Okay so, I’ve taken off my watch, rings and wristbands. I do this to ensure no hindrances as I begin to write this article. My hope is, by relaying this information, you understand the urgency with which I write this. Pepsi Battle of the Bands Season 3 concluded this past weekend. This season’s swan song gave us a jewel. A true diamond in the rough. Mein. Sung by Meesha Shafi, this song speaks volumes. To me at the very least.
Mein: The Performance
Mein is a psychedelic progressive rock ballad. The kind you associate more with indie bands like Poor Rich Boy. You don’t expect it from a mainstream rockstar on an established platform. Least of all, you don’t expect it to be helmed by someone like Meesha Shafi. I’ve made it plain a hundred times, I adore Meesha Shafi. So please don’t assume I’m (as the yungun’s say) hating on her.
Meesha Before Mein
It’s quite the contrary actually. I mean, let’s look at Meesha’s career so far. What are the songs she’s gained the most recognition for? Back when Coke Studio was actually entertaining, she gave us Alif Allah Chambey Di Booty. Joining forces with Arif Lohar, her deep powerful vocals captured as many hearts as the song did airwaves.
Next, let’s look at the song she sang for The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Though lesser known than the previously mentioned song, Bijli Aye Ya Na Aye showcases much of the same. That being, Meesha’s powerful vocals that can fill any room or stage from end to end. It displays a brand of gravitas and bravado that is wholly unique to the voice of Meesha Shafi. A precedent upon which future releases built upon.
Mein: The New Precedent
Releases such as Aya Lariye (from the last good season of Coke Studio) and Speaker Phaar (from the second season of Pepsi Battle of the Bands) further cemented that precedent into fact. They also proved that, however versatile, Meesha brought bravado and strength to every performance. Thus, it was a great and pleasant surprise to behold a presentation such as Mein.
Yes, Meesha has done slower songs before. Songs that are more suited to the soundtrack of a quiet evening at home rather than a mehndi turned rager. However, she retained her signature vigour throughout. With Mein, she displays a taciturn vulnerability, rarely seen from her or any other mainstream Pakistani artist. Though in spite of the vulnerable nature of the song, it does progress to a crescendo. One, more reminiscent of her usual artistry, but retaining the newfound vulnerability.
Mein: The Listener
However, it was not just by the vulnerability of her vocals that I was reduced to tears. Yes, that happens, even to a savage a soul as I. The lyrics to play a great role. They set up a classic tragedy. Loving so deeply and to such an extent that one loses their being in love. That is, if you take the lyrics at face value. This tribulation could very well be a metaphor.
Whether or not it is a reflection of what Meesha has been going through, I cannot say for sure. That isn’t the chord it struck with me though. Through the hauntingly magical vocals and the extremely symbolic lyrics, the part of me that suffers from loneliness and anxiety began to emote. In Mein, she refers to a confidante. One who she makes privy to her deepest secrets. The absence of the said confidant then triggers a crisis.
A crisis Meesha resolves in the chorus. Singing “Mein rasta hun”, it’s as if Meesha is reclaiming herself from all the havoc surrounding her. Whereas, for me, it signals the reclamation of my own self. There are parts of me that make me uncomfortable, parts I wish I could do without. Mein would have me do otherwise.
Mein: An Act of Defiance
To compliment the symbolism in her words, Meesha tries to incorporate some in the video. Towards the end, as Meesha reaches her grand crescendo, a band member covers everyone’s faces with makes of tragedy. The kind used in old Greek Theatre. This, I believe, symbolize the masks we are forced to wear for the world. The effect heightens the meaning of the song. Reclamation of one’s own self. Be it from others who seek to bring you down or your own evils. Mein, is thus an act of defiance. Defying all that negativity and embracing all of ourselves, as we are.