Priyanka Mattoo at The New Yorker:
A few years ago, the musician Ali Sethi was driving through Punjab, behind a jingle truck—the long-haul trucks known in his native Pakistan for their filigreed paint designs—when he spotted a phrase in florid Punjabi calligraphy on its back. “Agg lavaan teriya majbooriya nu,” it said—a call to “set fire to your compulsions.” It’s not uncommon to glimpse bits of verse, or dire warnings—against straying eyes or losing yourself in the big world out there—among the fluorescent parrots and tropical fruit schemes of jingle trucks. But Sethi couldn’t stop thinking about that phrase.
It inspired the first line of “Pasoori,” the thirty-seven-year-old’s latest single, a joyous, dance-fuelled hit that has drawn more than a hundred million views on YouTube since its release three months ago and is playing on the radio everywhere, from the United Arab Emirates to Canada. The song is stealthily subversive: a traditional raga—the classical Indian framework for musical improvisation—has been laid over an infectious beat that sounds South Asian, Middle Eastern, and, improbably, reggaetón, all at once.