Resident Alien (Ali Sethi & Sunny Jain) made their debut at Joe’s Pub (pics, video)
A few years back, Ali Sethi and Sunny Jain met while independently involved in a theatrical collaboration. Sethi, a Pakistani writer and singer, has made a name for himself in recent years as a playback singer (where the singer’s voice is dubbed over the actor, typically found in South Asian films) and also collaborated with the Swet Shop Boys on their track “Aaja.” Sethi is in the process of moving from Lahore to the United States and, while in New York, he and Jain (the NYC based bandleader of Red Baraat) reconnected for a new musical collaboration. They call their project Resident Alien, a name attributed to exhibition of Salman Toor’s work 2015.
The group, which also includes Grey McMurray and Shoko Nagai, made their debut at NYC’s Joe’s Pub on Saturday (12/2), which was actually before they decided on a band name. The sold-out show had fans thronged to see Sethi in person. Their cross-cultural songs play “with migration as a metaphor for travel, adventure, creative displacement,” according to Sethi, as he introduced the group over a drone. He continued to describe the first song, “Kahey Biyahi Bides”, attributed to 13th century Delhi poet Amir Khusrow, as the story of a young girl, protesting her father’s decision to give her hand in marriage to a man who lives in another country. Other tunes included “Sialkot,” an original from Jain that he introduced as a tribute to his “parents, ancestors and remembrance of what Partition and Independence brought to India and Pakistan in August 1947.”
The highlight of the performance was their encore, “Dama Dam Mast Qalander”, a classic Sufi song with words by Amir Khushrow that was adapted by the philosopher, Bulleh Shah. The lively number roused the audience from their seats. Check out video of that song below and pics from the show in the gallery above.
Kahey Biyahi Bides (‘Why Did You Send Me Abroad, O Father’)
Paar Channa De (‘Beyond the River I See My Lover’s Boat’)
Ishq Atish Lai Hai
Peer Manawan (I’m Off to Salute My Master)
Akhiyan Udeek Diyan (My Eyes Are Waiting To See You)
Dama Dam Mast Qalander