Friday, November 26, 2004

Har jaga hai jal


With the release of their song 'Aadat', Jal became a major hit and one of the most talked-about bands on our music scene, and now, almost a year later, after going through a split and subsequent lineup change, the band has release its debut album, also titled 'Aadat'. So we caught up with the guys who have given Us the hits 'Dil Harey' and 'Lamhey' to find out what they've been up to!

The band members are:
- Goher Mumtaz - Composer, songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist
- Farhan Saeed Butt - Lead vocalist
- Aamir (Shazi) - Bass guitarist

Us: How did the original members of Jal get together? And how was the current lineup formed?
Goher: Well, the new lineup is all about new talent. Shazi, the experienced bass guitarist who was previously a member of the Jupiters and then did some projects with some underground bands, used to come to our jams for playing bass before joining Jal, and now he has joined the band. After the ex-vocalist left, I was looking for another vocalist. And that was when Sultan (of the band Call) told me one day that there is a guy Farhan in his college who had sung 'Aadat' and was appreciated by people a lot. So I thought why not try him out. Then I met him and did a gig with him, and after that things just worked out!
Shazi: And if it's a question of being original, I must say that the original Jal is what it is today. After the video of 'Aadat', Goher required a band setup, and he contacted me for the bass guitars. Initially I joined as a sessionist, but soon we both realized that the band and I suit each other and this is how we got together.

Us: How did 'Aadat' come about?
Goher: 'Aadat' was none other than a feeling of the pure heart. I never knew that I could write, but I did write because I really wanted to make a song! And that was my first attempt. When I was in college, my friends made fun of the lyrics and they were like 'oh come on doesn't make any sense' ("ab to aadat cee hai mujh ko"). And now I'm making fun of them!

Us: And then there was the breakup... what happened?
Goher: I never thought that it would go this way. In my view, it was all preplanned to try to kick me out of my own Band and the writer of this story was none other than Atif's brother, who wanted to be the manager and had his own unprofessional way to talk to people who were interested in concerts. I gave him a warning, and then I told Atif that we should change the manager. But he preferred his brother over me, and said leave my band. He thought he will hire someone else and forgot who was the brain behind it. I think he should not have given preference to his brother and continued to work with me in a professional way.

Us: So do you regret the way things went? Or do you think it was all for the better?
Goher: Initially, yes!! I had that regret after the breakup, but when I found Shazi and Farhan. I realize that it's in the interest of the band and of course things aren't in our hands. It's Allah Almighty who makes the changes... maybe He wanted to see me more comfortable with this lineup and I'm really happy with them.
Shazi: Why cry over spilt milk, especially when you aren't even sure it is spilt!

Us: Farhan, after all the hype that 'Aadat' had generated when you weren't a part of the band, was it initially tough for you to fit in?
Farhan: I thought that it would be tough, but the way Khurram Bhai (our manager) managed things and consoled me at every point, it wasn't difficult at all. And above all the support of our fans was the key to where I am today!

Us: Your debut album 'Aadat' came out a few weeks ago. Tell Us about the album.
Goher: Yeah, the album is out and we really worked hard to make it the best. The songs like 'Teri Yaad', 'Ik Din Aaye Ga', 'Panchi', 'Bikhra Hoon Mein', are the big hits and sustain the charm of 'Woh Lamhay', 'Aadat' and 'Dil Haray', because we are getting a lot of feedback from the fans about these undisputed new songs.
Farhan: The album has 11 tracks on it, out of which two are karaoke and many people have the misconception that they are instrumentals! And all our amazing critics who pronounce themselves as experienced writers should know this difference...I saw a review about our album a few days back and that guy didn't know the difference between instrumental and karaoke!
Shazi: We can tell you 'how it was done', but 'how it is' is something only our fans can tell.

Us: The name of the Band isn't mentioned on the album cover. How come?
Farhan: We don't want to do anything against the law. We have all the rights and InshaAllah we'll be coming through the proper channel and don't want to go against the decision of the court.
Goher: It will be on the cover soon.

