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Spotlight: Khiza

Mehr Ma, the first proper album released in Pakistan by British-Asian producer Khiza is definitely worth a listen. With upbeat, catchy ditties, this is an album that will cater to listeners who have a thing for desi music, done in a hip-hopish manner.

The last time one caught Hadiqa Kiyani in a video, it was for a single called, 'Mehr Ma'. A performance-oriented video, one could see Hadiqa changing hairdos and outfits while crooning this simple yet highly addictive pop ditty. The only inexplicable part of the video was the appearance of a fellow then unknown to many following the local music scene who was grooving alongside Hadiqa. Many wondered if he was a model? Fortunately, he isn't a model but the proud producer of the song and he is Khiza, one of UK's finest names as far as the desi music goes.

Not a newcomer to music, Khiza has been around in the music business for over 14 years, with various projects with many artistes world over under his belt. But it is his collaborative effort with Hadiqa that has put him on the Pakistani music map.

His first proper release in Pakistan, namely Mehr Ma (also the album name) is an amalgamation of upbeat, catchy and desi, dance numbers. Even though, the album hasn't fared well in the local music scene, it is a very decent album to say the least.

Moving onto the album, one finds various artistes who are unknown on this side of the world. Other than our original pop queen, Hadiqa, there is Suman, Shahzad Raza and Elephant Man, all of whom have done well for themselves in the UK Bhangra music scene.

'Mehr Ma', which starts off the album is easily the best track on it. With Hadiqa showcasing her top-notch vocals and the music, which remains hip-hopish yet very desi, thanks to the usage of sitar, tabla makes it an excellent number. Next up is 'Yaad', which features Master Rakesh on vocals. This is actually the only all-desi anthem on the album. This is another vibrant number, almost infectious that makes one want to hit the dance floor. Master Rakesh first came onto the scene in 2004 and became a hit after releasing a single, 'Kangna' from the album Unda Da Influence.

Even better is 'Jaane-e-Jaanan', where Shahzad Raza's impeachable vocal range is used to full effect. Then there is absolutely commercial yet hit number, 'Deewana' from Khiza's previous album, Loyal to the Game that fits like a perfect piece in a jigsaw puzzle. It made it big when it was first released and even though, this is a different album, this song manages to make an impact on the listener.

Disappointment comes in the form of 'Baby I', sung by Ray. The biggest problem with this number is that it seems heavily inspired from desi-hit boy Raghav. Sung in English, it is a creative number but remains a reminder of Raghav and hence, that gives it a minus point. The only plus point 'Baby I' gets is because of Ray, the singer who breathes life through his bouncy, playful vocals.

Catering to bhangra lovers is 'Dil Mang Di' which gives Pavan Pali a chance to showcase her vocal range and she does a fabulous job! Another bhangra beat comes in the form of 'Fighting Feeling', which features Joginder on vocals. With a tinge of flute, 'Fighting Feeling' is a mellow number amongst a plethora of hard-hitting, dance-friendly musical pieces.

Other than 'Mehr Ma', one high point of the album is Khiza's old mate Suman (her debut album is currently in the making with Khiza backing up the production work) who is featured on 5 tracks. Suman is a very talented singer and she establishes this fact by bringing life to tracks such as 'Desi Tune' where she raps, gasps and ultimately switches to Punjabi verses with equal power and conviction. She's sultry at times, very hip-hopish at others and is the one singer who can Veronica, another favourite in UK music scene a run for her money. And here it must be said that Khiza's production quality dominated this tune to the last degree. This is definitely a winner!

Critically speaking, the fact that Veronica's album Theen created a boom all over was because of the big label it carried and also the production team with big names like Juggy D, Jay Sean and Rishi Rich which eventually elevated her to Bollywood (Kya Cool Hai Hum). With Khiza producing Suman's album, one can expect the same success for Suman as well.

Speaking of her, another great track is 'Don't You Know', an upbeat number, whose video was recently released. The video is also a lot of fun as one see Suman expressing her love for a man via a cell phone while Khiza advises her and sings, "Dheere Dheere Pass Anaa/, 'Mene Tujhse Kuch Hai Kehna/Don't You Know That I love You Baby"

The interesting thing about this album is that one can see a clear, cohesive thought behind it. The beats are fun, the melodies are decent and some are quite addictive. The most important thing about Mehr Ma is that it doesn't attempt all genres at the same time. Simply put, it is a desi album that works solely because of its dance-like tunes.

The production quality of this album surpasses all expectations. It seems that Khiza has rectified nearly all errors that plagued his last commercial album, Game Over. Tracks like 'Mehr Ma', 'Don't You Know', 'Desi Tune' and 'Fighting Feeling' are masterfully produced and Khiza definitely deserves all the applause. One can see him nearly matching the standards of some of the big names in production like DJ Guru, Rishi Rich, RDB and Raghav.

The release of Mehr Ma in a country like Pakistan where UK bhangra music is still in its birth stages is quite a brave move. Though it has been gaining popularity in recent times with Canadian-based band Josh making quite a wave, yet the progress is comparatively slow if we witness the scene across the border.

An album released in UK reaches Pakistan as late as 3 to 4 months unless it belongs to the Hindi film genre. Maybe that's the reason before the album got launched, most of the people were unaware of even the name of Khiza. In fact even the marketing strategy has been carried out this way.

On the cover, you won't find Khiza anywhere, which is dominated by the funky looking Hadiqa Kiyani. Market surveys show that the cd is not doing too well and even the little business it has done is because the album cover features Hadiqa holding the microphone. This marketing stint even led to rumours that it was Hadiqa Kiyani who is finally out with a new album. Folks, that is definitely not the case!

Mehr Ma contains really marvellous songs and buying this album will be money well spent!

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