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3 Mar

Riz Ahmed pays a tribute to Qandeel Baloch and here’s why you should hear it!

Qawwali, Qandeel Baloch, and the Indo-Pak community; what do these three things have in common? Nothing, until the Swet Shop Boys’ released their latest single ‘Aaja’ featuring Ali Sethi.



Adorned in traditional Qawal ensembles, the Reluctant Fundamentalist star Riz Ahmed, and fellow rapper Heems croon and rap to the tradition instruments of the east, all the while catering to the communities of the Subcontinent living outside of the region.

Shot in Flushing, Queens, and Brooklyn, the drug-induced fantasy like track takes one on a journey of longing for a lover, even if you might not have one; and no, absolutely not in the traditional way. Infused with a flavor that is purely western (rap) with the styling of the ethnic Qawwali, ‘Aaja‘ is probably the perfect example of desi surrealism.

Keeping rest aside, one also couldn’t get over Ali Sethi’s cameo in the song, which much like the track, seems to be a literal translation of what the word groovy would look like as a human. Jokes apart, the singer’s strong vocals, and his ever-growing popularity in the diaspora are the perfect mix that ‘Aaja‘ needed.

Lastly, the thing that made the track the most interesting is Qandeel Baloch. The late Pakistani social media icon made her cameo into the song with a soundbyte from one of her videos. Dedicated to the slain diva, the song served as a reminder for anyone who had forgotten Baloch, the everlasting example of Pakistan’s love for controversy and the lack of justice.

Shahjehan Saleem

The author is Contributing Editor at Something Haute as well as a professor in the Media Sciences department at SZABIST, Karachi. Socio-cultural theories and geography fill up the rest of his time.