Friday, August 19, 2005

The magical spell of Faakhir


Us: From Awaz to ‘Mantra’ – how has the journey been?
Faakhir Mehmood: Tense, exciting, nerve wracking, exhausting, yet immensely satisfying.

Us: Tell Us about your latest album.
Faakhir: The album contains 12 tracks. I have experimented a lot in this album; each song carries a different mood. I have done an 8-½ minute musical which is called ‘Mantra’; this was done for the first time in Pakistan. The most interesting part of this album is the way our own eastern scales, such as bilwal thaath, pahari, darbari etc, are fused/blended with east European, Mediterranean and bluesy scales in a very simple and subtle way. The choice of instruments is very rich, classy yet extremely contemporary wind instruments, saxophones and brass section eastern and western string instrument, rhythm section, violin and viola orchestras are all recorded live and are a treat to the ear. Arrangements are least predictable, the production is slick and I feel the melodies are soulful.

Us: What’s your personal favourite from ‘Mantra’?
Faakhir: ‘Jiya Na Jaye’.

Us: Your latest videos have been getting a mixed response from the viewers. Do you focus on any target audience while you’re working on your videos?
Faakhir: My music and videos are not targeted towards a particular audience. Rather, it is meant to cater to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Us: In your opinion, how much importance do the videos hold in moulding a musician’s career?
Faakhir: I believe having good videos is important. It adds a visual element to the song and helps the viewers identify more with the song, thus making it more popular. But at the end of the day it is the song and the melody that determines its success.

Us: Out of the videos that you’ve done so far, which one’s your favourite?
Faakhir: ‘Mahi Ve’.

Us: What’s your opinion about the current Pakistani music scene?
Faakhir: There are a lot more opportunities now…Pakistani music channels have helped a lot. I have always believed Pakistani artists have terrific potential. Some of them are making great music.

Us: Conquering the Indian audience has gained high priority for our musicians, hasn’t it?
Faakhir: Very much so. It’s a bigger market with far more opportunities

Us: What kind of music do you like to listen to? Any favourite artists/bands?
Faakhir: No particular type…I listen to all kinds of music from rap and hip hop to ghazals etc. My favourite musicians are Nusrat Fateh Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Jean Michael Jarre.

Us: Do you give more importance to the lyrics of a song or to its musical composition?
Faakhir: Being a composer myself, I put special effort in the compositions of my songs. The lyrics and musical composition go hand in hand. For a song to be good, the lyrics and composition must complement each other

Us: Now that you have been so successful as a solo artist, would you ever consider reuniting with the members of Awaz for a project if such a chance ever comes up?
Faakhir: No I wouldn’t. Being a solo artist gives me the opportunity to experiment and explore my creative side, which wouldn’t really have been possible in a band as a consensus has to be reached regarding the direction in which the band wants to move.

Us: Any message for the readers of Us and for all your fans out there?
Faakhir: To my fans I want to say that have the courage to follow your dreams. Good things happen to those who work hard.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 19th August 2005

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Club 27

A look into the intriguing deaths of famous music stars at the age of 27

"Hello candy cane children. I broke my finger, three breaks, car wreck, horrible left turn in front of me, no chance of escape, air bag, the air near my fingers, devil in my left hand, doctors say no way, lots of pain, typing with one finger, made it through year of rock n' roll death, got off with just a warning."

So went the post on the White Stripes' website by the band's frontman after he was involved in a car crash that left him with a fracture in his left hand. The accident happened on the 9th of July 2003 - the star's 28th birthday.

While Jack White has been lucky enough to live beyond his 27th year, many other musicians haven't, unwittingly becoming members of a rather exclusive group, for Club 27 is one club that very few would like to join willingly. Some of the most prolific musicians of recent times have died at the age of 27, the 'year of rock n' roll death' as Jack puts it, and Club 27 refers to this very group. To add to the intrigue, most of these deaths have been surrounded by controversy in one form or the other.