Us: How did you find working with Meekal Hassan and the guys from EP on the album?
Goher: That was a nice experience. Meekal Hassan is a nice producer and there are only a few people in Pakistan who really know their work. As far as the drumming on the album is concerned, it was done mainly by Salman Albert and by Waqar Khan (who played in 'Bikhra Hoon Mein' and 'Manchala'). And we had a great time working with them. Xulfi, who recorded and produced our album, is a great guy. Although he has a new studio setup, I think he is not less then any professional producer of Pakistan. It was a nice experience working with him too.
Farhan: It was great. Meekal Hassan really enhanced 'Aadat' with his extraordinary skills. And EP, they are all very helpful, but Xulfi the lead guitarist and composer of EP is a gem of a person. It was so much fun to do the album with such a talented, intelligent and passionate guy.
Shazi: Working with different artists is always a healthy experience, and yeah, it was great!

Us: Any personal favourites out of the tracks on the album?
Shazi: Yeah sure. Mine are 'Teri Yaad', 'Bikhra Hoon Mein' and 'Panchi'.
Goher: 'Teri Yaad' and 'Panchi' are my favourites.
Farhan: And 'Teri Yaad' and 'Bikhra Hoon Mein' are my favourite tracks on the album.

Us: How has your experience of performing live been so far?
Goher: Awesome. It's like food for my soul! We have performed around 50 concerts in different cities of Pakistan and we have enjoyed every single bit of it.
Farhan: It's been amazing the way the crowds have supported us throughout. The way they sing with us, they really push us to perform with our full energy and it's been such an amazing experience MashaAllah that we never want to perform on DAT.
Shazi: I have been performing live for 10 years since I started my career, and I always love it.

Us: The influence of music channels on our industry: good or bad?
Shazi: It's good of course.
Goher: Of course good! New channels are coming, which is a good sign, and people do watch TV for any new thing that can only be possible through TV channels.
Farhan: I think music channels are a platform for new talent and it's really been helping a lot in the recent past. But one thing that they should avoid is being biased. They should promote good music and good artists.

Us: Any particular reason for choosing 'Dil Haray' and 'Lamhey' for the first two videos?
Goher: No particular reason. It's just that we had to make them because people were demanding their videos.
Farhan: 'Dil Harey' is one of the powerful tracks of the album and same is the case with 'Lamhey'.
Sahzi: 'Dil Haray' is catchy and 'Lamhey' is touching.

Us: Will there be any more video releases from this album? If yes, then which one is next? And how soon can we expect to see it?
Farhan: Yes, InshaAllah we will be making videos of our powerful tracks for our fans.
Goher: The next video is 'Ik Din Aye Ga' which will be released on Eid and will be aired on various TV channels InshaAllah, and many other videos are in the pipeline too.

Us: What do you guys have planned for the next few months?
Shazi: Concerts, videos and a lot of jams!
Farhan: Rest in Ramadan...then concerts, videos, maybe new album.
Goher: Touring abroad and then will come back and do some gigs in major cities of Pakistan. Plus we are upgrading our website (

Us: Any message for all your fans?
Farhan: Keep listening to good music. We are here because of you and we are nothing without you. If it happens then it must be possible, so make things happen. Good luck!
Shazi: We are here till you are there, so stay cool and ready to rock... we love you!
Goher: Thanks for supporting the truth and the original Jal. Whatever you want to do, just believe in yourself and remember that everyone has some creativity. Just come out with it and express it to people. Love you all!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 26th November, 2004

Monday, November 22, 2004

Desi grunge

album review

The first Corduroy track I ever heard was 'Leeway', and two words immediately sprung to mind: Pearl Jam. Since then, everyone I've talked to about the band, and who hasn't actually heard their complete album yet, has generally had two words to say: Pearl Jam. So is Corduroy nothing but a Pearl Jam imitation? Not quite.

