Friday, May 20, 2011

Chaar Payee: Right on beat

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The first worldwide university freestyle drumming competition for students, Tum Tum Pa came to Pakistan last month, inviting students from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to express their creativity. The competition saw students create their own percussion instruments out of everyday materials found around the classroom – like pens, pencils, rulers, scissors and erasers – and then use these instruments to perform a cover and an original composition before being rated by the jury for their creativity, rhythm and style. In the end, the group Chaar Payee succeeded in collecting the most points, based on their "creative tools and excellent collective rhythm", and have won the chance to compete at the finals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June, representing Pakistan against the finalists from more than 45 countries. We got a chance to ask the group about their experience of participating in this contest and what they anticipate for the finals. Here’s what they had to say:

Us: Please tell Us a bit about each of the group members.
Ahmer "Kichoo" Mubashar: I am currently finishing up my BBA at the Lahore School of Economics. I have always been interested in music and I’m a drummer/percussionist by hobby. Other than this, gaming is another passion that I actively pursue.
Uzman Qureshi (UQ): I am currently studying architecture from University of the Punjab. I have been a good student all along; however, extracurricular activities have always appealed to me more.
Raja Nabeel Banwa (RnB): I have studied from Aitchison College and currently I’m a student of Lahore School of Economics. I am passionate about music and I’ve always been interested in exploring new musical instruments.
Talha Jamil (TJ): I am currently preparing for ACCA from the Professional’s Academy of Commerce (PAC). I have had an avid interest in music since childhood and I am a singer and guitarist by hobby. Music has always been an integral part of my activities and I try to improve my skills every now and then.

Us: How did the four of you come together as a group? And what’s the significance of the name Chaar Payee?
Basically, I have known Nabeel for three years during our interaction through the LSE Music Society. Me, Usman and Talha are already band-mates, spearheading a band called Do Hazaar (yes, we do come up with eccentric names). So, when I was approached by the organisers to form a team, I had the line-up in my mind from the start. As far as the name is concerned, it’s basically Punjabi for ‘four brothers’, but the Punjabi/Urdu dialect takes the meaning to two different spectrums. No one’s complaining, though.

Us: How did you hear about Tum Tum Pa? What made you want to enter the competition?
Well, I was contacted at first by Riyan Durrani, from Red Bull, which is one of the organisers, in collaboration with Ufone’s Uth Records and an FM station. He knew that I was a drummer by hobby and subsequently presumed that I would be interested in an event of this format. To be honest, the chance to go to Rio Di Janeiro and represent Pakistan on a global platform, that too in a competition pertaining to music, was what lured us all in. Hands down.

Us: How did you come up with the idea of your instrument? Why did you call it Arif Gondal?
Raja Nabeel:
Well, to compete in a competition like Tum Tum Pa, we were certain we would need a lot of creativity. So we came up with this instrument we’d crafted ourselves from a box of paper ream, some cans, pencils and pens, which turned out to be pretty amazing.
Arif Gondal’s story is particularly interesting – we wanted to give the concoction a name. This idea eventually transformed into a literal concept as the name chosen for the instrument was Arif Gondal. This not only gave Arif Gondal an identity but also effectively made it the fifth member of our group, which ironically is called Char Payee. So that’s pretty much the story of our fifth paya, Chaudhry Arif Gondal.

Us: How did you come up with your composition?
Uzman Qureshi:
The original composition is what goes around in your mind all the time. We didn’t try to do something extraordinary; we just defined the basic structure of the composition (a theme or storyline), went with the flow and then every member of the team contributed in the way he could with his self made instrument. I daresay we managed that quite well.

Us: How was the experience of participating in such a unique contest?
Talha Jamil:
It was indeed different and unique and one thing that it certainly highlighted was the amount of talent that the youth of Pakistan possesses. There were some great performances and lively bits of creativity, hence it was a fantastic experience to be crowned winners in such a "different" contest.

Us: In your opinion, what importance do such events/contests hold?
Talha Jamil:
As I mentioned earlier, the one really good thing about this event was that it brought out talent from the youth in leaps and bounds. There were some really cool ideas that people were trying to pull off and overall I think events like these should be held on a more regular basis. I myself have been a winner of the LUMS Olympiad, so I totally vouch for the increasing frequency of music-related events where students should be able to showcase their talents on a substantial platform.

