where my voice became weak]. Slowly, I began realising my potential.” He additionally launched her to completely different, extra Japanese music.
“Ever since I began doing this kind of music, mujh se ab English nahin gaya jata [I can’t sing in English]” she laughs. “I’m having fun with singing Sufi and people music. I’m true to myself on this — my voice comes out simply the way in which it’s, I don’t need to ‘make’ it.”
It was additionally at Cornetto Music Icons the place she met producer, composer and chief of the orchestra-inspired fusion music band Sounds of Kolachi (SoK), Ahsan Bari. At the moment, SoK was within the making, and Natasha was invited to be part of it. She joined the band in 2014 and left someday in 2016.
I first heard the band carry out reside on the Frere Corridor because the closing act for the I Am Karachi music pageant in 2016. Hoping to keep away from the mad rush on the finish, I left simply because the band began performing, however managed to catch Natasha’s little solo piece earlier than stepping exterior. Even with the little that she had (“There was one line that will catch individuals’s consideration in [the song] Allah Hello Deyga, the alaap,” she says) she dominated the stage. As an entire, SoK places up a powerful live performance each single time. I stayed again and listened to the remainder of the efficiency from the parking zone.
Now, for some odd motive, all people needs me to want them glad birthday. This isn’t why I labored so laborious: to want individuals on their birthdays!” she laughs.
“I really feel privileged that I used to be in SoK,” she says. “I realized loads. However I wasn’t in a position to deal with my solo profession. Bari didn’t have an issue with my doing that, I simply wasn’t in a position to deal with it. The boldness that you simply see in me in the present day is due to SoK. After that I went solo. With time and expertise I’m making an attempt to enhance and polish my voice. I’m nonetheless studying.”
The perks of being unique
Though she was born in Karachi, Natasha’s household is initially from Hunza. She has very distinctive options, stunning distinguished excessive cheekbones and putting, considerably slanted eyes. When she’s in her ‘fierce’ mode, she reminds one among Mulan — the Disney heroine from China who secretly educated to turn out to be a warrior. Does she get requested loads about the place she’s from? “As a result of my face appears very completely different, individuals stare loads, even ladies,” she says. “You do really feel like an alien. If I’m going someplace in a rickshaw or a Careem I get requested ‘Ma’am aap Chinese language hain? [Are you Chinese]’ After I converse in Urdu so that they go like ‘Oh my God!’ in a really exaggerated method.” She rolls her eyes.
“Apnay hello mulk mein mujhey baar baar batana parrta hai [I have to repeatedly tell everyone in my own country] that I’m from Pakistan,” she continues. “However many individuals ask ‘The place are you from? As a result of your face is telling us a special story’. Then I’ve to repeat my [origins] story.”
One will get the impression she likes being ‘unique’. “Form of, yeah,” she laughs. “I will probably be sincere, maza aata hai [It’s a lot of fun].”
Life after Shikwa
Now that she’s lastly a family identify, has something modified for her? “Yeah, it has,” she responds. “I nonetheless get messages [about my performance]. And now, for some odd motive, all people needs me to want them glad birthday. This isn’t why I labored so laborious: to want individuals on their birthdays!” she laughs.
“I do have some issues within the pipeline,” she provides slightly significantly. “I really feel my journey has simply began now.”
I used to be questioning about that, I inform her, as a result of I really feel such as you had been simply ready for the proper alternative that will allow you to break by way of to the mainstream.
“I really feel the burden of peoples’ expectations,” she confesses. “I do really feel that since Shikwa, the persona that individuals have of me of their heads… I imply, I get chills when individuals say, ‘She’s a mini Abida Parveen.’ That’s loads of strain as a result of nobody will be like Abida Parveen.”
There are some compliments she’s not so intimidated by however which excite her simply the identical. “On the launch day, Adnan Siddiqui got here as much as me and mentioned ‘Natasha, you probably did an important job’. I used to be like ‘OMG he’s taking my identify! He is aware of me’!” she laughs. “I used to be speaking to Ali Azmat at the moment. In entrance of him Adnan Siddiqui goes, ‘Yeh larrkyon ki Ali Azmat hai! [She is the Ali Azmat of girls]’ And I cherished that! I all the time used to have a look at Junoon and assume, there hasn’t been a feminine model of this,” she provides. “I used to be like, yeah, that is what I wish to hear.”
Our dialog is interrupted by the arrival of some musicians. We wrap up our dialog at this level — this ‘larrkyon ki Ali Azmat’ has a jam session to do.