Just a click away

Who are these guys that have put Pakistan's musical archives on our right-click? Mariam Saeed Khan in conversation with team Patari

Just a click away
After Spotify in the West and Saavn in India, Pakistan has its own music streaming website: Patari. Founders Khalid Bajwa, Humayun Haroon and Iqbal Talaat discuss the project that has hogged the social media’s attention for quite a few months.

MSK: First of all, what does Patari mean?

KB: It’s a container. Originally we were involved in another start-up which was called Dhaba – it did not have a television box. With that at the back of our mind, we thought we needed a name which says that one can take music out of a box as well. We needed a name that was easy to use, but in Urdu – something that might be relatable for the customers. The name literally chose us.  Patari.pk was also available. Initially we had thought about Bansuri.pk as well, but the domain was not available. Patari seemed easy.

MSK: Each one of you must have had your individual journeys in life – how did you incorporate your respective individualities in the brand?

HH: What got us together was GIKI – where all three of us studied. We were initially working on a startup – a television streaming website for Pakistani channels. We were originally trying to create a Hulu for Pakistan. In the process we met Faisal Sherjan – Jang Group’s Chief Strategy Officer. He said ‘Why don’t you guys do music, since everyone is doing television streaming?’ It was his idea.

KB:  Iqbal was working on this game called War Heroes. Humayun was a mechanical engineer. A game, an app maker and an idea clicked us all together.  That’s how we became friends. Then three became four. Personally I sort of grew up with the Pakistani music of 2000s. Junoon, EP, Noori, Aaroh – these bands pretty much epitomise my passion for Pakistani music. Indus Music channel and Band Baja really inspired me. It meant a lot when Huma and Sadaf reached out and said that they liked Patari. Music is an integral part of all of us.

IT: The reason the project is important is that we are preserving our country’s culture. 50 years down the lane, people won’t say that Pakistan has no archives or history. Music is also an art form and it something that must be preserved.  There are a lot of collections that have been lost. If you talk to your parents and grandparents they will tell you about artists that had given us hits, but you cannot find about them anymore.

After Spotify and Saavn, Pakistan has its own music streaming website
After Spotify and Saavn, Pakistan has its own music streaming website

MSK: Do you think Patari can compete with Savaan, Sound Cloud and Taazi.com?

KB: These three applications cater to different audiences. We would not be competing with any of them. Saavn caters to Hindi music, while Sound Cloud is for all music genres. If Patari would have to expand, it will only do so in terms of Pakistani music like Persian, folk-ish, Egyptian – that’s our niche. Even if Saavn starts getting more Pakistani music, that’s not what sells. It would never be a prominent platform for Pakistani music.

Meanwhile, Taazi.com has been there since a year and a half. And we have been there for a year.  Even though they make more money than us, but look at the hype that we have created in Pakistani music circles. We have better collection of music and better interface than Taazi.com

Sachal Jazz CDs
Sachal Jazz CDs

"A game, an app maker and an idea clicked us all together"

MKB: What’s the long-term plan?

IT: We want to create an ecosystem where artists can be in touch with their listeners. One day we would need the art world’s Google.

KB: There will be bio-data, concerts and whatnot. I don’t see Patari as just as a website. Recently we also got the original soundtracks of the movies like Bin Roye, Wrong Number, Moor, Karachi Se Lahore and others. We are also playing our part in reviving the film scene in Pakistan through music. We recently launched our app for Android and Apple users and the reviews are marvelous. Now people can carry the music inside the cellphones and listen to it. Also Patari has got the rights for the Coke Studio Season 8 songs. The first episode is already on the website.

This August 14 Patari presented their biggest and most illustrious line-up yet: Moor and Manto’s complete OSTs, Ali Sethi, Jamal Rahman, Asad Que, Junoon , Vital Signs, Khawar Jawad and King Gumby himself.

The Android interface
The Android interface

"Music is an integral part of all of us"

MSK: How will Patari deal with piracy? Also, how will the businesses and artists get their share of profit?

IT: We can’t regulate that. But the thing is: easy beats free. If you can get something easily why would you go for piracy, when we are not even charging you anything?  Patari would always be free. The convenience is there. If you want to listen to music online, then it is absolutely free. Maybe in the future a few exclusive songs might be available for download, but not the whole collection of course. There will be advertisements as well without which businesses cannot function.

Recently Patari began its newsletter “Haftanama Patari” where the team sends the latest updates of the collection of music and what to hear this week and features like that. A little while ago, Patari also announced the most exciting update – The Recommendation Engine.

MSK: What would be the perks for the members? Would they get exclusive content?

HH: Right now, it’s free for everyone. There’s a quick advertisement after every 3-4 tracks, a few seconds of advertisements after 15-20 songs. It’s going to work like our radio channels.

IT: The advertisements will depend on your interest and the playlist. There could be a playlist of advertisements jingles as well!

