Friday, July 14, 2006

The colours of music


In an exclusive interview, Rung vocalist Iftikhar Habib tells Us about the band, their debut album and what they have planned for the coming months.

Current line-up:
- Iftikhar Habib (Ifu) - Vocals
- Sarmad Ghafoor - Lead & Rhythm Guitar
- Zulfiqar-ul-Hassan (Zulfi) - Rhythm Guitar
- Wasim Kamal - Drums

Us: Rung's debut album 'Green' has finally been released. Tell Us about the album.
Iftikhar Habib: Generically, Rung's music is pop rock. The album comprises eleven original tracks plus the karaoke versions of two of our songs. The album features the two hits 'Hum Na' and 'Meri Dunia', and it also includes tracks that are very different from what the audience had heard before the album was released. In terms of song writing, it is a highly versatile album and we take a lot of pride in what we have come up with. We hope people really enjoy it.

Us: The album was originally slated to be out in 2004. Why the delay?
Ifu: Rung had to work with a lot of limitations. The band came into existence as a result of my initiative and then my collaboration with Sarmad Ghafoor. The two of us have always been in two different cities, so the song writing, jam sessions, recording and video making - all came with considerable time intervals in between. We also wanted to pitch in at least three to four videos and then release the album, but unfortunately we took a lot of time to do that.

Us: Any plans for releasing the album internationally?
Ifu: We are already negotiating a contract with record labels in India. Let's see how that turns out.

Us: The band has opted to go with a safe sound on the album instead of trying something different. Why so?
Ifu: The band has opted to write music which is commercially accessible, but at the same time also original. Being a mainstream act is not a negative thing for any band in any part of the world. What is negative is when bands don't sound very original and their music lacks artistic direction. Rung, we feel, has its own characteristic sound, which is more important to us as artists. We do think that we are different in this sense from other bands in the contemporary music scene.

Us: So is the sound what you want it to be? And how would you want it to evolve with the next album?
Ifu: Personally, I am very happy with the way we sound on this album. I don't know how things would be on the next album, because we have two very talented musicians (Wasim and Zulfi) added to our line-up who would bring their own ideas into what we make.

Us: How is the band's current line-up different from the one that played on the album?
Ifu: Like I said, Rung came into existence as a result of the collaboration between Sarmad and myself, which made us just a duo in the beginning. We wrote and recorded the entire album without any other musician being a part of Rung. Of course we had the pleasure of working with various talented artists in the studio while the album was recorded. We later started looking for musicians to complete the band's line-up because we are a totally live act. Hence, we were lucky to find Zulfi and Wasim.

Us: And where did the second 'g' go?
Ifu: It is probably lost in a crossword puzzle - we are still looking for it! (Laughs) Actually, the spellings were changed because the band members jointly agreed that one 'g' looked aesthetically better.

Us: The band's website is still accessible at Why wasn't the URL changed?
Ifu: This is the most unique question I have ever answered for an interview. My management sees to such affairs. I was told that for technical reasons it would be better that we do not change the URL. My only concern is that it should not create any confusion among fans.

Us: But then why not change the URL if you think it might cause confusion?
Ifu: Because if we change the URL, then our website's ranking in the major Search Engines will go down and we didn't want that.

Us: What kind of music do you listen to? Any influences?
Ifu: Personally I have grown up listening to the infamous glam-rock scene from Los Angeles. I was really into Guns'n'Roses, Aerosmith, Extreme, Dream Theatre and a bit of Bon Jovi. As my musical taste evolved I was listening to almost anything and everything that sounded good to me. Sting is an all time favourite. So is George Michael in the latter stages of his career. I have been a huge fan of Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam. I have been into Nelly Furtardo, Matchbox 20, Tori Amos, Incubus, John Mayer, and Coldplay. Lately, I have been listening to Korn. I am also a huge fan of Ustaad Salamat Ali Khan and Mehdi Hasan.

Us: How do you guys come up with your songs? Melody first or lyrics?
Ifu: There is no formula. We wrote some songs that came out as a result of jamming interactively. There were tunes where I had a certain melody in mind for example 'Hum Na' and 'Naye Rung'. Then there were also songs that were written with Sarmad writing the guitar parts first. 'Saath Saath' and 'Tu Mila' are good examples of this sort of output.

Us: Which video will be released next? And when?
Ifu: The next video that will be out is called 'Bin Kahe'. It is going to be directed by Zeeshan Parwez. The video should be on air in July/August 2006.

Us: What kind of training do you go through for your vocals?
Ifu: I follow a routine whereby I start my day early and have a two-hour vocal session with my guru or ustaad. Such sessions mainly focus on the development of my vocal technique, voice-culturing methods within the parameters of eastern classical music and vocal improvisation to develop expression in my singing. I also am a staunch believer of practising the western vocalizing techniques. I have a couple of good books to help me with that plus my vast experience of listening to great British and American singers since I was a kid. Listening to good artists is a great way to learn and improve.

Us: You guys have been using marketing strategies like putting up billboards across Lahore to promote the album. How effective have such marketing strategies been?
Ifu: We have been asked this question in a lot of interviews lately. Such ground level marketing activity is effective anywhere in the world, but it might look a little unusual in Pakistan. You see countless billboards, mega electronic signs and magazine ads in the US, Europe, Australia, India and the UK. All this is done when a new artist is launched, or when an existing artist launches a new album. The only difference is that in more developed markets all such marketing activity is funded by the artist's record label. Here, in Pakistan, our management had to take the initiative and get such activities funded by corporate sponsorships.

Us: How has the response to the Rung StreetTeams [RST] initiative been?
Ifu: The RST idea is actually a fabulous idea. I was personally quite excited to know about it when my management introduced me to the concept. I think that we are actually the first Pakistani band to launch this concept in Pakistan online. Once again it is a rapidly growing idea for all bands and solo artists internationally. It is actually a step further from just having a fan club. In order to get a flavour of this we invite all our fans to visit our official website and log onto

Us: What can we expect from Rung in the coming months?
Ifu: There are two main priorities. Playing live throughout Pakistan as much as possible, and shooting more videos with regular intervals of time. We are also looking to release 'Green' internationally.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 14th July, 2006

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