Us: What did it feel like to first be the initial winners from Lahore, and then the national winners?
Raja Nabeel:
A proud sense of achievement, that’s all I can say. People may think that since this was the first time that such an event was being held, maybe we did not encounter the right kind or amount of competition. However, I assure you that our efforts in this competition were 100 percent right from the starting line, and in the end they took us over the line. To be able to have a chance to represent your country in anything is always fascinating and me and the boys look forward to giving our best when we go to Rio, InshaAllah.

Us: How tough was the competition?
Talha Jamil:
Oh Boy, this is a toughie. Well, not really. I can safely say that all the other six performances that were presented on the day of the National Finals were simply superb. Each of them had their own eclectic mix of sounds to share and it was really intense. The favourite team from Islamabad, Jismani Remand was really on top of their game with the plethora of instruments that they brought and the amount of support they received from the home crowd. Overall, it was a real gritty battle from which, thanks to Allah Almighty, we emerged victorious from.

Us: What was the most interesting/memorable part/incident of the competition?
Well, if we talk about interesting moments, then personally I think it was the time when we won the LSE Auditions (the very first round of the competition). That actually defined the scope of this competition and actually made us realise that we could be heading for something much bigger. Then came the heavy practice and creative sessions and it finally paid off.
The most memorable moment, however, (this may sound really clichéd) was when Farhad Humayun announced our name crowning us the national winners who would go to Rio.

Us: How will you guys prepare for the World Finals in Rio de Janeiro?
Uzman Qureshi:
Well, in Rio we’ll certainly be having a tougher time. The key, however, is not to think or concentrate on what the others are doing, avoid getting butterflies and just doing your thing with utmost zeal and flair. It’s not really balderdash to presume that we may just be good enough to win this title. We’re experimenting with bhangra beats that will hopefully make the Samba Boys and Girls dance to our tunes.

Us: Have you seen the performances of any other international contestants?
Oh, plenty. In fact we have been visiting YouTube more often than Facebook, ever since we came back from Islamabad. There are certainly a few performances that are quite spectacular, but we’d like to think of them all as par with us. As Usman mentioned, it would be really futile to form a negative image beforehand. We just have to take all of the other competitors in their stride and give our best. This is going to be huge!!!

Us: What are you most looking forward to on your trip to Rio?
Umm… Tum Tum Pa (of course), Ipanema Beach, Christ the Redeemer, Ipanema Beach, the Favela, the Monumento aos Pracinhas, Ipanema Beach, the Estádio do Maracanã (yes, I’m a football fan, thank you). Hang on, did I mention Ipanema Beach?

Us: What are your musical influences? What kind of music do each of you listen to?
Uzman Qureshi:
A. R. Rahman. Through and through.
Raja Nabeel: Although I listen to all kinds of music, basically anything that sounds good to my ears, I am a huge fan of progressive rock/metal music – bands like Dream Theater, Rush, Yes, Symphony X, King Crimson, etcetera – and because I’m a musician myself, I like to play the same type of music too.
Talha Jamil: Dream Theater, Guns N’ Roses, Porcupine Tree, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I mainly listen to progressive rock, jazz and sufi music.
Kichoo: My taste in music is quite varied. I’m mostly tuned in to music channels for my regular dosage of what’s in and what’s happening. No specific preferences. Acoustic percussions are always a delight to listen to, however.

Us: Do you plan to pursue music as a career?
Raja Nabeel:
Well I already have a band. It’s called Odyssey; we play progressive metal music. Although it started off as a hobby, it has progressed into a passion and to date we have released one studio album and the second album will be out in a month or so. Pursuing music as a career? I don’t think I’d be allowed to take it professionally but yeah I don’t think I can ever stop doing what I’m doing right now. So career or not, I’m sure I will be doing music for the rest of my life.
Uzman Qureshi: Yes, definitely. As we all are part time musicians, I don’t see any reason why we should stop pursuing this beloved activity of ours.

Us: Any message for the readers?
Raja Nabeel:
Don’t ever hesitate to let out your creativity.
Kichoo: Please support us and pray for us that we go and make our country proud in Brazil. And I hope to see all of you battling it out for top spot, the next time Tum Tum Pa comes to Pakistan. Cheers!!!

We wish Chaar Payee all the best for the World Finals. Good luck, guys!

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 20th May, 2011

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