Ever heard the song, “At the End”? Or “Rapture”? You may not even know the names of these songs, but you may have heard them while listening to some trance/techno beats, whether here in the states or abroad.
Now, do you know this face?
Finally, did you know that the woman behind these songs is a Pakistani-American? I have both “Rapture” and “At the End” in youtube videos below because these are the songs you may have heard from her if you do not know who she is.
Yes, folks. Nadia Ali. We do not hear her name in mainstream Top 40 world of America, but she has been around in Trance Land since my teenage years, and I have lately become quite addicted to her new music (and yes I have a huge Desi Woman Crush on her). I am not denying that most of our readers know her quite well, but I have usually had people given me looks of surprise when they watch her videos and realize they have heard her songs. I did not realize she was the voice behind some trance songs I heard until a friend in college mentioned it to me.
By the way, the first rapture video I presented is a remix of the song. The original song can be heard here. At the End is from the days when Nadia Ali performed with a group named IIO. Today she is a successful solo artist performing under the Master Armin Van Buren (many of you probably hear his name synonymous to Tiesto’s, or for all I know some may think he cannot ever be compared to Tiesto, but that is beside the point).
Anyway, where is this wide-eyed beauty from? Well, believe it or not she was born in Libya and then moved at a young age to New York, where she was raised. At 17 she was recognized for her singing voice while working at Versace and was introduced to a producer named Markus Moser. What’s even cooler is she never had any formal vocal training! The rest really is history, and you can read more about her here.
So, how legit is she? Well, she had a Grammy nomination this year for Best Remixed Recording, non-classical for her album, Fantasy (which, I am digging all of her songs, especially the album title song, Feels So Good, and Pressure). That is how awesome she is, and again, even if she is not all over the radio, her voice sneaks into those lounges, clubs and bars that play house, trance, and dance music, so do pay attention next time. And hey, you can finally name the voice behind some of the songs you hear rather than pass it off as a similar beat or use your Shazam app!
Even if you are not a fan of trance or dance music, Nadia is gorgeous and I have to hand it to her for making it so big as a Pakistani-American woman in a field that most of the culture considers to be “indecent”, especially women who are too “revealing”. Even though that is changing in Pakistan, it is not surprising to find people who take it upon themselves to morally police people to say hateful things against these women Of course, Nadia Ali has never lived in Pakistan and never has to face those difficulties, but she truly, in my mind, breaks the barriers of people telling her how she should dress or live just because of her ethnicity or background. I am proud that I share her ethnicity.
In light of that, I now present another Pakistani product of diaspora: Deepika Thathaal, a.k.a. Deeyah, the Muslim Madonna. Deeyah was born and raised in Norway to Pakistani parents, more specifically of Punjabi/Pashtun (Punjabi on her dad’s side and Pashtun on her mom’s) descent. She actually has had formal musical training, and this is mostly because of her father’s passion for music (to the point that he invited Ustad Bate Fateh Ali Kahn to come to Norway to teach Pakistani and North Indian musical forms to her at the age of 7).
There is not anything out there (as far as I know) on whether Nadia Ali has faced moral policing harassment from people within her group, and perhaps her story is a positive one. However, Deeyah has been quite vocal about the horrible things people have said to her for her career choices which I will definitely not repeat here. Here is an interview she did on a show called Desi DNA with Adil Ray to give you an overview of her struggle as an artist. I am tempted to analyze all of this, but I will just say, keep it going, Deeyah, both with the talent and activist passion!
It is tough to put Deeyah into a particular musical category because she seems to experiment with so many different forms and is quite daring with her expressions through music, her physical image, and her production, so I will not try to group her into anything. She has done English language music, but she has some really awesome Punjabi and Pashto language music, as well. I provide below an English language track (one of the most popular), named “Plan of My Own”. It has a very R&B feel. Either way, the lyrics are empowering, something I have liked a lot about her music!
Here is another track, totally different, but beautiful! It is called Pashto Lullaby.
She is currently not singing as much, last I heard, but instead focusing on her activism, which includes a documentary she is doing on honor killings around the world. She has been working on this since 2009, and it should hopefully be released very soon! She is also the founder of Memini, a website with tributes to victims of honor killings and lists of their stories. I mentioned this website in my “Sinners Get What they Deserve” post from a few months ago.
Just listening to both of these ladies’ music makes me wonder if I should pursue my (not so lifelong) dreams of culture-defying stardom! Okay, probably not, but heck, I can be an appreciationist!
Disclaimer: if anyone plans to throw comments here about how horrible of Muslims these women are and how promoting them will somehow ruin Islam and Pakistani culture, please save it. These are broken record comments and will not be tolerated.