Friday, April 21, 2006

Sing, sing, sing!

cover story

It was artists like Nazia and Zoheb Hassan, and bands like the Vital Signs, Awaz, and Junoon that gave the Pakistani music industry the much-needed boost that time warranted. And eventually, the mainstream success of bands like Noori and Call has given our music scene a whole new outlook, and inspired many acts to follow in their footsteps and try to make their mark in the world of music.

For decades, it was classical, folk and filmi music that ruled our local music landscape. But even though the seeds of pop music had been planted by the mid-'80s, it wasn't until much later that we saw the pop music industry take proper shape. It was quite a while before Pakistan's first music channel was launched, and bands and musicians including the Strings, Jal, Ali Zafar, and Atif Aslam not only conquered the local canvas, but also earned global recognition for Pakistani pop music. Riding on this wave, many new artists have emerged, some offer a good and refreshing sound, while others offer nothing more than auditory torture. In any case, the Pakistani music industry is expanding at a rate faster than ever before. Our airwaves regularly introduce us to new voices and faces, showing us both the good and the not-so-good results of this development. People are trying to take up music for a myriad of reasons, and are receiving varying degrees of success.

It's hard to identify the exact point that led to this surge, but one can roughly accord it to the advent of music channels in Pakistan. These channels not only served to showcase the already established musicians in the country, but also played a pivotal role in encouraging new talent to come forward, as well as alluring artists that had been resident in the underground for years to join the mainstream.
Perhaps there was a different stimulus that inspired each of these newcomers, but a common precursor that has been identified by musicians, producers and directors alike came in the form of the hype that was surrounding some of the other new talent. Take 'Aadat' as an example. 'Aadat' and the resultant success of Jal and Atif Aslam, led many to believe that it's very easy to gain fame in the music industry, and one can hardly blame them. There has perhaps never been a more powerful debut in our industry. The song and its video not only managed to establish the artists and the director of the video in the process, but also served as motivation for others. "For me it started when I saw the video of 'Chaye Chaye' by the Strings," explains Umar Anwar, the director of 'Aadat'. "That was the day when I was like, 'if Jami can do something so good, then why can't I?' For that, I had to start somewhere, so I tried. One should take risks in life in order to gauge his/her potential, and then leave everything to Allah."

Kaavish, A.W.S., Roxen, Visaal, Irtaash, Zoak, Needlework, and so many others! "It is amazing to see many new artists finding their way into our music scene everyday," says Iftikhar Habib, the vocalist of Rung. But have the new artists got anything new to offer? "Some of them, in my view, are highly talented while a considerable number, I feel, are not very original, and sound similar to each other. One also feels that at times there is more emphasis on presentation through videos rather than the presentation of quality musical skills. As an aspiring young musician, I just feel that while being optimistic, we also need to be modest and remain committed to the improvement of our musical skills as musicians. Another unfortunate aspect is an unhealthy sense of negative competition amongst artists from all genres of our country. This leaves a poor tradition for upcoming talent. I just think we all need to work on our musical skills as growing musicians because we are all learning. We also need to be more original and try to bring out our own unique sound."

'Where', you ask? Well, everywhere would be a good approximation. They're on the radio, they're on the tube, most of them have their own websites, and you can even catch them performing live at various venues.
So which medium helps them out the most? The opinion on that varies:
- Some think it's television: "TV, radio, internet and live performance are all important for an upcoming band," says Hassan, the lead vocalist of Xeal, "but the most important of all is video, because TV is the most important medium. Everybody has a television at their homes. In comparison, a very small number of people listen to the radio, so it doesn't have that much importance. Live performance is a good medium too, but it works when you are already on TV and people know who you are. Internet is also important, but the drawback is that the people who don't know about the related websites can't listen to the band, so TV or video is the key medium in my opinion."
- Some lean towards the world wide web: According to Bilawal, "Well, as a new band every aspect of publicity counts, but in my opinion, first of all, the Internet is the basic medium through which a band or artist is recognized because nowadays every new band or solo artist gives their song on Internet to create a hype before the album is released or video is launched, just like Jal. They uploaded their debut song 'Aadat' and later on that song took the country by storm. People from all over the world downloaded that song and liked it very much. So, the same goes for any new band or artist because if people like their song, then it's good for that band. Otherwise they don't bother listening to that song again or buying the band's CD."
- And some think it all comes down to how one uses these mediums: "For us, we consider that all medium are of equal importance," says Nausher Javed from Inteha. "It's just that they should be used intelligently and only when they are required. Like, we launched our debut song 'Daastaan' first on the Internet, then on the FM radio channels, and when we felt that some demand has been created by these two mediums, we launched 'Daastaan''s video on different channels. Live performances are the backbone for these mediums."

Just why has half our population decided to become musicians? Many reason: talent (of which there is no dearth in our country, and which should be - but generally isn't - the main reason), fame (the most desired derivative of releasing a song), money (the root of all evil, sigh!), trend (and here's where we say hello to our good old friend 'wannabeism'), media (the resultant exposure, and the evolution of the video medium), and freedom of expression (which is, now, a lot more than the last decade).
And then, of course, there's the overconfidence: they all think they can do it. Yes, some of these bands really do know what they're doing, but then there are those whose musical outputs are just as pleasant as the sound of nails on a chalkboard. One can only hope that the former manage to outweigh the latter.

