Sunday, October 28, 2012

“The Pakistani audience itself doesn't know what it really wants.” - //orangenoise


Karachi based indie band //orangenoise talk to Instep about their debut album, the experience of being part of Uth Records, playing live and much more…

Instep: How and when was //orangenoise formed?
//orangenoise: Daniel [Arthur Panjwaneey] and Talha [Asim Wynne] had been jamming for a while as another band, and when we met up with Danial [Hyatt] and Faizan [Riedinger] the four of us had a few songs between us that were a little punk/shoegazey. I guess everything up till now is an exploration of that direction we found then.

Instep: How many members are there in the group? And what is each person's role in the band?
//orangenoise: Essentially there's the four of us. Daniel and Talha are mostly involved with the song writing/concepts and vocals. We try not to limit ourselves to an instrument but Talha is usually found with the guitars around his neck, Daniel doing the bass work, Danial handling drums, and Faizan playing synths and/or guitars.

Instep: Why is the band called "//orangenoise"?
//orangenoise: We had signed up for this gig for CityFM89. It was the World Music Day concert in 2010. We had no band name at the time and had to give in a name for the flyers and stuff. One fine day, after a lot of obsessing over a band name, Talha spat out "orangenoise" and that was it. The "//" keeps it all together.

Instep: How would you describe the music you guys make? And in what genre would you classify your sound?
//orangenoise: It's an explosion of senses and an over saturation of feelings, quite like something boiling out of a pot. I don't feel it's our job to look at what genre this music that we're making falls into. It's our job to just make the music; people will classify it as a particular sound anyway. Though if you really wish to give it a name for the sake of it, let's just call it chappalgazing for now; even we have no idea what it is!

Instep: What does //orangenoise bring to the music industry that isn't out there already?
//orangenoise: Awesome live shows! We love playing live, and seriously feel that if you want to really see what we're all about, come to our live shows.

Instep: Do you think the fact that you're making experimental music and doing songs in English limits your appeal for the Pakistani audience?
//orangenoise: The Pakistani audience itself doesn't know what it really wants; they will go in the general direction of things and pick up stuff along the way. Liking or disliking something gives it limitations in any case. But a listener who's eager to explore different sounds coming from Pakistan would be stumbling on to something new. And in a place where everything gets redundant after a certain point, a change is very welcoming.

Instep: Have you guys ever had the impulse to make something more mainstream instead of experimenting with psychedelia and shoegaze?
//orangenoise: We just want to be honest with our expression. We don't want events and people influencing the decisions we make musically. We have to trust our music to find a place on the listeners' iPods or computers or whatever. It's not like we're avoiding the mainstream route; what we end up doing just doesn't fall on the same plane. Most of our songs have a pop song lying somewhere in its initial layers but that's just where the fun beings for us - to mask it and layer it up and provide the listener with an experience of finding hooks and passages that they can hum away later on or just be reminded of.

Instep: Are there any bands that you feel you are particularly influenced by?
//orangenoise: Influences from the past and present, any band that's ever been messing with the limits of what we know as music. It's safe to say that all four of us have certain individual influences that once put together sort of end up creating what we have as a sound here collectively. Some of those influences are Pink Floyd, Slowdive, Porcupine Tree, Frank Zappa, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Tortoise, and Radiohead to name a few. A lot of electronic music, modern jazz, and avant-garde stuff as well.

Instep: How important was Uth Records in your musical journey?
//orangenoise: It was like a test in a way. A lot of questions hovered around. Can we adapt to a studio environment that wasn't our own home? Will we have enough time? Are we disciplined enough technically for studio work? I guess all these questions and more were answered in that episode.

Instep: How was the experience of being a part of Uth Records?
//orangenoise: It was three days of mad fun. We felt like working musicians and it would be really awesome to have that sort of stuff going for you if you're a band that's always up to something. The whole studio rigged up and ready to go. Plus Zeeshan [Parwez] and Gumby are brilliant to work with!

Instep: Please tell us about your debut album, A Journey to the Heart of Matter.
//orangenoise: This album is a collection of songs we've been playing since after our first release, veracious, back in January of 2011. We built up a repertoire of 10 to 12 tracks which we'd shuffle around in live shows. We've been trying to record these tracks for the past year, working with various techniques and methods, trying to get our live sound down on the album. Finally in, like, August of this year, we figured out a setup that worked for us and managed to contain that live and loud feel we were going for. This album is completely home made and self-produced - the mixing, recording, and mastering…everything.