The comparisons with Pearl Jam, though quite inevitable because of the undeniable similarities at places, are not completely fair. True their vocalist sounds a lot like Eddie Vedder and the band is indeed called Corduroy (which happens to be a key track on the PJ opus, Vitalogy, although the band have repeatedly denied any connection), and, yes, at places you do hear the sprit of PJ echoing through the music; but if you manage to get past the oh–they–sound–like–PJ phase, you'll see that the band has a lot more to offer. Yes, there's a reflection of REM and the Stone Temple Pilots in there too!

With their first full–length album Corduroy have tried to bring the post grunge alternative sound to the Pakistani audience. Risky. And they've ventured out into the English music territory. Very risky. With the 'success' other local bands singing in English have had so far - Junoon's noodlings generally getting the fast-forward treatment in most boom boxes, and Coven morphing into Noori – one does wonder if it was a wise choice. But rooted in wisdom or not, The Morning After is what the band has come up with, and so far, the reaction from both the critics and their fans (the band has quite a following due to their live performances) has been pretty good. And if nothing else, the band at least deserves credit for doing everything from the production to the pressing and distribution of the CD themselves.

The album kicks off with 'Your Song' (which, thankfully, has no relation to the Elton John track of the same name) and ends with 'Aas', the only Urdu ditty on the set. In between is an amalgam of musings on the self and the society, ranging from the mellower tracks, like 'Wide Awake', 'You're Everywhere' and 'Prologue', to the more hard hitting 'Goddamned', 'Blue Chip' and 'Dystemper'. And it is this variety that keeps the album from becoming monotonous or even trite. But personally, I think the power ballads, though fine as such, aren't the band's biggest strength, and it's the heavier stuff that brings out the best in Corduroy.

As for the lyrics, well, at places, the lyrics have similar characteristics to those displayed by the early 90s Seattle scene. But, surprisingly, they don't always agree to what was said by the aforementioned:
Nirvana's 'Sliver': "Grandma take me home/I wanna be alone" Corduroy's '[end]': "Why don't you bring me home/I don't like being alone"

Yeah, maybe I just think too much. Sarcasm aside, the lyrics are probably the most powerful asset of the disk. The underlying themes are dark and, quite often, depressive and despondent. Some of the tracks appear to be light and radio friendly as long as you don't pay attention to the lyrical content, which is mostly angst–ridden and deep, and at times downright satirical. Sample this:
"I wish I had the numbness I crave/ Just close the door and let me find a vein," sings Moby, the vocalist and songwriter of Corduroy, in 'Dystemper'. 'Blue Chip' includes the rather murky "My/ Everything you wanted why? / Till the last red sunset dies / On your furrowed conscience/ I just wanna fade". And this is how 'Your Song' starts off: "I got a way to join this fan club/ Just slit your wrists and jump right in". Get the flow?

So whereas I have no complaints with the lyrical department and quite applaud the efforts put into the composition, I feel that the underlying music, however, is something that the band needs to work on. At places, the music (especially the drums - I really don't have any issues with the guitars) doesn't do justice to both the lyrics and the composition and sometimes the song ends up suffering because of this. Take 'Goddamned' as an example. Now mentally put the power of, say, the SOAD crew behind it. Maybe not a very good example, but I'm just trying to make a point here. The thing is not to make it sound heavier, but more dynamic and powerful. Add this element to 'Goddamned' and you'll get a song even an established rock band will be proud of.

The reason the band is well known for their live performances could quite possibly be the live music, which is something they haven't been able to capture on this disk. Other than that, the bands first offering is a fine appetizer for all that's yet to come, as it is quite apparent that Corduroy has the potential to come up with even better stuff than what they've displayed on The Morning After. For now though, let's just wait and see if this album is able to make a dent in our industry and whether Corduroy succeed where so many others have failed.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 21st November 2004