Tuesday, March 06, 2012

“So far we had been talking about reaching out for the stars; this time we want to go beyond the stars!” – Ali Noor


Noori discuss their comeback song, working on new material, and their plans to release the “very first live-concert CD to come out of Pakistan”

They won our hearts with ‘Manwa Re’, released two successful albums, and then parted ways with two of their members before taking an extended hiatus. Last year saw Ali Noor, Ali Hamza, Muhammad Ali Jafri, and Gumby reunite to continue their musical journey, and now Noori is back with a new single to celebrate their return.

A new tune

A positively-charged anthem, ‘Taaron Se Agay’ is a three and a half minute burst of high energy, full of hope and inspiration. “Lyrically, the title of the song somehow set the perfect stage for what is to come in the future,” says Ali Noor. “So far we had been talking about reaching out for the stars; this time we want to go beyond the stars!”

The track isn’t, however, an entirely new effort, and was actually conceived over a decade ago. “The song was originally composed by Ali Noor almost 12 years ago,” explains Ali Hamza. “It was lying in the collection of over 50 demos the band has piled up over the years. Post reunion, when the demo closet was opened, we decided we should go back to the roots; that is, put out something that reminds of where we started out from.”

“But we couldn’t also discount our evolution as musicians over the last eight years,” adds Ali Noor. “When I made Gumby hear the demo [again], he wanted to totally revamp the entire song.” Gumby thought the sound needed an upgrade. “The demo sounded quite monotonous,” says the drummer. “It was pretty good for its time, but we are in a very different musical era now. I wanted to break down the verses and pre-chorus into distinct rhythmic sections. We experimented, and after a number of jams we locked upon some very interesting parts. Even in the chorus, the desi beat was always there, but we added a lot more punch so it sounds contemporary.”

The musicians were understandably enthusiastic about the release of their comeback single. “When the song aired for the first time, while Noor and Gumby were at a radio station publicly sharing their excitement on air, I was desperately tweeting away almost every 10 odd minutes asking people to tune in, talking about the interview,” recalls Hamza. “Noor was putting out some really emotional tweets during the show. Right after the show, Gumby called me to find out about the responses we were getting online. The point is, our excitement was almost the same as (if not more than) what it was when, say, ‘Gana No.1’ was aired for the first time.” And Noori’s loyal fan following shared their fervour. “Our fans, who have been very supportive and patient with us were equally excited, and their feedback was awesome! So that further added to our ecstasy.”

A happy reunion

The group say they are now getting excited about their future work, and that this time the group dynamic is different. “Previously, I had been running the show single-handedly,” says Noor. “This time we are all participating equally. Everyone is putting in the same effort. That was the reason why I wanted to start a band. I could have easily gone the solo route, but to work as a team was always a greater aspiration for me. Finally, that dream is coming true”.

The band, explains Hamza, has learned from their past experiences and are now working towards building a lasting working relationship. “We are looking at the bigger picture now and we are developing a common vision which we can share and sustain for a long time to come. That’s the lesson we learnt from the past and from around us. It’s not easy to sustain a band/team for a long time unless there is a genuine sharing of vision and pooling of skills and resources. This common ground cannot be reached at overnight. It takes a lot of time, open communication, and brain-storming; being patient with brewing tensions; and having faith in each other. We are focused on nurturing a team on these principles. And thankfully, this time we all share this vision of team building.”

Gumby will have a lot on his hands with both Noori and Uth Records, but he assures us that it shouldn’t be an issue. “By nature I am very organized,” he says, “and streamlining the workflow of both projects has been quite a task. However, when working with a solid team, it makes it possible for me to execute both quite smoothly.” The band has also pointed out that Muhammad Ali Jafri is not available as part of Noori right now as he is dealing with very important domestic issues, and they cannot say anything about his return at the moment.

New material

Noori’s upcoming music will come out through their own record label, BIY Records, which will, for now, focus on releasing only their content. The band promises they have a lot in store for us, including the possibility of a new album, which won’t necessarily be a third chapter in the trilogy that started with Suno Ke Main Hun Jawan (2003) and Peeli Patti Aur Raja Jani Ki Gol Dunya (2005). “The trilogy of albums is an idea that was mine and mine alone,” says Noor. “As I said earlier, this is a fresh start for us. We are open to a number of ideas now; we haven’t set anything in stone this time. New opportunities come up every other day and we are allowing for a lot of flexibility this time. We are regularly recording content now, and streamlining our production process.” In fact, the group has already produced an album worth of material. “We have already completed a good 10 songs. We were planning to put them out as an album, but now we are totally reconsidering that idea. These songs are quite diverse and actually define a whole spread of sounds which Noori will offer in time to come. Secondly, each song is standing out as a single in its own right. Sometimes we wonder if we put all of this out in one compilation, we might lose out on the charm each song has to offer. So we have decided to experiment a little before we go ahead with an album plan (if any).”


According to Ali Noor, the first such experiment is planned around the release of ‘Taaron Se Agay’ itself. “We are self-producing an entire concert on the 25th of February. We are recording this concert on a full-fledged professional scale and will then release the very first live-concert CD to come out of Pakistan. This will be the first of a number of Noori/BIY releases for the coming year.”

Joining the band’s live setup will be Faraz Anwar (Mizraab) on guitars and Zeeshan Parwez (Sajid & Zeeshan, Coke Studio) on synths/loops and visuals. “Live performances have been our key selling point,” says Gumby, “and now we are really taking them to the next level. We have got two of the most respected musicians on board for our live set up. We are just about to start rehearsing and are super excited about future gigs. In coming times, Noori plans on giving full fledged audio visual performances – something that we get to see in international DVDs.”

Noori also performed in India recently. “The performance was a private event arranged by the owners of DLF, one of the biggest real estate enterprises in India,” recalls Gumby. “These guys are probably one of the richest people in the world, but equally down to earth. We had a great time, enjoyed amazing hospitality, met some very, very interesting people, made new friends and some very good contacts for future work as well. As far as the performance is concerned, each one of us rocked at the event. We performed separately as well as together, and not for a moment could we sense our audience getting bored or distracted from our performances.”

The musicians say they take the responsibility of representing Pakistan seriously, and would “like to fulfil it with sincerity”. Hamza explains, “Pakistanis are producing the best fusion music that South Asia has to offer. Coke Studio is a global rave, and has given Pakistan a unique sound to share with the world. The invites to this event also were titled as ‘performance of Coke Studio artists from Pakistan’. No doubt Pakistani music is ruling the South Asian music scene, and it does make us feel very, very special – especially in contrast to all the crap our politicians are showcasing to the world!”

“The performance in India and the response we had has motivated us to work on a brand new fusion based project – to create a very specialised live performance which we can take around the world,” reveals Ali Noor. “Some major promoters in India have already shown interest in such a tour and we’re immediately getting on the drawing board to start creating this production.” With so many plans for the coming months, the future looks promising for Noori, and we look forward to what the band has in store for us.

- Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 6th March, 2012

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