Instep: You've released the album as a “name your price” download. Why did you choose to do so?
//orangenoise: Bandcamp is a fantastic website. It gives the artist the option of putting the album up for free, as a set price, or as 'name your price'. We opted for 'name your price' because, why not? We spent so much selfless time into making this record; it would be nice to get something out of it at the end of the day too.

Instep: How successful has the “name your price” strategy been monetarily?
//orangenoise: Out of the almost 500 downloads since its release, 21 downloads have been paid for, that too very generously.

Instep: You guys were heading to Kabul, Afghanistan for a show. Please tell us about that.
//orangenoise: Yes, we were invited for a three day festival there. Unfortunately our visas took too long to process and we ended up missing the shows.

Instep: You are also part of an episode of Lussun TV. What can you tell us about it?
//orangenoise: Lussun TV is an initiative from the musicians/artists of this new wave of crazies coming out from Karachi. Headed by Nadir Shehzad (Sikandar Ka Mandar), it takes under its wings bands and musicians who are doing something other than the ordinary. We have one episode out on its first season and we're featured in the upcoming second season as well. I think we might just be the first episode this season. The Lussun TV team is an entirely DIY unit, and by DIY we literally fall on the very definition of the term. Talha was director of photography for this season; Faizan worked on some of the art direction and visuals; Daniel and Danial were producing the audio and in charge of sound engineering for the sessions. At the end of the day we were all sweepers as we had to clean the premises up each day too.

Instep: What can we expect from orangenoise in the coming months?
//orangenoise: We've got the Lussun TV episode this season, just waiting for YouTube to come back, which we hope it does. We are also working on a video for a track from the new album, so that should be out sometime in the following months as well. Then once again, there's live shows! Come to them!

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 28th October, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Noori goes to America


It may have taken them a decade to realize their dream of touring the US, but their patience has finally been rewarded. As part of a unique “cultural diplomacy” initiative called Center Stage, Noori not only got an opportunity to visit America and perform in front of a diverse audience, but also got a chance to create bridges and build ties between the two countries, while showcasing the diversity of Pakistani music with the help of musicians like Zeeshan Parwez and Faraz Anwar. In a chat with Instep, the band shares their excitement about the tour and the experiences they gained from it…

Instep: Please tell us about Center Stage.
Center Stage is a cultural exchange program developed by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State in partnership with the New England Foundation for the Arts. It's the first project of its kind, focused on the idea of “cultural diplomacy”. For the first time, instead of sending artists from the US to other parts of the world, the US government has taken the initiative to call in artists from abroad for this people-to-people exchange program.
For the first year, the US has tapped into the talents of Pakistan, Indonesia, and Haiti, with Pakistan as the front runner for the pilot project. Out of the ten ensembles being called in for month long tours, across a time frame of one year, four come from Pakistan! Ever since the preliminary project meetings (2010-11), the project sponsors and managers openly confessed how excited they were to interact with Pakistani artists. They could not but make this untapped talent the frontrunner for this tour; hence the tour openers were two Pakistani ensembles (Noori and Arieb Azhar).

Instep: How did Noori get the chance to be a part of the initiative?
Since this is a US grant, all artists had to apply for participation. A lot of Pakistanis working in the US Embassy in Islamabad were very keen that Noori applies for this project; they had already nominated us for participation and were in touch with us to help with the application process. We applied sometime in the fall of 2010. In the beginning of 2011, the Center Stage team came down to Pakistan to have meetings with shortlisted artists to finalize their selection. It took another six months for them to lock Arieb Azhar, Noori, Saad Haroon, and Zeb and Haniya as the final four.

Instep: How was the experience of performing in the US for the first time?
We have been regularly invited to perform in the US, but couldn't tour because of either commitments inside Pakistan, or circumstances, or simply luck. We waited ten years to tour the US. That fact was an excitement builder itself!
We performed mostly on the Eastern side of US - at best mid-west, and Texas. They were not the typical Noori performances, nor was it a typical tour for a Pakistani artist in the US. We were not just performing in front of the desi diaspora, although we did just that at least twice at the last leg of the tour. Mostly our audiences were very diverse; culturally speaking, a true American experience. Also, we were performing with an elaborate repertoire. We had Zeeshan Parwez who was adding the modern elements of electronica; Rakae Jamil who added the ethnic sounds with the sitar; and Faraz Anwar who added his crazy Yngwie Malmsteen-esque guitar solos! We were working with the cream musicians in their respective fields, and it was a unique mix of diverse sounds for the audience as well as for us.

