Sunday, November 25, 2012

The brilliance of Green Day

album review

There's no shortage of catchy tunes on ¡Uno!, as Billie Joe Armstrong and co. unleash a rapid-fire punk assault in the form of 12 tracks laden with sharp power pop hooks that speak of love, alienation, and wistfulness

Band: Green Day
Album: ¡Uno!

Everyone who has been following Green Day since the band's inception in the late '80s knows that the group has received both adoration and derision over the years. Their brand of punk rock has pop running through its veins which has made them popular with the mainstream audience, even though their authenticity has often been called into question by punk purists. But it is a testament to their staying power that more than two decades after they first joined forces, the group from California still remains both popular and relevant, thanks in part to their resurgence following the release of the rock opera that formed their seventh studio album American Idiot in 2004.

Their rock opera self-indulgence, however, may have overstayed its welcome with 21st Century Breakdown (2009), leaving a question mark over the future direction the band would take. What exactly do you do after releasing two rock operas in a row?

You release three new studio albums in the span of four months, of course.

The ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tre! trilogy sees Green Day undertake an ambitious project, and reunites them with longtime producer Rob Cavallo. The first instalment of the series, ¡Uno!, takes the group back to the sound that initially made them successful, offering a set of songs that give a casual nod to the likes of The Clash, The Who, and the Ramones. The songs here would be at home on one of the band's earlier albums. The flag bearers of pop punk are back to what they initially set out to do; it's Green Day sans the pretence of their last few releases, making songs that will be hard to resist for fans that fell for the band in the '90s.

There's no shortage of catchy tunes on ¡Uno!, as Billie Joe Armstrong and co. unleash a rapid-fire punk assault in the form of 12 tracks laden with sharp power pop hooks that speak of love, alienation, and wistfulness. From the brisk opener 'Nuclear Family' to the old school anthem 'Oh Love' that brings the record to a close, the attack is both immediate and relentless. The anthemic 'Carpe Diem' is perhaps the most immediate tune on the record, and 'Let Yourself Go' is possibly the most contagious. 'Kill the DJ' channels Franz Ferdinand but adds profane recklessness to the mix; 'Troublemaker' urges you to clap along; and songs like 'Angel Blue' and 'Rusty James' hark back to their Nimrod (1997) era sound.

Some songs are perhaps a tad too reminiscent to a couple of tracks from their back catalogue, and at times it may feel like they're simply rehashing old tunes, but that is also why the album will work for those who loved the band in their pre-American Idiot days. ¡Uno! may seem predictable and dutiful, and it does miss the nuances of their more recent work, but its sense of deja vu also works in its favour, with its strong nostalgic rush offering a sort of comfort to its listeners. And it is part of a trilogy (with ¡Dos! and ¡Tre! set to follow in November and December respectively), so its overall effect will become more apparent when all three discs are out, and it will be interesting to see how it fits in with the complete project.

For now though, it's safe to say that ¡Uno! is a set of fast paced and reliable tunes that combine catchy melodies with tight instrumentation and make good use of the group's pop punk sensibilities while trying to recapture their early spirit. This isn't an ambitious, grandiose rock opera. This isn't an experimental record. And this certainly isn't a cerebral album. ¡Uno! is simply an album you can (and are meant to) enjoy. It's catchy, contagious, and fun, and it is what it is by design. And while it sees them take a step away from their politically charged rock opera projects, ¡Uno!'s hit of nostalgia is likely to make it a treat for their long time fans.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 25th November, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

“Individual motives can always take over, and they did…”


Following vocalist Junaid Khan's exit from Lahore based rock band Call, the group's guitarist Xulfi shares his side of the story with Instep Today and talks about the future of the band.

Instep Today: Why did Junaid decide to leave Call?
Xulfi: I will not really call this “Junaid leaving Call” as him not being part of the band anymore was the next logical step in what actually happened. He has a different career going for him, and I believe now he also feels that whatever he wants to do from here on, he wants to do solo. Everyone has the right to think like this. Sadly, people do not always decide keeping those values in mind that come with working together. Otherwise they would make different decisions. But probably that is how it works for most people.