Lewis Brian Hopkin-Jones (February 28, 1942 - July 2, 1969)
The original lead guitarist, backing vocalist and one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones played many instruments on various Stones records and also worked with a myriad of other musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and the Beatles. A big influence on the '60s London fashion scene, Jones started off as the band's creative leader but because of his drug abuse ended up getting sacked from the group in June 1969.
Around a month later, he was found dead in his swimming pool, seemingly under the influence of alcohol and sedatives, even though it is believed that he had stopped most of his drug use towards the end of his life. All of the reports collected from the many people there at the time contradicted each other, and while the coroner's report stated 'death by misadventure', his girlfriend Anna Wohlin claimed that he had been murdered by Frank Thorogood, a builder they had hired for renovating their house, who had been staying with them. Thorogood is said to have confessed to the murder on his deathbed but passed away before a confession could be recorded.

James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (November 27, 1942 - September 18, 1970)
American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, Jimi Hendrix is widely considered to be one of the best guitarists in the history of popular music, so much so that the Rolling Stone magazine has named him the number one guitarist of all time.
Hendrix was found dead in the basement apartment of the Samarkland Hotel in London after he reportedly took nine Vesperax sleeping pills. His girlfriend Monika Dannemann claimed that Hendrix had been alive when placed in the back of the ambulance, contradicting police and ambulance reports that state that he was dead when they arrived on the scene, the apartment itself empty and the front door wide open.

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 - October 4, 1970)
Blues-influenced rock, R&B, and soul singer, Janis Joplin is best remembered for her offbeat style, lyrical themes and distinctive voice. Janis fronted the Big Brother And The Holding Company before forming various backing groups. While working as a folk singer around the mid '60s, her drug use began to increase. She was a heavy drinker throughout her career, and occasionally used heroin and other intoxicants, the very thing that would become the reason for her untimely death. She passed away due to an overdose of heroin in a Los Angeles motel room.

Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 - July 3, 1971)
Jim Morrison, the lead singer and lyricist of The Doors, shot to fame with the success of his band's self-titled debut album. Under the pressure of fame, he ended up becoming an alcoholic, and then moved to Paris in March 1971 to concentrate on his writing and to quit drinking, where he died a few months later. Conspiracy theories about his death ensued, ranging from speculations of a possible drug overdose, to the possibly of assassination by American government authorities. Some fans believed (and still do) that Morrison faked his own death in order to escape from the spotlight. The official report, however, listed the cause of death as a 'heart attack'.
After the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison is quoted to have said "I'm number three".

Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 - April 5, 1994)
The lead singer and guitarist of Nirvana, and the force behind the popularity of grunge music, Kurt Cobain struggled with the massive success of his band after the release of 'Nevermind' and felt persecuted by the media. Cobain battled with depression and pain due to a chronic stomach condition for most of his life and self-medicated by the use of heroin, ultimately becoming addicted to the drug.
His body was found on the 8th of April, 1994, three days after he is believed to have died, in a room above the garage of his Seattle home by Veca Electric employee Gary Smith who was there to install security lighting. Though Cobain is legally documented to have committed suicide with a shotgun bought for him by his best friend Dylan Carlson, the unclear circumstances surrounding his death have inspired a multitude of alternative theories. According to toxicology experts, the amount of heroin injected into his body was over three times the lethal dosage even for an addict and would have been more than enough to kill him. Other factors, like the angle of the wound, the absence of fingerprints on the gun, and the doubt over the authenticity of the last four lines on what is considered to be a suicide note, have led some to believe that his wife Courtney Love had something to do with his death.
Kurt Cobain's mother, Wendy Cobain O' Connor, while referring to her son's death at the age of 27, said the following words to a news reporter: "Now he's gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club."

To this date, the reasons behind these deaths still remain uncertain. And the number 27 is perhaps nothing more than a mere coincidence. But even in the short time they were given, each of these musicians has left a lasting impact on the world of music - and that is one thing that no one can ever have any doubts about.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 14th August, 2005

Friday, August 12, 2005


Celebrating 58 years of Pakistan

It's Pakistan's 58th Independence Day ... and here's what our musicians have to say about it:

Ahmed Ali Butt (Entity Paradigm)
It's a shame we couldn't make it for the shows but Inshallah one day we will come and play for our fans, and then all hell will break loose! Pak zindabad!

Ali Zafar
Our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Long live Pakistan! May this year be the best for all the Pakistanis around the world and the greatest year for Pakistan ever. Love to all.