They come with varying levels of skills and potential, but are all trying to make their presence felt in the music scene. And whereas some believe that these new bands will be better and more mature, as they will keep all the previous bands and their mistakes in mind and learn from them, others aren't so optimistic. The general opinion comes down to the fact that 'without basic training, some of them can't perform or play or even sing well'. So if you feel like buying a guitar and jumping onto the musicians bandwagon, here's why you shouldn't quit your day job just yet: music isn't everyone's forte, and it's not as easy as it looks! "This ain't a game or something," warns Xulfi, "It's a serious business. You never step into a business until you know its ins and outs. But, the job of the music producer has become quite weird. Me being one, I think I do more than I should be doing for a band. Even helping the band with melodies and ideas about structures more than I should help," observes Xulfi and adds: "They should know how to play in the studio."
And will these bands be successful? That's one question that only time can answer.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 21st April, 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Rising stars


Band: Kaavish
Band members:
- Jaffer Ali - Lead vocals, keyboards, arrangement, composition, lyrics
- Maaz Maudood - Vocals, lyrics
- Raheel Manzar - Drums
Official website:

Us: How did you guys come together as a band?
Maaz: Jaffer and I had been in the same school since the first grade, but we got to know each other in the ninth grade. Both of us have been working together since then. Over a span of eight years, quite a few people came in and out of the band. But now, finally, it's down to the three of us: Jaffer, Raheel and myself.

Us: Tell Us about your song 'Bachpan'.
Jaffer: 'Bachpan', I guess the name says it all. The song is about innocence of childhood and the memories of the good moments we've spent in our lives. We made this song almost three years back and initially the name of the song was 'Khwabon Mai Tu'. I remember we were having our exams those days and the paper went really bad. Both of us were sitting in the car, the traffic signal light was red and there was this kid right in front of us, sitting on a motorcycle, munching on some chips. He was so lost in his own world, so happy and content just by having a bag of chips. That actually led us to the creation of this song.

Us: But then why such a depressive approach to the song's video?
Maaz: We just wanted to do something different, something other than the same old guy-girl story that has been told over and over again in every single video. The credit for the video goes to Umar Anwar, as it was his 'dark' idea. Hehe!

Us: How was the experience of making the video?
Maaz: Two days shoot, 36 hours straight - hectic! But the experience was beyond words! It was great working with Umar Anwar, and since it was our debut video, we were filled with excitement. Or at least I was; Jaffer fell sick the night before the shoot and he really wished the shoot could've been done some other day.

Us: Anything you can tell Us about the video of 'Choti Khushiyan'? How soon will it be aired?
Jaffer: The video has been directed by Umar Amanullah. It's going to be the total opposite of our first video. It's filled with colours, happiness and all the beautiful things in life that can bring a smile to your face. The cast of the video consists of well-known faces from the screen. The video will be released within a week's time, Inshallah.

Us: When will your album be released?
Maaz: We are currently working on our album and Inshallah we plan to launch it in summer 2006. Keep logging in to our official website for updates.

Us: Do you work on the lyrics and the compositions of the songs yourself?
Jaffer: All of us sit together and work on our music together; it's a team effort. The main sequencing and arrangement is done by me.

Us: Is it difficult for new bands to establish themselves in the industry? Is the media helping?
Jaffer: Not anymore, it's not. Since the advent of all the new TV channels and radio stations, it has become really easy for new bands to get heard. The media industry has taken a 180-degree turn, which is a good thing!

Us: Do you guys see Kaavish doing well outside Pakistan, and would you like to release your songs internationally?

Maaz: We really don't know much about what's happening on the other sides of our border, but my cousins who live abroad keep telling me about how all their desi friends listen to our tracks. It's good to hear that our music is being appreciated outside the country as well. We wouldn't mind releasing our songs internationally; it would be an honour to do so.

Us: Jaffer, your mother, Nayyara Noor, is a very famous singer. Did she make you want to go into music? Has her work influenced the music that you're making?
Jaffer: No. She never forced me into doing anything. It was my own passion that drove me towards music. My mom's work has influenced it in a way that it is from there my music actually originates.

Us: Have you guys had any formal music training? How much importance do you think such training holds?
Maaz: No, but Inshallah right after the completion of my MBA, I'll take some formal music training because if you've taken up this field, you should know it inside out.
Jaffer: It's just been a year since I've joined NAPA. It holds a lot of importance because it enables you to converse your ideas musically, globally.

Us: What kind of music do you guys listen to? Any favourite artists/bands?
Jaffer: I listen to all sorts of music.
Maaz: I can listen to anything except trance! Cannot stand trance! These days I'm hooked onto James Blunt - what an artist!

Us: What do you think about the current music scene in Pakistan? And where do you see it a couple of years down the line?
Jaffer: The music scene in Pakistan is good and in the upcoming years I hope to see it in better grounds.

Us: What can we expect from Kaavish in the next few months?
Maaz: To start off with, our second video will be aired soon on music channels around you, so keep watching! We'll be launching four cover tracks on our website pretty soon. We plan to have a couple of performances in the following months. And Inshallah by the summers, our album will hit the market.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 31st March, 2006