Art can be a powerful unifier. With just the right lyric, image or word, great art can soften those hard lines that divide us, helping us to remember the immense value of human connection and compassion.
This is certainly the case with “Pasoori,” a Pakistani pop song that has not only become an international hit, it’s managed to bring the long divided peoples of India and Pakistan together in the name of love. Or at least in the name of good music.
It’s easy to see how “Pasoori” has gained its popularity. The visuals are rich and colorful and very eye-popping—the very essence of old-school Bollywood. Plus the song itself is quite the catchy, dynamic earworm with its blend of traditional music and driving, percussive reggaeton beat. That’s a lot of boxes to tick, stylistically speaking.
The song begins with the words “set fire to your worries.” It’s a verse that came to songwriter Ali Sethi after seeing a similar phrase painted across the back of a truck while driving through Punjab. That expression, coupled with the fear that entering India as a Pakistani artist might result in extremists burning down whatever studio he worked in, inspired him to channel the experience into his music, he told The New Yorker.
“I did what desi bards have done for ages. I might not have been able to travel to India, but I knew my music could,” he said.
Translated, “Pasoori” can mean “difficulty,” “conflict” or “difficult mess.” At first glance, the song appears to be a classic tale of star-crossed lovers, with lyrics like “If your love is poison, I will drink it in a flurry.” However, the way it expertly weaves Indian and Pakistani art styles together suggests a larger message. Can two countries see beyond their conflict to celebrate the natural harmonies of their cultures? Sethi seems to be ultimately posing this profound question, all while delivering a bona fide banger.
If “Passori”’s global success is any indicator, the answer appears to be yes. It’s garnered more than 100 million views on YouTube and is getting praise from both Pakistani and Indian stars. According to The New Yorker, “Pasoori” now “sits firmly” at No. 1 on the charts in India.
It already has a viral cover, for cryin’ out loud.
Congrats to all the creators of “Pasoori” for transcending boundaries and winning hearts. This is the magic of music.