Instep: How was the reception? How did the audience react to your music? And how was it different from performing in Pakistan or other countries?
It was amazing to see at every venue how some hardcore fans had driven/flown across hundreds of miles just to watch a Noori performance! We must not discount the majority audience who were seeing us for the first time ever; their positive response was not only encouraging, but verified the age old statement that “music has no borders”. A vital and significant part of our experience was the discipline and professionalism with which this tour was executed at the back end. Our management company had been planning out the logistics for over a year, and we were constantly in touch with each other. We were exposed to another level of work ethic, and the ease with which this project was executed allowed us to stay relaxed and focus on delivering good performances.

Instep: Could you please tell us about the new material you worked on for this tour?
The fact that we were going to perform for a diverse American audience and not just the desis was the deciding factor in going ahead with developing new content in English. The idea wasn't to make specific content for Center Stage, in the sense that cultural diplomacy and politics were not the theme in our lyrics. We focused on the individual and wanted to write about the human feelings - pain, desire, happiness, love - we all share in common, irrespective of nationality, race, or color.
Although we had decided to work on this content sometime in the middle of 2011, it wasn't until two months before the tour that we actually got down to working on it, hence we did not have a lot of time to develop and fine-tune these songs. Nonetheless we worked out around five to six demos, out of which we shortlisted three songs that we performed at every venue.

Instep: What activities, other than performing, did the band participate in as part of the program?
We were there for 23 days, out of which we performed on seven. Apart from the travelling, there were a lot of formal and informal meetings and hangouts in between. We made many new friends; our closest new friends were undoubtedly the people we closely worked with: our tour managers Lisa Booth Management and our PR company Rock Paper Scissors.
In every city we stayed, media interviews - for the likes of BBC Radio, Wall Street Journal, and Huffington Post - were lined up. There was a lot of press coverage while we were in Washington DC, especially at the reception hosted by the State Department right after the Kennedy Center gig. There we also got to meet many well established Americans of Pakistani descent; it was great hanging out with a group of people who were proactively involved in giving Pakistan a “better name” and a “brighter image”.
The highlights of the stay in Washington, apart from the performance at Kennedy Center - where the turnout was so big (1900 people for 275 seats) that even the security guards freaked out at seeing such an enthusiastic Pakistani crowd, that too for a musical performance! - were of course our introductory meeting at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State. The Bureau was kind enough to arrange a trip to the White House on a few days' notice (there is usually a two month waitlist). In New Haven, Ali Noor also participated in a talk about music inspiring change amongst people; academics and musicians from a number of places were participating. We also had a small collaboration at our performance with Red Baraat, a jazz-brass band which played Bollywood hits!
Our stay in New York City, a first for almost all of us, was as crazy as we had heard it would be! The gig at Le Poisson Rouge was undoubtedly the best gig we had in the entire tour; the venue, the sound, the crowd, the energy were just perfect. There was also a reception hosted by the Asia Society, one of the main sponsors of Center Stage, which was a great event for meeting people who are in the creative business. Then, apart from a lot of tourist fun (they put us up right next to Times Square!) our management had organized meets and interviews at places like Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic; getting to see places that are global headquarters of an enterprise was an experience in itself.
The most productive and enjoyable part was meeting with people from the music industry. We met up with producers (at some of the best studios we have ever visited), promoters, and managers who had worked with the likes of Paul McCartney,  Shakira, The Black Keys, Hugh Masekela, Nitin Sawhney, Anoushka Shankar, and Karsh Kale to name a few. It was very encouraging to see the excitement many of these people showed when we discussed possibilities of working together.

Instep: Arieb Azhar was also a part of this tour. How was it to share this experience with him?
We were not touring together with Arieb Azhar throughout the tour. Our only shared performance was the first one at Kennedy Center, after which we went our own ways. We did cross paths twice on the tour and we did a bit of hanging out together. Those guys were having an awesome tour, and both ensembles had a unique experience.

Instep: The program also includes performances by artists from Indonesia and Haiti. Did you get a chance to interact with them?
This project spans over six to eight months. Noori and Arieb were the project openers, and we are super proud that they chose only Pakistani artists for launching. On the flip side, we were the only two ensembles there for this tour, so there was no meeting the rest of the artists. They will come in different installments between September and December 2012.

