Swet Shop Boys embrace the stereotypes and invite us to indulge in them at the same time! From the endless aisles of masala, a Qawwali duo and what I assume is mango lassi – the visuals for ‘Aaja’ are just what a western-desi was craving.
Swet Shop Boys remain true to form and continue to demonstrate their flawless ability to deliver great music and remain unafraid to address political and social injustice. There’s the leaflet pasting moment (you’ll see what I mean) it’s brief, yet powerful and is kind of saying what a lot of us are thinking – stop giving this guy air-time, but don’t ignore it! Dedicating the video to the late Qandeel Baloch – who is also sampled in the track – it’s a reminder this rap music is their very own protest!
Taken from their first studio album, ‘Cashmere’, the visuals for ‘Aaja’ are just as colourful as its beat! Paying homage to the old style of Bollywood cinematography we see the Swet Shop Boys trio – Riz, Heems and Redhino – take centre stage as Qawwali ‘Sufi Sensations’. Whether it be the raining rupees, cute kameez and jeans combos, young love trying to find each other or the gun-fingering kurtha wearing dude it’s the details in this video that will get you hitting the ‘watch again’ button.
“In large part, Cashmere was an album that eschewed Bollywood samples to look hundreds of years further back to Qawwali. Qawwali is a Sufi devotional music popular in both Pakistan and India, fusing together Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Indian musical traditions. The lyrics often blur the line between spiritual and hedonistic, and thus Qawwali performances are typically spaces where one could mix sacred and profane sentiments with a gender and age-mixed audience. While we shot the video in August, our mission is even more important today: to respond to fear and divisiveness with defiant love.
Directed by Sofian Khan, this homage to teenage love was shot in Flushing, Queens and Coney Island, Brooklyn – bridging the gap between our Indian and Pakistani communities the same way Qawwali has. Once we wrote the hook for Aaja we knew we needed Pakistan’s talented Ali Sethi to sing on it, helping us connect our diaspora dots while remaining true to the style of Qawwali.
We closed the song with a sample from Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani social media star who was murdered by her brother in a so-called “honor killing” a few weeks after we made Aaja. The video is dedicated to her and all others whose attempts to live and love freely have been met with hate.” – Swet Shop Boys
You can catch the Swet Shop Boys performing on 1st June at Scala in London.