Welcome, Zayn Malik, Could We Offer You Some Biryani?

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Zayn Malik seems to have embraced his South Asian roots in his new album. Image courtesy Zayn Facebook page

By Layla Haider

Zayn, you’re insecure, don’t know what for, you’re turning heads when you walk through the do-o-or and through all the things that the “Night Changes”, we have witnessed your journey to finding “What Makes You Beautiful” and if that entails pink hair—so be it.

In opening up, singer Zayn Malik has become the closest thing Muslims, Pakistanis and desis have to a western pop cultural media icon. No pressure, Zayn—but it won’t be as easy as “Befour”.

Throughout his “History” with former band One Direction, he was not as vocal as the desis would have hoped, which was made even more arduous by his being labeled as “the mysterious one” in the band.

The world was eager to see what this boy-band-dropout had to offer after his split from the boys and it came on March 25 in the form of his first solo album “Mind of Mine”. Not unlike my school cafeteria food, you may find yourself wondering: What’s in it? And, what’s it, (or rather he) actually made of?

Among other things, the album includes an interval track “INTERMISSION: fLoWer” sung in Urdu. This is evidence that the former pop star is well on his way to integrating into a society of Lollywood, Bollywood, biryani and more.

The recipe for this song and his album very much differs from the pop voice of his that we’ve been accustomed to. The updated ingredients in the Malik voice are: One cup of R&B, one cup of South Asian aromas and a dash of jazz.

His Urdu track has unleashed a not-so-quiet excitement among his original fan base that has since expanded into desi society. The song, which he is said to have written and reportedly sung in one take, features the lines: “Until the flower of this love has blossomed / This heart won’t be at peace.”

In this one track, lies a revelation about Zayn Malik, the individual. That is, an individual who seeks to venture his sole artistic self that was constricted during his boy band years. It shows an individual who wishes to shed the skin of his teen-boy image; an individual who wants to channel his passion through his music as well as explore his heritage.

Although this transition into revelation and discovery of identity is inspiring as well as a journey worth taking, Malik is now in the progress of learning that there is a down side to delving further in depth to his roots—especially if those roots dig into a Pakistani-Muslim background.

Ever since the formation of One Direction in 2010 Malik has had to contend with a host of theories surrounding his faith and allegations of being a terrorist because of his ethnicity and religion—basically, racism. He has come to face more of this xenophobia since his departure from the band.

Remarks made from behind the safety of a screen were, and still are, shot at him on Twitter–but have no fear, the Directioners are here. The faithfuls kept the hashtag #ZaynIsNotATerrorist alive throughout December 2015, with comments such as: “don’t judge anyone because of their religion”; it was the Directioners who stood up against ‘the haters’ of humanity.

The only mild act of criminality that this 23-year-old, British-Pakistani has been involved in, is stealing the hearts of millions (cue the fangirling).

Although the majority of physical assaults Zayn Malik will face during his lifetime will be from a place of love, by his fans, it will not be easy to deal with the racism that is to come. And although the 104 seconds of a cultural interlude in his album are appreciated, I am looking forward to the desi beats that are hopefully to follow.

So, let me personally say: Well done on your self-discovery and welcome to being identified as a Pakistani Muslim in this day and age, Zayn Malik. It’s been a rough ride and, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change for any of us, but you are welcome. Now, what kind of biryani can I get you?

The writer is a student at Dubai College.

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