Atif Aslam
For me, 14th August has a lot of memories associated with it. Badges aur small flags milnay ki sab ko khushi houti hay but mujhay zyada khushi houti thi when my brothers also gave me something, like small flags to decorate our house with. In college life, I represented my college PAF Lahore in Sargodha and we took the first prize in the national song competition. Us brothers also used to go out on the streets of Lahore to celebrate the evening of 14th August with the lively Lahorites. I would like to convey a very important message in this regard to youngsters: do celebrate your independence day but don’t do motorbike wheelies or anything that is risky. Your loved ones are waiting for you at home, so please don’t do anything which thrills for a while but kills in the long run. I’m a humanist first and then a nationalist. Respect your motherland, as it is sacred to you. Alhumdolillah we are better than many nations of the world. We must keep in mind that we should not misuse our motherland if somebody is not watching us. If we misuse it we are disrespecting ourselves, as this land is our identity.

Fahad Khan (Call)
Happy Independence Day! Make your country proud. This is our homeland. We are its name, so lets all celebrate our independence with peace and harmony. Pakistan zindabad!!!

Farhan Saeed Butt (Jal)
On our recent US tour, when we had to stay there for over a month, I realized that no matter how good or bad we are, we are Pakistani and we are representing our nation when we are out of Pakistan. We can make a bad image of our country and a good one too. We can never be anyone but Pakistani. Realize that and make this country the best. I love Pakistan! And I’m proud to be a Pakistani.

Goher Mumtaz (Jal)
I wanna convey a message that everyone has to think that what have we done for our country? This country can give a lot of respect and identity to us if we do something believe in yourself and come out with your talent which everyone must have, and serve your country with all your potential. May Allah bless Pakistan. Peace.

Iftikhar Habib (Rungg)
As I grew up listening to some of my favourite rock bands from the USA, I sometimes saw superstars like Axl Rose (Guns 'n Roses) standing on stage, performing in front of 100,000 people and having the American flag wrapped around them. As a musician I want to see our stars doing that (wrapping the Pakistani flag around them) not just in Pakistan, but also when they perform abroad. This would be done in the true spirit of national pride. 14th August is a day of great patriotism, but the patriotism should follow through to every single day after that as well.

Junaid Khan (Call)
14th August has always been a day of inspiration for me. The efforts and the blood we have given to become a nation to represent a Muslim power somehow seem to have died out. My message is to think for Pakistan first then anything else. Recognize your nishaan your pehchaan, it’s Pakistan.

Sarmad Ghafoor (Rungg)
I never celebrate 14th August because I think we haven't achieved what Pakistan was made for...we have a long way to go before I start celebrating it.

Shazi (Jal)
I am proud to be a Pakistani and am a great admirer of Quaid-e-Azam. I have full faith in this country. We, as Pakistan, should always be together as one. Always. Love you all.

Sultan Raja (Call)
I never knew the meaning of azadi till I got into college. During my school days I was someone who remained to himself and was scared too. As soon as I got into college, I felt freedom and realized that freedom is a blessing. Our Quaid-e-Azam got us this country and we have taken it for granted. It’s a moment of pity. We, as a whole nation, must make this country, and we haven’t done much for Pakistan.

Wasim Kamal (Rungg)
14th August is a very normal day for me. I get excited because it is a holiday. I don't think Pakistan's current situation as a nation is cause for celebration.

Xulfi (EP, Call)
Jau chahoon agar mein banoon roshnee
Jau chahoon tau kismat likh daaloon nayee
That’s what we should believe in, and make that belief drive us to attain even bigger things in future.

Zulfiqar-ul-Hassan (Rungg)
When I was younger, my friends and I used to buy flags and paste the little paper 'jhandis' all over our houses. I miss that, as now I am too busy and don't get the time to celebrate the day or have any affiliation with it. The only thing I get excited about is the 14th August march, which symbolises the great unity and power of the nation.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 12th August, 2005

Managing success


Khurram Jabbar Khan, the man behind the artist management company Jilawatan Productions, is better known to the masses as the manager of Entity Paradigm, CALL, Jal, and Roxen. He started off as the original drummer of CALL, but has since given up the drums to devote all his energies to management and has established a powerful empire on the music front. We caught up with Khurram Jabbar Khan to ask him about the music industry and artist management, and to find out more about the person behind the persona.