Instep Today: How do you feel about this decision?
Call has quite a history. It has existed since 1994. Survived the underground scene till 2002; band members came, band members left, but Call still lived on proudly where other underground bands called it a day. The band has gone through rough times but has still existed so we are used to this, and all this tough time has made me war hardened too. I have experienced band breaking up in EP, and I have also seen the same band merging back without me, their primary songwriter, and I have still braved the situation, so the future doesn't scare or intimidate me. I will keep doing what I do best, making great music.
Also, Call went mainstream when I auditioned Junaid for the band's vocalist role in 2002, and the band, including its individuals, have achieved a lot since then and have carved multiple careers out of their roles in the band. Now it was time to choose a primary career out of those that had risen out of Call. I picked Call, he didn't, and I didn't expect him to choose Call either, hence I am neither feeling good nor bad about it. Indifferent? Yes, because I really believe in the music I make, and I plan on doing that for the rest of my life.

Instep Today: Junaid actually left the band a while ago. Why was the official announcement not made till now?
Sultan and I had left it to him to announce because he didn't want to be a part of the band anymore, but due to reasons unknown to me, he didn't announce. The reason why we left it up to him was that this news breaks up very decently for him as his acting career had just started and controversy at that point might have affected that negatively. But as we saw that he is not making the announcement, even though he had informed us officially about it, and Call had to move on, rock the stage, perform shows, so we had to make the announcement. The band had missed quite a few concerts and had suffered due to this uncertain situation in the last few months and as these concerts are a big part of a musician's living, we had to move on and continue performing again.

Instep Today: Are you still in touch with Junaid and on friendly terms with him?
No. And that's natural too. I had worked hard to carve out a style for composing and arranging music for his style of vocals, and one really then expects that your band mates acknowledges that and strives hard for the band's success. But individual motives can always take over, and they did. It's tricky business, the music scene. I have done projects in Bollywood, but I've done them all under the name of Call, as that is my one and only identity when someone sees me play the guitar or sing. And these Bollywood projects weren't different from how Call had always worked, with me composing, arranging, and writing most of the music. But when I heard there is a solo album on its way from Junaid, which the band didn't know of, I guess that was the point where the trust was shaken, and I don't think I want/need or feel like finding a neutral ground to retain some part of that friendship. Yes, I have had an amazing time with him, as a friend, as a band mate, and we have done some amazing shows all over the world. But now, things had been tough for musicians all over Pakistan and as a result, this was a difficult time for Call as well. This was the time when all the band mates needed to stand up for what Call has been to them, for them, and should have strived to make it even bigger. When one doesn't acknowledge, nature has its way of balancing, one should always remember. But you know how they say there comes a time when one has to choose between what's right and what's easy (J. K. Rowling). I chose the former.

Instep Today: What does this mean for Call and the band's future? And have you found a replacement for Junaid yet?
I would like that to remain a surprise for everyone. You know how the news spreads, and I would want to play my cards very intelligently here.

Instep Today: Call is now performing with (Roxen vocalist) Mustafa Zahid in live shows. Is he the new, permanent Call vocalist?
Musti and I go a long way back. We had been friends since his band recorded their debut album at my studio. I have always loved the energy and power he has in his voice, and that sits in nicely with my style of songwriting. Because of the time I have spent with Musti while recording his vocals and helping him arrange his band's songs, he understands my style perfectly, and that's why he has merged in very smoothly with Call. And yes, it's not the first time Musti, Sultan, and I are on the same team. We have played cricket together, so we know what teamwork means and what it means to be on the same team. We have been performing in shows together now quite frequently, and I personally invite you to come enjoy our music at the concert and witness Call's reenergized and intense performance.
Besides that, as I am a music producer, I have helped a lot of vocalists (both band members and non band members) to sing better both in the studio and live. So even if Call, at some point in time, needs a new vocalist, I will train him to be the best at what he does. And it's not that I haven't done this before now.

Instep Today: Is there anything else you want to say about the split?
I do not know if things happen for a reason, or without one. But I do know, once they happen, they happen. That's the truth I want to embrace. Lastly, I wish Junaid the best of luck in his career and hope he prospers.

Instep Today: Are you guys working on any new material?
Yes, we are. Some of it is already on display in our concerts.

Instep Today: What's next for Call? And for you? Future plans?
Another Call album. Music video. Loads of concerts. Music projects across the border. There is a lot to come. Keep your faith with Call alive. We are loyal to our fans and we respect them. These people have loved our music over the years. We acknowledge how our listeners have made our concerts the liveliest of concerts ever. The sight of our fans banging their heads to our music, screaming our names, never wanting us to stop, singing along to every song of ours; trust me, these are enough reasons for Call to keep itself connected, forever.

