For all intents and purposes, Sunny Ali is Hassan Ali Malik, the youngest of the three Pakistani-American brothers from Philly that once constituted PO PO, the Mad Decent outlier project that released a vastly underrated LP, Dope Boy Magick, earlier this year. (PO PO is now down to just one Malik, Zeb, but has thrived through the attrition.) By implication, “The Kid” is Abdullah Saeed, who supports Hassan, handling drums and, according to this video, some keyboards.
It’s taken Sunny Ali a minute to get its post-PO PO bearings — when I saw the project a year or two ago at Pianos, it was most notable for Hassan’s oversized Texan hat, a fitting prop for the band’s gritty but unfocused cowpunk.
“Chai” is something else entirely, and a tremendous breakthrough. Assuming Sunny Ali is an experiment in finding his own voice, it’s ironic that Hassan has managed that by taking a step back toward his brother’s: “Chai” drops the country affectation in favor of PO PO’s seamless stitching of Asian subcontinental melodic motifs, the sort seemingly hardwired into the Malik DNA, fused here with the sort of blown-out and rousing backbeat backdrop fomented by Beck in the ’90s. “Chai” is a jam, and its video, directed and edited by Jan Reiser and Imran Ali Malik (of The Kominas), juxtaposes the song’s vibrant color with stark rooftop black-and-white. Also, pro-tip: “It all depends on the buzz from your CHAI” is a fairly t-shirtable lyric. Watch, and download:
Sunny Ali & The Kid – “Chai”
There’s a lot more SATK freely downloadable over at Bandcamp.