Us: What's it like managing some of the most popular bands of the country?
Khurram Jabbar Khan: I have always been a manager, and by the grace of Allah Almighty and with the prayers of my family, I have done a pretty decent job at it. And even though these bands are among the most popular ones now, there hasn't been much difference - the bands that I manage and the environment we have created is quite humble and they have not made me feel like they are big or have any kind of attitude problem at any time. We are all a big happy family.
With the passage of time, from a one-man management show, I have developed a proper network of my company, Jilawatan Productions, throughout the globe that now helps me to do my job more effectively. Personally, I believe that there is no limit to what a man can do if he does not care who will get the credit...this is what my father always tells me and this is the reason I have been able to make an impression.

Us: How and when did you step into artist management?
KJK: Actually, I had never thought I would ever end up managing bands. It was just that Xulfi, my baby brother, and the rest of the EP gang asked me to help them out during their initial times after the Battle of the Bands, when they decided to go on to make an album. I, at that time, had come back from the US and was quite eager to start CALL as a new band. The thought of managing bands and then actually doing it really got me into it, and then there was no stopping. Now, it's like I can't live without it. It's addictive.

Us: Out of the four bands that you are managing right now, which one do you think is the most promising?
KJK: All of them. And sometimes I feel scared that I am creating competition within. I am, on the other hand, happy to have the cream of the bands with me.

Us: Would you like to add more bands to the Jilawatan fold?
KJK: Definitely, but with talent. And my adding a band means they have to go through a rigorous path that I will design for them and it won't be that being with Jilawatan will give them instant success. It's not true, because I won't sign anyone who is going for a short time thing. It has to be a long time penetrating approach.

Us: Why did you choose to be a part of the bands' online forums actively?
KJK: Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't feel like responding. I love all the fans on the forums, but there are other 'anasar' who are just there to irritate and to make me react. Sometimes they succeed and I feel like I should not actively be a part of the forums. I am only there to keep the fans updated with the current happenings.

Us: There has been some controversy over some of your posts on the forums. Any comments on that issue?
KJK: I just want to laugh at the whole thing. Some people, not the fans of course, want to gain importance on the forums by placing misleading facts in front of the naive fans to gain advantage or to degrade me or the band members, which after sometimes gets unbearable and so I decided to react. Actually, in our forums we have given liberty to people to say whatever they want - whether it's in favour of the band or not - whereas none of the other forums do, and even the irritants who are moderators do not allow anyone to speak openly or against any issue in their respective forums. And some people started insulting and degrading band members. When this had gone beyond tolerance, I started banning all such culprits and decided to stick to certain levels of acceptance.

Us: And what was the whole Mizraab incident about?
KJK: Mizraab is one of those bands that have tried to make a difference in the rock scene/music industry of Pakistan. They are and will remain one of my favourite bands in Pakistan. Faraz Anwar will remain the best guitarist of Pakistan and I adore his playing. Jamie, who was in Mizraab, is like my younger brother. He was with my brother Danish J. Khan in NCA, and because of him I have promoted Mizraab whenever and wherever possible. Unfortunately, instead of promoting Mizraab or Faraz Anwar, some of the Mizraab fans always try to get into comparisons and start insulting other bands, which indirectly hurts the band (Mizraab), not anyone else.
The same incident happened on the forums when some guy degraded EP and said Mirzaab stole the Islamabad show, which certainly didn't happen. They are a good live act, but not better than EP, as the crowd is always with the band that has mass appeal. To that comment, I replied that Mizraab didn't steal the show but they stole our bass guitar gig bag instead. Actually, Faraz Jr. took the bag by mistake and when he realised this, he gave it to someone at the gate, who he thought was an organiser, and the bag then ended up lost. My expression was only a sarcastic reply to the guy who had posted the comment on the forum. After this incident, I decided that I would never reply to such elements on the forums who want to create controversies by insulting others. My message to them is this: do not harm your band - it has the potential to be at the top, but fans like you are only doing the opposite.

Us: What do you think is the best and the worst thing about our music industry?
KJK: The best thing is that the industry is blooming and there are lots of opportunities for real talent, and the worst is that every one thinks they can do music and they want to be famous within days.

Us: Any advice for bands that are trying to make it onto the music scene?
KJK: Don't be scared of failure. Just keep on trying with full faith. You will be able to do it. Remember that going through the shaft gets the grains. This industry will soon be quite competitive, so mastering your instrument will become real important. Best of luck, and always obey and respect your elders and stay away from drugs. This is not only a part of music learning, but should also be a cornerstone of life - not following this will take you guys straight to hell, both in this world and the hereafter.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 12th August, 2005