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14 Nov

New kid on the block

We first noticed Maria Unera Qureshi when she took the stage at the Women of the World (WoW) festival earlier this year. To be fair, the young powerhouse took our breath away when she first made an appearance on the music show – Nescafe Basement – along with Pakistan’s first and only all-girls music group and sang a delicious cover of John Newman’s ‘Love Me Again’. But it wasn’t simply Qureshi’s vocal prowess that turned heads; her unique personality also made a lasting impression.

Anyone who has seen Qureshi take the stage will bear witness to the fact that this budding artist has an effervescent demeanour. Her joyfulness elevated the band’s energy on stage tenfold and her confident handling and interaction with the crowd was also intriguing to watch.

Now Qureshi has embarked upon a solo career and while she has been performing shows all over Pakistan, we saw something different when she took the stage at the first session of Levi’s Live, which took place in Lahore recently and had in its audience industry giants like Ali Noor, Xulfi and many more. The video for this performance is now online and it presents another side of this young singer, an extremely strong side, much like the mood and feel of her single.

Qureshi performed an original track called ‘Strong’ on the platform, which was layered with a thrilling composition and was made special by her beautiful singing.

While Maria Qureshi is embarking on a solo career, it was Nescafe Basement that gave the young singer her big break when she performed John Newman’s ‘Love Me Again’ with the all-girl group.

In the song, Qureshi plays with her diverse vocal range, strumming her guitar, asking someone to be strong, and as her pitch goes higher and higher towards the end of the song, we can only imagine the toll its taking on the singer to muster up the strength only to impart it to someone else.

Qureshi also revealed that ‘Strong’ was dedicated to her mother, who passed away this year after battling cancer.

We got in touch with Qureshi, where she answered the phone with a chirpy and friendly hello without knowing who it was on the other end. Most people ease up only after they recognize the caller but Qureshi’s friendliness holds no conditions or barriers.

“I wrote and composed the entire song myself in my room about a year ago. My mother was battling cancer and was getting weaker with time so I had decided that I wanted to write something or sing something to her so she would get a little hope and feel stronger, hence the song ‘Strong’,” shared Qureshi. “My mother is my hero; she will always be my number one. She has given me the courage to believe that I can do anything I want to and nothing is impossible if you just believe.”

We cannot imagine the kind of courage and strength it takes to be the one to console someone when your world is also collapsing around you.

As Qureshi impressively hit high notes, a skill which she has displayed time and again in her performances, in the audience one could spot Xulfi, visibly proud of his protégé, as well as one Ali Noor who appeared mesmerized as he shook his head in appreciation.

This made us wonder how the industry has been treating her so far and Qureshi assured us that our music industry, welcoming and open-minded, has been nothing but kind and encouraging.

“I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet a lot of our senior musicians and they’ve all said wonderful things which made me hopeful that I can bring a little bit of change to our music.”

Thankfully, this is only the beginning of what we hope will be a long and illustrious musical career for Qureshi. The singer and songwriter is hopeful that she will be able to release some of her written material soon and we can hardly wait.

Manal Faheem Khan

The author is Contributing Editor at Something Haute who has studied film and journalism from SZABIST. Will be found at the gym if not in the office.