‘I felt that our stories and lives deserved representation in the music scene’

Maanu describes his music as a, ‘Pakistani take on pop and R&B’ which incorporates vocals in both English and Urdu. We sat down with the young and very talented artist Maanu to chat about his latest album, music inspirations and the power of social media.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your music that you’re currently working on

I’m a 22-year-old singer/songwriter/rapper from Lahore and I’m currently in the process of releasing my debut album called ‘Yain City’. The album is dedicated to Lahore and aims to create a new and contemporary musical identity for the city.

What first got you into music?

I’ve been heavily into music since I was a kid. My parents have always been lovers of music and the arts so I was exposed to South Asian classical and film music from a very early age. I started playing the guitar in grade five and wrote my first song in 2016 when I was 18 years old. Melodies and compositions have always intrigued me.

Who inspired you to make music?

The fact that me and my friends could not relate to any of the pop music being made in Pakistan and hence were listening to western pop music. That really bothered me because I felt that our stories and lives deserved representation in the music scene. I wanted to make music that people in Lahore and all over would be proud to call their own, something that speaks to them and represents them. With regards to people who inspired me to start learning music, Zain Peerzada (Takatak) taught me how to play the guitar and he’s been like a big brother to me. In terms of writing original music, my main influences were Ed Sheeran, Drake, Sikandar ka Mandar and Faris Shafi.

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

My music is a Pakistani take on Pop, R&B and Hip- hop. It’s mostly inspired by real life experiences and feelings I’ve felt. My aim is to make music that people can relate to, and to be able to tell my story in the best way that I can. It incorporates both English and Urdu in a colloquial way that is common in our generation, which ends up making it more relatable. This album (Yain City) is meant to be a soundtrack to the listener’s life, it captures the emotions and frustrations that one faces daily.

What is your creative process like?

It generally involves writing melodies and flows first and then lyrics. I either write on beats that I produce myself or beats sent to me by other producers. When I’m writing, I try and imagine the ideal situation in which I would want the song to be played or heard and I let that inspire me further.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Amongst local artists, I’d love to collaborate with the likes of Talha Anjum, Faris Shafi and Jokhay one day. I’m also a huge fan of some Indian artists like Lifaafa and Ritviz and would love to work with them someday.

Do you sing in the shower? What songs?

Yes, I do! If I’ve written a song recently, I definitely sing it in the shower. Other than that, I’m always listening to hip-hop and rapping while showering, the grind never stops!

What would you be doing right now, if it weren’t for your music career?

I think I always knew that I was meant to be doing music and the more I grow up the more I realize how much I love it. It comes naturally to me and nothing interests me more. I don’t think I would be doing anything else happily to be honest; it’s a scary thought.

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?

I’ve played shows in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. My favourite gigs that I’ve played so far were: the 5th edition of the Lahore Music Meet, True Brew Records and The Colony. In Karachi, my favourite gig was at Base Rock Cafe and in Islamabad it was at the Koblumpi festival. I think it would be unfair to any of the wonderful venues I’ve been lucky to perform to label them as my ‘least favourite’. In regards to upcoming shows yes, I have a couple gigs in Lahore lined up starting with Strictly Social, followed by another show at Peeru’s on the 26th in Lahore.

How do you feel the social media has impacted the music business?

I think it has benefitted indie musicians a lot. It gives musicians without corporate backing a platform to showcase themselves. Although I had been writing songs for two years, my career properly started after I made an Instagram account to promote my music. The drawback is that musicians need to be good at social media marketing since there are no record labels, hence mostly those artists with good social media managers and highly active social media presence tend to do well.

What is your favourite song to perform?

Probably Mogambo because of the sheer energy of the song, which translates into my performance. Having said that, I’m highly anticipating the chance to perform Come Thru with Abdullah live soon, I’m sure it’ll be crazy!

Which famous musicians (local and international) do you admire?

My favourite local artists are Talal Qureshi, Faris Shafi, Talha Anjum, Natasha Noorani, Hasan

Raheem, Rozeo, Mujju and Sikandar Ka Mandar.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

‘Bro Urdu mein rap kiya kar’ is by far the best advice.

If you could change anything about Pakistan’s music industry, what would it be?

I would want its focus to shift to younger artists. There’s so much talent that goes unnoticed because most award shows and corporate shows tend to favour older, firmly established artists.

2020 has been...

2020 has been a roller coaster. For me, the year peaked at the Lahore Music Meet where I got to perform on both days. I was able to gain a significant amount of fans and those fans have been the backbone of my career so far. Quarantine has been both good and bad; our main source of revenue is through live performances so most musicians have not been able to make any money, however, personally it’s allowed me to write more songs and prepare for future releases.

What’s next for you?

Following on from the release of my debut album ‘Yain City’, I have a collaborative album planned with fellow Lahori rapper Rozeo. Moreover, I plan on releasing more of my solo work as well. I want my fans to know that they can expect songs from me regularly. Alongside that, of course, I’d love to be able to play as many shows at as many places as possible.

What is one message you would give to your fans?

I would like to thank my fans firstly. Without them, I would not be where I am today. Including my

friends and family, the fans are my biggest support system that keeps me going and making more music. Secondly, we’re only going to grow from here. And lastly, please remember: #aagayahaichotus

INTERVIEW: H! Pakistan