Music

Zeshan B Mixes Irresistible Music and Important Real World Musings on "Only in My Dreams" (premiere)

Jordan Blum
Photo: Harris Ansari / Courtesy of Shore Fire Media

Zeshan B's latest track "Only in My Dreams" is full of hooks and heart. He says that the melody "arrived in a dream during a period plagued by insomnia, undiagnosed sleep apnea, and severe depression".

In recent years, Muslim Indo-Pak pop/soul singer Zeshan B has proven to be a master of implementing cutting socially commentaries into his compellingly ornate and eclectic compositions. His 2017 "reimagining of southern American soul standards" (as he calls it), Vetted, earned him plenty of critical praise, as well as performance opportunities alongside fellow political activists such as A Tribe Called Quest and Mos Def. He's also played in front of former Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, as well as appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. On 15 May, he'll release his debut original LP, Melismatic, via Minty Fresh Records, and just like his previous two singles—"Nausheen" and "Brown Power"—his latest, "Only in My Dreams", is an unforgettable merger of irresistible music and important real-world musings.

"Nausheen" and "Brown Power" tackled issues like gender inequality, the devaluing of South Asian women, and the increasing power of—and backlash toward—rising multiculturalism. "Only in My Dreams" follows the same path, setting its sights against the intersection of oppression and elitism. He says that the melody "arrived in a dream during a period plagued by insomnia, undiagnosed sleep apnea, and severe depression". Those hardships have only gotten worse amid the current pandemic. Zeshan B now fears not only for his financial security but also for his wife, an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins who "work[s] overnight shifts fighting on the front lines in the trenches of COVID".

He continues: "Only in My Dreams" is by far my favorite song of this entire album. The brainchild of a beautiful melody that came to be in a dream, it's a stream of consciousness piece that parlays the anguish of my past, the uncertainty of my future, and the tiny morsel of idealism that I still cling onto for dear life as I continue to sleepwalk through this strange world. Back then, whatever little sleep I managed to get, my dreams were so vividly disturbing and bizarre that when I'd wake up, I'd feel the pains of the damned. But, the idealism in me is stubbornly holding out! Yes, I do indeed sing of hopeless despair in "Only in My Dreams". Even still, I felt then—just as I do right now—that my idealism towards the world is the only thing keeping me afloat. That vision and that desire of a better future for us all is the final fortress that stands tall in this siege against my soul. And it's not blind faith. The good dreams do, every now and then, become a reality, even if they are surrounded by bad ones."

One of those "good dreams" turned out to be his reconnection with a childhood friend, Francesca Gabrielle, a Los Angeles visual artist whom Zeshan B says was "the only white kid [in their fourth-grade class in Lombard, Illinois] who was kind to me from day one". Their continued bond has even led to collaboration, as Gabrielle (and Kara Hamilton) designed the artwork for "Only in My Dreams". She also appears on the cover as "a surreal, saintly image of a champion from [his] past life. A knightess in shining armor whose loving smile and tender touch will forever be emblazoned in [his] heart".

The song itself does a wonderful job conveying all of those personal and universal sentiments into a catchy, poignant, and soberingly relatable ode. Its opening keyboard motif instills a sense of melancholy destiny that's enhanced by Zeshan B's equally troubling verses. Cleverly, guitar licks, percussion, horns, and strings creep in to decorate the soundscape as his voice booms with more moving urgency. In this way, "Only in My Dreams" incorporates all that you'd expect from a traditional blend of pop and soul. Yet, its lyrical pathos and subtle infusion of Indo-Pak techniques also make it quite characteristic and fascinating. Both its music and message will stay with you long after the song ends.

Take a listen to "Only in My Dreams" for yourself and see if it impacts you just as much. If so, make sure you preorder Melismatic here and keep an eye out for when it releases next week.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.