The plaintive rubab introduces us to this dazzling gem. Sung by Pakistani duo Zebunnisa Bangash and Haniya Aslam, better known as Zeb and Haniya, we magically understand the Pashto words of ‘Paimona’ without knowing the language the moment Zeb utters Omar Khayyam‘s 11th century words, ‘Paimona bedah key khumar astam’ – Pass me the wine cup, for I am suffering the effects of intoxication’.Zeb’s voice, and the music as performed in the legendary Coke Studio Pakistan Season 2, seems to skim invisible rugged peaks of mountains, hoping to land on the ground one happy day. The rubab literally plucks at the soul while Haniya’s arrangements and guitar strums are like the mountain air.

What makes their rendition of Paimona truly glorious is the duo’s ability to infuse the song with ‘nowness’ while keeping its timeless quality intact. When Zeb rises an octave to sing, ‘Chashmat key bagh e Khutan memanaat/ Royat ba gulab haye chaman memanaat’ – Your eyes have the beauty of the desert deer of Khutan/ Your face has the beauty of the roses of the garden – we see beauty for what it is, not lying in the eyes of the beholder, but something more raw, more innate.


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