HH: Basically that is, in a way, music as well. And it carries a nostalgic value too. Like the Dentonic advertisements we used to listen to. It’s just something that you would hear once. Of course if we decide to charge money then you would not get to hear those advertisements and you would be able to download it without internet as well. But we don’t have anything planned exclusively for our members in that sense.

KB: Every once in a while, the active users would get to invite other people. That you can say is a perk of being an active listener of Patari. The chain would continue. You can take the pride in being the first ones who discovered Patari and can invite people to listen to their collection. Whatever Patari will turn out to be, it will be because of the listeners. We are here because of them.

Earlier in June, Patari and EMI were in the news after EMI claimed the rights to the music and threatened them with legal action. It has requested Patari to remove all music collections from the website, citing an infringement of copyright laws. With this move, Patari had to comply with EMI’s request and remove songs of 60,000 Pakistani artists and 70% of the total music produced in Pakistan. Khalid , being the co-founder of Patari, stated in a tweet, “If EMI does not relent, we will openly call into question their ownership of the rights and get the royalties to its rightful owners.”

About this controversy, EMI said they don’t have a problem with Patari but objected that the music was uploaded without their consent .Patari then ensured that all the music available on their website is licensed irrespective of whom it belongs to, according to Tech Juice.

At the office
At the office

"50 years down the lane, people won't say Pakistan has no archives"

MSK: Have guys dug deep into the roots of Pakistani labels like EMI, Pepsi Records and Fire Records?

KB: We only researched to the core regarding the interface designs. However, we didn’t go to any labels. But we did meet Fire Records and a few others.  Over the years, we had the built-up knowledge about capital. We knew about the situation and meeting with these companies enhanced our knowledge about legal issues. That is what we’ve always maintained, that most of the time the artists are not sure about the rights claim. Sometimes the rights belong to the artists and sometimes the labels have them. No one is sure. When the artists die, there is always dispute over rights. In Pakistan generally there is no understanding about the issue. Whenever a song is created, the vocalist has no royalty – the composer and the lyricist, their royalty is irrevocable. The original license should go to the composer and lyricist no matter what.  But in Pakistan nothing of that sort happens. They are not paid anything. Most of the artists sell their rights to the labels. There is no concept of royalties. We are working on giving artists our own money. What we want to provide is a financial incentive as well, like Saavn, iTunes, Spotify etc. That is our model. It would allow the artists to make more music.

MSK: The platform serves independent artists as well?

KB: Everyone.

Minions and co join team Patari
Minions and co join team Patari

"Saavn would never be a prominent platform for Pakistani music"

MSK: What does Patari have in store for hardcore music fans? And what about those who need a tutorial on Pakistani music?

KB:  We have made sure that we reach out to every user – purely through word of mouth – and give the brand what it needed in its initial stages. The rest is history. We have some strategic partnerships with certain corporate and media entities which will help us reach a wider audience.

HH: Even those people who are not thoroughly acquainted with the Pakistani music at all, such as myself, most of us do know about the bigger bands and major artists like Jal, Noori, Vital Signs, Junoon , Noor Jehan ,Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan , Ali Zafar, etc. But most of the people don’t know about Indie and other niche bands that make really great music. We have introduced those artists on our platform. These artists didn’t have that platform before Patari. We have also now got music journalists creating playlists for various genres and all kinds of moods catering to a wide array of audiences. We have tapped various markets.  Anyone who loves music would find anything that they want to listen to.  Like for instance the dubbed version of Kameez Teri Kali by Talal Qureshi.


KB: There are music buffs, people who are already aware of the various Pakistani music scenes. Then there are others, who have a lot to discover. And many of the latter kind have started listening to different genres that might not be considered mainstream. Also people who enjoy Pakistani music aren’t limited to Pakistan. Indians love our Coke Studio, which in many ways is what Pakistani music is all about. India is a great market that we can tap into, considering the similarities in our music taste and the language. What we are also doing is developing stories around Pakistan. Video series, instruments and history of Pakistan – you can throw it to the potential consumers abroad.

IT: As far as interesting content goes, we have the likes of Zia Mohuyideen. We have Zia Mohiyudeen’s 5 to 6 collections. Patari means audio culture. Anything that is audible. We have so many things related to our culture and literature that we can promote. There is the poetry of Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmad Faiz too.

Patari’s core team
Patari’s core team

MSK: How did you digitalize and master the sound quality of the old songs?

KB: We already have visual labels that are directly being digitalized, but there is a lot of music that still lives on VHS, cassettes, vinyl… basically vintage stuff.  Digital is hard, but we are branching out. We would get to the vinyl collection from Radio Pakistan and PTV.

MSK: What about the invites?


KB: We processed thousands of invites that are in queue.

MSK: What next for Patari?

KB: We have launched the recommendation engine and the new application, which was successful. Nowadays we are collaborating with Coke Studio and music directors of the new age Pakistani Cinema. So let’s see… we have to develop a music ecosystem. There is a lot to music than meets the eye – or the ear. We want to reach out to more people. We have had our stalls at the renowned events too; like Lahore Meets Music. We have a lot more in the pipeline.