Instep: Did you face any problems during this tour?
We cannot say that it was a hundred percent smooth tour. We did face issues with sound at some of our venues, something we didn't expect as we thought USA would be foolproof on that front. But then reproducing live sound is not an easy job, especially when there are a lot of loud musicians on stage. Apart from that, this was the most well organized and well executed tour we have ever been part of.

Instep: What do you think this program has managed to achieve?
Our tour was the pilot project for this program. There are another eight artists who still have to perform in the coming year and we also heard that the Bureau is quite keen on having a second round of this project later on. We also got to hear that these guys are interested in having Pakistan on board again for round two, so that's another encouraging thing. What this program will achieve, we will get to see over the coming year or two. But yes, Center Stage is an innovative idea that has the potential to achieve a number of things on many fronts.
From the artists' point of view, this program will potentially open up another international arena for Pakistani (and other developing world) musicians. We definitely see some very interesting Pak-American musical collaborations taking place as a result of this project. This will be extremely beneficial for the Pakistani music scene as those talented musicians who might not fit well into the Bollywood music style will have the opportunity to tap into an audience which responds much more positively to their music.
On the more political front, music definitely plays a very important role in creating positive linkages between people. It was a regular instance to hear, in our conversations with locals, how their perception about Pakistan had been skewed by the media and that they really enjoyed interacting with normal Pakistanis, and, in fact, felt that we had a lot in common. Even us Pakistanis have been portrayed a very biased view of America, one that focuses just on the government and bypasses the common people. Americans are great people; in fact, we personally felt that there was much more synergy between our people compared to many others. And there is a lot to learn from the American work ethic. The discipline and dedication with which people work, no matter what the scale of the work, is something Pakistanis should take serious pointers from, and it has motivated us to bring back the learning to Pakistan and to try and develop similar systems here.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 21st October, 2012

The return of Mr Brightside

album review

The Killers' Battle Born is rooted in the deserts of their hometown. At best, it proceeds with effortless grace. Sometimes it falters. But throughout, it seems natural and sincere.

Band:  The Killers
Album: Battle Born

They have released a slew of successful albums and singles, sold millions of records worldwide, and created arguably one of the best songs of the last decade in the form of the fantastic 'Mr. Brightside'. The Killers have established themselves on the back of arena-rock belters armed with anthemic choruses that have helped them impress a global audience.

From the new wave influences on the dance tinged rock of their debut set Hot Fuss (2004) to the heartland feel of its follow up Sam's Town (2006) and the playful vibe of Day & Age (2008), the group has moulded its sound over the years. With their fourth release, the band has unified its seemingly dual personality to offer a glorious slice of Americana. The progression seems natural, and the band simply continues down the road that has brought them this far.

Taking its name from Nevada's state motto, Battle Born is rooted in the deserts of their hometown. At best, it proceeds with effortless grace. Sometimes it falters. But throughout, it seems natural and sincere. The Killers are now set on cruise control, and their sound comes together on this album.

The wistful angst of Battle Born traverses the course of twelve songs and has been put together with the help of multiple producers - most visibly Steve Lillywhite, Damian Taylor, and Brendan O'Brien - and even includes external writing credits (Travis frontman Fran Healy helped co-write 'Here With Me'), but despite the many names, the album remains cohesive, and Brandon Flowers and co. seem firmly in control of the project.

The quartet from Las Vegas let their hometown inform their narrative as they revisit familiar territories and do so with their trademark dramatic flair. The album offers arena-worthy tracks with soaring choruses propelled by guitars and synthesizers. Songs like the album opener 'Flesh and Bone', first single 'Runaways', 'The Way It Was', and later tracks like 'The Rising Tide', 'From Here On Out', and album closer and title track 'Battle Born' stand out. There is even a hit of nostalgia when the riff from 'Mr. Brightside' makes an appearance on 'Miss Atomic Bomb'.

There are songs here that ring with Springsteen-esque yearning and aspire to emulate The Boss, and perhaps that would have been a complaint had this material been in the hands of lesser musicians. This will, however, be a cause for concern for those who were waiting for the band to return to their earlier sound. There are memorable songs here - The Killers have yet to make an album that doesn't have any solid tracks on it - but there are also songs on this set that are forgettable, especially depending on what flavour of The Killers you prefer. This is closer to Sam's Town (and even Brandon Flowers' solo album Flamingo) than it is to Hot Fuss, and it is likely to disappoint those who wanted The Killers to hold back on the heartland in favour of the leaner new wave and post punk of their earliest release. So ultimately your opinion of the album will depend on where your tastes lie on the musical spectrum.

