Meesha Shafi expands on ideas behind ‘Leela’


Disclaimer: Due to a non-disclosure agreement, Instep is releasing this story now, having witnessed the performance when it was originally recorded and shot earlier this year.

Fly Me to the Moon

After ‘Speaker Phaar’ and ‘Mein’ – both original songs performed by Meesha Shafi on Pepsi Battle of the Bands season two and season three, respectively – one wondered what original track Meesha Shafi was planning to spring on the stage this year. Could she deliver another song that would join the league of irreverent music by a Pakistani artist?

Last year’s ‘Mein’ in particular stood in the way in 2019 because both audiences and critics connected with it in profound, indelible ways. A day earlier, on the Pepsi set, where I was present to speak to a variety of people, Meesha Shafi spoke about the song at length.

Entering her green room, I noticed that it was filled with Meesha’s team that comprised several women. Music was playing in the background and she was sitting before a mirror, getting her make up done when we began talking.

“It’s going to be very production-heavy because it needs that sort of body,” she began.

Tell me about the moon, I posed.

“There are a lot of astro-references in it,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of study on the Sufi school of spiritual teachings in recent years, just to understand some things; see what they were teaching and talking about and how come in that spiritual school so much was expressed and explained through poetry.”

She continued: “From my understanding, the reason for that is that these subjects are so vast that they can’t actually be contained in prose. You can say a lot; there’s a lot more to read between poetic lines basically.”

When asked about the astro-references, such as the looming moon as a visual aesthetic, Meesha explained, “You’re asking about the universe, which is this infinite entity that is operating on all these rhythms and frequencies and every time – throughout the ages – anyone who has gone searching for answers to questions like what’s the meaning of all of this? What is this existence all about? Where did it all start? When does it all end? What’s the point? (I’m thinking of Albert Camus who said this is the most important question in philosophy) and what are we here for? What is our purpose? Every time you ask questions like that, you learn that there are things bigger than us and as I understand it, we come from all that precedes us and that is the universe.

“It is omnipotence and just an infinite field of possibilities so when I wrote the poetry, it was literally about a girl having a conversation with the moon. And that’s how it starts. She asks some very vulnerable, delicate questions and she is sneaking a little request out there and saying you can tell me what’s going on.

“As for the moon being addressed, it has an astral body that has a lot to do with how we feel, our energies and she asks him and gets an answer. It is the moon; the moon is also the divine feminine. Of course it’s not just that, we are made up of both and it’s a Yin and Yang situation. So, she’s asking him, the moon, to quietly whisper the tale of existence in her ear, just between the two of them.

“Your outbursts, your tantrums, your breakdowns or just overwhelming gushes of love, I wanted to see how it is affecting me. And when the answer comes in the song, you can either take it as ‘I see now’ or it could be anti-climactic like ‘ok, that’s all it is’. Initially that is what happens. But it is understood with time.”

Now that a lot of us have heard ‘Leela’, it is just as profound and beautiful as ‘Mein’, lending to a belief that Meesha’s original narrative is a risk, spiritual tenacity, a revelation, vulnerability and strength in balanced sonic and visual shape. Most of all, it is a personal journey on which she is willing to take us along. As a fan and music junkie, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

‘Leela’ credits are as follows

Lyrics and melody by Meesha Shafi

Performance conceived by Meesha Shafi

Music composed by Sherry Khattak

Associate music producer: Sherry Khattak

Music produced and mixed by Xulfi

Drums: Kami Paul

Guitars: Sherry Khattak and Mohsin Shah

Bass: Farhan Ali

Violin: Javed Iqbal

Backing Vocals by Sherry Khattak, Farhan Ali and Kami Paul

Curated by Farhan Ali

Produced by Saad Bin

Mujeeb and Noor ul Huda Daudpota (Shiny Floor)