Zooming into Talal Qureshi: Coke Studio success to India collabs for first album

Pakistani desi-pop electronica producer Talal Qureshi on his journey in the music industry and collaborating with Indian artistes, singer Mitika Kanwar and rapper Yashraj

Updated - February 26, 2024 12:58 pm IST

Published - February 23, 2024 02:57 pm IST

Pakistan-based songwriter and music producer Talal Qureshi 

Pakistan-based songwriter and music producer Talal Qureshi  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Pakistan-based songwriter and music producer Talal Qureshi 

Pakistan-based songwriter and music producer Talal Qureshi  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For his first-ever interview with an Indian newspaper, Pakistan-based songwriter and music producer Talal Qureshi seems relaxed. Clad in an Adidas jumper, fixing his EarPods, he connects with The Hindu on Zoom to explain the three-track addition to his first album Turbo, which now makes it Turbo Deluxe, and his experience of working with Indian musicians. The clock strikes 12:30pm on a weekday. “I just woke up; slept at six in the morning,” begins the 36-year-old.

Debatably, burning the midnight oil may have contributed to his success in the desi-pop electronica genre, but there is no substitute for talent, he believes. After all, he has come a long way from 2013 when he released his first instrumental EP, Equator. “I didn’t take any formal training in music. I used to work in a radio station in 2010-2011. The only reason I wanted to work there was because they had a studio and I couldn’t afford one. I would do my work, at the same time I would make music. That’s how my first EP came about, with job that paid me just Pakistani rupees (PKR) 5,000,” he shares.

It was at the age of 13 when Talal was first introduced to music-making, that too through PlayStation. “I broke my hand at the time and started making music on my computer,” he says. But it was only during Covid when Talal’s career actually took off. Rather reticent, he was often shy to reach out to fellow musicians for collaborations, and so he stuck to making instrumental tracks for a long time. “I wasn’t good at networking. I remember connecting with rapper Faris Shafi, the first artiste I teamed up with, and sending him beats. He told me that there’s no space for him to rap. That’s when I realised that I was only invested in crafting melodies. I started working with more artistes gradually and learnt that I can still utilise my melodies in vocal production too,” he shares.

Mitika Kanwar 

Mitika Kanwar  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For Turbo, Talal collaborated with Indian artistes, singer Mitika Kanwar (for songs ‘Aya’, ‘Chayn’ and ‘Dunya’) and rapper Yashraj. “Mitika can sing anything at any key. She is as passionate about her music as I am. In my album, I wanted to have people who I genuinely like listening to,” he says. With Yashraj, Talal belted out ‘Kundi’ and ‘Aya.’ “Yashraj is so versatile that he can adapt to any style and still be Yash. That’s what I like about him; his music is so tight and unorthodox. Working with these artistes has been a pleasure,” he adds.

Rapper Yashraj

Rapper Yashraj | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Through his album, Talal wanted to show a body of work that charted his journey from an instrumental artist to songwriter-producer. Though Turbo, a 12-song album, was released in September last year, he added three more songs to it and launched it again in February this year as Turbo Deluxe. “I have been trying to make an album for the last seven or eight years. It took me nearly two years to come up with Turbo,” he shares, stating that he wanted 15 songs on the album. “I wanted to release 12 before and three later and took time to curate that one last block. This one also features a track with Pakistani pop star Asim Azhar.”

Talal makes music on a digital audio workstation software, Acid Pro, but he is now drifting towards analog synthesiser. “I have gotten accustomed to Acid Pro. Most people are shocked to know that I still use the software. But now, I have finally gotten my hands on my dream analog synthesiser, the Korg Minilogue. So, I think my music is going back to instrumental base, soundscape ambient Talal,” he adds.  

Artwork of Turbo Deluxe

Artwork of Turbo Deluxe | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As an independent music producer in Pakistan, Talal has worked with some heavyweight international musicians, like American DJ Diplo and Swedish singer, rapper and songwriter Elliphant. “I think I felt validated when I worked with Elliphant. I remember we were working on a tune and I suggested a melody; she lapped it up in a jiffy and couldn’t stop praising it. Strangely, I had suggested the same melody to someone back home, but I was told off,” he recalls. 

So far, two of Talal’s songs have been featured in Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel. His collaboration with Justin Bibis and Hassan Raheem, ‘Peechay Hutt’, was featured in the episode Crushed and his other collaboration with Naseebo Lal, ‘Aag’, was featured in the episode Seeing Red. “’Aag’ came to Marvel after four years of being released. I learnt the hard way that it’s never about views but good things always take their time to reach out to the right people,” he says. Talal does feel that the times have changed now. He agrees that music apps like Spotify and OTTs are giving a new lease of life to experimental music. “I feel everyone making music is no longer forcing themselves to make music; it’s not about making commercial, corporate music. Music from India has been very inspiring to people in Pakistan and vice-versa. South-Asian music is on the rise like never before; people have been accepting electronic music even before, and now it’s making its way into the mainstream. I quite like the song ’Doobey’ from Gehraiyaan, for instance,” he says.

Among many other artistes who Talal wishes to collaborate with, singer Atif Aslam tops the list. “When it comes to collaborating, I have a very open policy; it depends on how much I resonate with the artiste. There’s a producer here, called Malik, who I would really like to make music with. But I want to go global. I would love to work with Mark Ronson and Skrillex someday,” he signs off.

Turbo Deluxe is now streaming on all major audio platforms. 

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