Overall, Battle Born is a competent and comfortable record that sees The Killers at ease with their craft, and makes it feel like this was the record they really wanted to make. It's an album that makes you envision a stadium full of fans singing along; their ambitions are clear and their sound is fully realized.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 21st October, 2012

Sunday, October 07, 2012

What's brewing in the basement?


The brainchild of Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, better known as Xulfi (of EP and Call fame), the project, Nescafé Basement, aims to bring together young musicians, and give them a platform to exhibit their talents

What do you get if you gather together a group of undiscovered musicians, groom them under an experienced mentor, and set them to work in a recording studio? The new music show Nescafé Basement is an exploration of that very idea.

The brainchild of Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, better known as Xulfi (of EP and Call fame), the project aims to bring together young musicians, and give them a platform to exhibit their talents. “The single most important aim [of Nescafé Basement] is to work towards a better future of Pakistani music, and I started this off for that very reason,” says the initiator of the project.

The Basement sees 15 aspiring musicians hone their talents, write new compositions, and revisit popular pop, rock, and foreign tracks. “The music that we have worked on in the Basement is a mix of originals and some very good local and foreign tunes. But every tune that we have worked on, we have given a fresh new perspective. I guess explaining it in words will not do justice to the real thing, hence I will leave it to the audience to watch and hopefully love it!”

The program's name references “the basement in the house which is usually the place where aspiring musicians jam”, and also alludes to “all the underground artists, their talent hidden from the world while they strive hard for that elusive break.”

“I believe the best music is created only out of a jam where different musicians are connecting on a level beyond language,” Xulfi explains, “that makes the musical bond all the more special. So The Basement here represents that ideology, that jam and that creation process in which music is not manufactured, it is evolved. And I, along with the Basement artists, have ensured that our music sounds energetic and eventful, where all musicians can jam their hearts out and express what they truly stand for.”

The new musicians showcased in the project come from different parts of the country - from Lahore and Karachi to Khanewal and Chitral - and the process of finding and bringing them together actually spanned Xulfi's own decade-long career. “During my 11-year-long career in the mainstream music industry, I have produced music for a lot of bands and artists, and most of them are musicians trying to break through,” he says. “Every now and then, I have encountered some amazing musical talent that is either unaware of how to go about expressing their art or is financially constrained. Both ways, their talent remains unrecognized and hidden. Moreover, there is talent that I have seen while judging various music competitions, especially in schools. And then at concerts, I have seen quite impressive opening acts. So Nescafé Basement isn't a product of a month or two of recruitment of youth for this musical journey. In fact, it is the culmination of my own musical journey where I have realized I need to give something back to the industry that has given me the recognition, the respect, and most importantly the responsibility to make the best effort for discovering the raw but immensely talented musicians our country possesses.”

Xulfi shortlisted a few young musicians that he had met over the years and also auditioned musicians in some colleges and universities to be a part of the Basement. The selection criteria? Pure, unadulterated talent. “I was surprised to see the versatility these guys had in their musical expertise,” he says. The youngsters brought with them a diverse range of abilities; between them, the group can tackle instruments including the tabla, saxophone, flute, mouth organ, harmonium, violin, djembe, and rubab. “What I was looking for in the musicians apart from the music skill and the guts to own the stage was how these people think about music in general,” explains Xulfi. “Their philosophy about creating their own music and their thought process were very important, as people from different musical backgrounds sometimes take a lot of time to gel with each other, but when they do, they have the capability to create magic. That's why my aim wasn't to create a band where a singer is in the front singing, but create a team where every musician is equally important, just like it is in a jam. And that's why you are going to see long instrumental and musical passages in the Nescafé Basement songs.”

The program presents a great opportunity for the newcomers, and Xulfi confesses it has also been a great experience for him as well. “As far as the musical journey goes, this eclipses every musical experience I have ever had,” he enthuses. “Never have I had this much fun creating, composing, and arranging music. Everyone put in their best and honest efforts to make the Basement experience the most memorable one for all of us. The thought that through this, so many musicians, who otherwise would have never come to the surface, will finally be able to get the opportunity and acclaim they deserve is a thoroughly satisfying one. This motive made this experience even more special. And at the end of it all, all of us were like a family; new friendships were formed, musical ideas were exchanged. The true 'irtiqa' happened right in front of me, and I was again a part of it. Plus the fact that Nescafé understood the motive and supported this initiative ensured that the Basement becomes a reality.”

