Pakistani pop star CEZR sets out to capture more hearts and souls outside of his native country

Qaisar Syed, a.k.a. CEZR, could have passed for any other fan at the time. Even his group’s members, once aware of his origins, thought he might be an impostor. And while they haven’t changed…

Pakistani pop star CEZR sets out to capture more hearts and souls outside of his native country

Qaisar Syed, a.k.a. CEZR, could have passed for any other fan at the time. Even his group’s members, once aware of his origins, thought he might be an impostor. And while they haven’t changed their minds now that they’ve discovered he’s a native of Pakistan, they still aren’t 100 percent sure how to refer to him.

“It takes us a while to find the words that accurately reflect our opinion of the young man,” says Wajeeha Zaman, who performs under the name Anita Wala. “It always seems weird at first, but after a couple of years we’re able to understand what his style and music is all about.”

Now, a few years into a blossoming career with the pop group Patriotic, Zaman credits CEZR for his success. “CEZR has always been such a calm and consistent presence. He is our main lyricist, our main vocalist, and he puts in the most energy. His English is really good too — only because he is a really big fan of the music!”

CEZR is such a reliable live performer, he even manages to win over doubters in his own family. “My wife thinks I should get rid of CEZR — he’s such a weirdo,” says Syed. “But I’m really good at turning that frown upside down. I turned it into a winning strategy.”

Like his idol, Prince, CEZR pays tribute to Pakistan’s music heritage. “My favorite band has always been Ahmad Rahimi,” he says. “I still love them, and would love to make a chart-topping hit of my own.”

When looking for the right artist, Patriotic wanted to find someone with “Indian-Pakistani roots and the guts to add their own flavor to the mix,” says Zaman. And after initially being skeptical of CEZR, the team settled on him. “We thought it’d be cool to use him as a prototype to show what the Pakistan version of Western pop is going to sound like in the next few years,” says Wajeeha. “Actually, CEZR is actually very much what we wanted. He sounds global!”

The lead singer says CEZR isn’t to be confused with American rapper COZI, whom Qaisar originally met through a mutual friend. CEZR actually wants to introduce the youth of Pakistan to the music their country is known for, not just listen to it. “Young people are consuming much more pop music than they used to, and even music that came from their country,” he says. “I just want to introduce them to the best of what Pakistan has to offer.”

CEZR will be performing songs off his debut EP, titled Loko Pakki(Huang Qiao) tonight, Dec. 15, at Cabaret 217 in the back of a burger shop in Calhoun Avenue.

CEZR is the subject of an upcoming profile by Times music critic Jon Caramanica, who says “You might not think that pop from Pakistan should sound too different from the top charts in England, but it sure does.” And he points out how a relatively new export of Pakistani music to the West — American-based singer-songwriter Imran Malik — has found a niche due to his straightforward appeal.

Correction: The Times incorrectly reported a pseudonym for Wajeeha Zaman, claiming that she had actually taken the stage name of Wajeeha Azmi, which Zaman never used. The incorrect information has been corrected.

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