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Sheema Khermani’s eking out of elegant essence from a peppy Pasoori


pasoori sheema kermani

The very setting from which the Coke Studio number Pasoori flowed to take on identity as a global hit had been one too evident in its hinging on the frustration of having to confront a hurdle tricky indeed to overcome. Naturally thus, it isn’t ‘just’ music that Pasoori makes, even in its very definite extolling as a musical masterpiece, a phenomenon stirring indeed of an entire planet of beings et al, this breakout track of 2022 is more embodying of the very identity of music itself as an art undefined- though very definitely not in the magic of it. Music has forever been celebrated as having no language of its streaming in appeal and Pasoori only further establishes this universal might of melody in a manner that has made the whole world sit up and sing along to its simultaneously groovy and peppy and soulful and intense deliverance in entertaining appeal and artistic expression alike.

But even in all its immense credit in musical magnificence flowing as a medley of tones and genres and styles and influences as varied as can be, most notably brought to attention with a fusing of the raga mode with the reggaetón medium to churn up what in songwriter Ali Sethi’s own vocabulary expresses as the ragaton, Pasoori is not only about the sensibilities of the lyrics and the sounds through which it has made its way into every heart and soul. In its nascent sparking in a certain angst of sorts of the forever perpetuating India- Pakistan divide that stubbornly does not make consideration even for the transcendental realm of the arts to find its own sweet way in delighting, this is a song more layered and reverberant that even the immensely infectious vibe of it.

Part of the many musings that has made Pasoori stand out as a true manifestation of the artistic essence in unification might be its deriving upon a premise shaped by the hostile volatility of two ‘sibling nations’ but delve into its characteristics splashed in color and vibrancy and catchiness galore and this is a song worth more than what one would be willing to take it for in initial impressions of it. For a resoundingly favourable first impression as well, Pasoori dwells on the myriad threads of what has brought it to an assertion in greater life striking with not just the impeccable flow of musical energy but also in presenting a visage equally fluent in its multifaceted composition.

The visuals across which Pasoori unfolds as a tune strung in the universally encapsulating lore of love make for a rendition in refreshing ravish that holds in itself the potential to enthral and entice with a portrayal of starry eyed amour. The lyrics of course are impeccably well worded and so is the theme predominantly flowing through that expanse in a largely self essenced concept of dealing with the inevitable lows of love. But amidst this conglomeration of sorts of a set of ideas very much congruent to its primary seating in love and therefore undeniable exploration in conflict, what stands out is the very physical assertion of the aesthetics themselves.

The set is one brilliantly crafted and dexterously set up, the arrangements are perfect beyond measure, the aura conjured is a bohemian mix of the classic(al) and the contemporary which explains the global relevance that the track has managed to enjoy across all aspects of it. And prevailing throughout along this montage of the bits of every charm conceivable is a figure striking indeed in the dignity and grace of her poise that she flaunts as a very apparent element of her mannerism. With experience etched along the presence of her person and beauty engraved in the dimensions of her dancing, she makes for a delight to behold through the few but unmissable peeks of her performance in the Bharatnatyam style of dance much as she does in reality as a woman esteemed in her regard for the cultural out of which she weaves powerful narratives in significances socially stimulating.

Sheema Kermani is who she identifies as in the very prominence of her name standing for her utter steeping in the echelons of versatility. With numerous roles moulded into her image of a Pakistani social and cultural activist, such as those defined by terms as varied yet as intertwined as the profile of a Classical Dancer, Choreographer, Dance Guru, Theatre Practitioner, Performer, Director, Producer, TV Actor, hers is a persona remarkably drawing upon different facets of the cultural to emerge as a persona in social activism. An exponent of the Indian classical dance form of the Bharatnatyam and notably eminent in her mastery over an art form emergent from a country her place of birth does not regard in much goodness, Kermani’s identity is one bold indeed in her embodying of a defiance against a society and its government wanting to repress the natural expression of the freedom that comes imbibed in the ideals of every element of what unfurls as culture in all universalness of its glory.

Back when she was born in a Pakistan of the 1950s and in the following a decade and a half, Kermani had been witness to and partaking of the immense love and adoration and respect accorded to cultural practitioners as a section of society without which civilisation would be but a mere concept in utterance. Discovering her own ground in utmost flair under the tutelage of her Indian teachers Mr Ghanashyam and his wife Neelima, her deep devotion to Indian classical dance made her emerge as an inseparable part of their dance institute and the performing troupe. But most remarkably resplendent within these gamut of identities that she had come to assume in sheer dedication to the arts, Sheema stood out for being also within herself a symbol of resistance against the dictatorial government that would come to rule over the Pakistani way of life.

In 1977, General Zia ul Haq assumed power in Pakistan and unleashed a rule rooted in utmost orthodoxical evokings of the Islamic religion. Predominantly seeking to oppress the women and minorities of the society had been a number of laws framed in this context. But of particular assaulting peculiarities had been the crackdown on performance based expressions in dance and music and the like. Not escaping this precedent in oppression also was the elegance flowing for centuries through the length of the sari as the yards long measure of grace was viewed as an unIslamic show but perturbing perhaps of the dictatorial rulers in its sheer embodying the ultimate flair availed only out of a freedom that it entertained to the utmost extent of it. It was in such a situation of restraint that Sheema Kermani discovered for herself a dawning of freedom availed of course through the faith on an art that sums up her very substance.

For someone who sees dance as the epitome of joy endowed through an expression in freedom, it only is apt that Kermani stood as the lone dancer in the country during that period of challenging predicament and managed as well to hold her fort putting up sold out shows even in the face of widespread threats and abuse directed to anyone daring to indulge in that particular right of them in finding solace in just about any expression of the cultural. Four decades and a half later, it is the exact same sentiment that pervades the air and vibe of the Pasoori appearance that Sheema Kermani makes in all graciousness of her nature, pertaining to her belief in classical dance and art for that matter yielding a power that could well demolish the facades of religious and social restrictions.

And thus Pasoori spans out as poetry in motion and through its far flung reach Kermani does as well, as a global icon who has for long been treading that tremendous trope of the arts being an agent of unification in all assertions of it. In her relaying of the Pasoori spirit while relying upon the uncontended scope afforded by the freedom that comes with the abstract mode of expression, Kermani emphasises even further the whole raging revolution that the definite anthem of 2022 has managed to incite in and beyond all intentions of it. That Pasoori stemmed from an angst in being unable to have even the arts and the culture take their own route to liberation in the face of ostentatious human prejudices makes the case even clear for Kermani to definitely, essentially and absolutely be a part of it.

To the extent that Pasoori has managed to bridge indeed the ideological gap between India and Pakistan by narrowing at least the differences to social evaluation while having the cultural shine through in its own enlightening intensity speaks volumes about the revolution that Kermani and a rare few like her has been sparking through different times and in myriad ways through all of human history. To say that the history of human living has been a history in conflict would sure not be an exaggeration of the unreasonable premise upon which mankind has time and again sought to further their own megalomaniac interests in importance. Pasoori stands true to so much of this curious corroboration in conflict that it embodies as part of its meaning for a glimpse of reality through the iconoclastic indeed interpretation of the art. For Sheema Khermani as well, Pasoori presented a range of opportunities to resonate even further with her advocacy of resistance against repression but also guided by a desire to have art transcend once again the realms of time and space and so perfectly indeed through a presentation mimicking in ultra popularity a passionate perusal of the Pasoori preeminence.





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