So how does Nescafé Basement compare to other sponsored shows, like Ufone Uth Records and Coke Studio? “All these shows have one aim, to contribute effectively to the Pakistan music industry,” reflects Xulfi, “and Nescafé Basement is no different as far as this big picture is concerned. But once you will hear the songs, the difference will be quite obvious. When the music comes out of a jam, it comes out different naturally and that's how we have created music at the Basement. Plus, the Basement stands for youth; it is a platform where they can express their musical talent wholeheartedly. The show is not showcasing the past or the present of our music scene. In fact, it is the future it is presenting; it is the future it is creating. I, as a composer and arranger, believe that music is not a very complicated art form, and its beauty lies in how simply it has been expressed. So the Basement, in essence, is the return of that simplicity that I feel hasn't really been in the forefront during the last few years.”
And he hopes the project will not only introduce new talent and help develop the future breed of musicians, but also offer something new and different to the audience. “If I had to define the music that the Basement stands for, then the word that comes to my mind is 'fresh'. And trust me, you are going to feel the same.”

Meet the artists

Nescafé Basement has brought together 15 aspiring musicians and given them an opportunity to enhance their skills, think outside their own musical boundaries, learn how to treat material that is different from their expertise, and create interesting music. Their mentor Xulfi introduces us to these talented young individuals...

A saxophone player. Saw him performing at a concert three years back and I was instantly surprised and impressed with his skills. He is the only young saxophone player I know of in this country at the moment. I hope more people pick this instrument up after watching him play! He is fond of playing blues and jazz.

He is a student at LUMS and has been regularly performing at his university. His expertise is English vocals. This guy has a vocal range that the classic rock vocalists of the '80s will be proud of!

A young guitar player and composer. Recently graduated from NCBA. He is one of the few guitarists in Pakistan who is trying to build an expertise specifically in acoustic guitar. He is also the Basement's official whistle guy!

He is studying at UCP. Plays the mouth organ, flute, harmonium, and guitar. He became a part of the team at a later stage when I had actually given up any hope of finding a young flute player. But once he entered the equation, it added a new dimension to the Basement's music.

Studying for A Levels at LGS. He is a music producer at the age of 16. Records, writes, plays, composes, and arranges his own music. He is a multitalented guy and has contributed to the Basement as a keyboardist, a vocalist, and sometimes  guitarist too.

A singer and rubab player. He is studying musicology at NCA. This guy has a great voice, something that everyone will easily like, plus his control over his voice is the most remarkable I've seen in my career.

Keyboardist, studying at FC College. I have always had difficulty in finding keyboardists who play unconventionally and can adapt to various genres. I was lucky to find Hamza through Alina, his sister, who is another one of the Basement artists.

A guitarist. Studying at LUMS. He is a progressive rock follower as far as his listening is concerned, but he can mould his playing to any genre of music and that's the special thing about him.

Studying at Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design, Abeir is a female percussion player, and trust me, she is a rare commodity! The best thing about her is that she understands her instrument, the djembe, pretty well and is always willing to learn.

He is a young songwriter and singer who has come from Khanewal to Lahore in order to pursue a career in music. He is one of the most daring songwriters our country has at the moment, and has the God gifted talent of expressing any moment in words.

He is the bass guitarist at Nescafé Basement and is a student at LUMS. He is a passionate musician who understands the instrument that the bass guitar is, and actually shows a maturity far beyond his age in the way he creates the basslines and plays the bass.

The guy plays the tabla, rubab, guitar, and darbuka, and is excellent at each of them! Currently studying at UCP, Fawad adds a versatile flavour to the Basement. His musical influences range from pure eastern classical to hard and blues rock.

Alina, 16, studies at LGS. I went to a music competition at LGS as a judge. After hearing her sing, it was evident she was the winner of the event, but I personally went up to her to tell her that I am a fan. It's difficult to find a good female vocalist in our country nowadays, someone who can really sing, but Alina surely can, and you guys will be able to see that.

A graduate from LSE, Mujeeb is a versatile musician and songwriter. A classically trained vocalist, the guy knows exactly how to balance skill with simplicity. He is quite intelligent in that regard and that's why he never shows off his classical singing skill just for the sake of it.

Drummer. Studying at LSE. I saw the guy playing in a competition that I was judging. The very first look at him reminded me of Waqar, my ex-band mate in EP and Call. The thing I liked about Waqar was he was flamboyant and was not afraid to experiment, and this guy, Mansoor, actually is all that, and more.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 7th October, 2012