- By Sameen Amer

 Instep Today, The News - 23rd November, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“I feel extremely sad that we had to come to this point.”


Junaid Khan talks to Instep Today about his decision to leave Call and his future plans

Call recently announced vocalist Junaid Khan's departure from the band, but the news shouldn't really come as a surprise to those who have been following the singer's career. Junaid has been making strides as both an actor and a solo artist in the last few months. He has been working on his own music this year and also has a budding acting career, starring in a number of television dramas. In a chat with Instep Today, the singer talks about his decision to part with the band, urges his fans to respect his choice, and promises to continue expressing himself through his music.

Instep Today: Why did you decide to leave Call?
Junaid Khan:
Well, I believe in any partnership, the individuals have particular roles and they stick to their respective roles so that the business runs smoothly, but then if they try to jump into others' roles for personal gains, then conflicts happen. Similarly, a band is a partnership too in which every band member has a role, like one is a vocalist, others are guitarists, bass player, drummer, etc, and if they try to grasp other's role then you disturb the equilibrium and hence raise conflicts. Most bands have broken up for this reason in Pakistan, which is quite unfortunate.

Instep Today: How do you feel about this decision?
I feel extremely sad that we had to come to this point because I was a part of Call much before Xulfi and Sultan joined in, and Call was and will be like a baby to me, but now I think it was time that I let this baby go. I am really, really sorry to all our fans who have been supporting Call throughout, and I am sure that they'll be missing seeing the fun that we used to have onstage and while making music, but I will be requesting them to understand this decision and keep supporting us all and believing in us. I love my fans as they have loved our expression for the past decade. I can never repay them, but I'll try to come up with great melodies like we gave them before. We didn't disappoint them before and I'll surely try not to disappoint them in the future as well with my music.

Instep Today: You actually left the band a while ago. Why was the official announcement not made till now?
I made the decision just around two months back, but we didn't announce it at that point as I was asked by the band members to rethink the decision, but I requested them to agree with this as it was better for all of us and they were kind enough to agree.

Instep Today: How did the other band members react to this decision?
Well, of course no one would like to end a partnership which gave us such a wonderful experience, but I was of the thought that its better to let it go now than make room for us to disturb our relationship both personally and professionally. I will miss the wonderful time and experiences that we cherished all these years. We spent almost 10 years together and had our ups and downs, and I believe all these ups and downs teach you a lesson to learn from and improve yourselves as human beings. We three band members individually are much more mature and stronger now, and it is because of the life that Call gave us, and I thank the band members for sharing that life with me.

Instep Today: Are you still in touch with the other band members and on friendly terms with them?
Yes, of course. We keep discussing the projects that individually we all are occupied in. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but what matters is that we keep respecting others till the end. Beyond all these partnerships, we are human beings and what makes us superior is the element of respect and love that we have for others.

Instep Today: You have been working on your solo album. How is that going? How soon will it be out?
I am in the production stage these days. The songs have been written and arranged. 'Keh Do' is about to be released, and next will be followed soon. For me, every song is special and conveys experiences of my life and I want to keep sharing them with my fans. Whether it was 'Sab Bhula Ke' or 'So Close So Distant', I have been expressing my emotions through my songs and I'll keep doing so.

Instep Today: Can you please tell us about your future plans? What are you planning to do next?
Well, musically, as I said, 'Keh Do' is about to be released, and I'll be kicking off my solo shows within the next week or so which I am really excited about. I'll be releasing the show dates on my page ( on Facebook and @calljunaidkhan on Twitter) so do watch out for those. Plus on the television front, I am shooting two new TV projects; I'll be releasing the titles along with the cast real soon too.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 21st November, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In conversation with Basheer & the Pied Pipers


Indie band discusses new album, Basheer

If you have any concerns about the state/future of the Pakistani music industry, then just explore the efforts of our independent musicians and you will be instantly reassured. Our indie scene harbours immense talent and is producing some very interesting work, as artists experiment with an array of sounds and genres. 

One such act is Basheer & the Pied Pipers. The group that comprises of Salman Younas Khan and Saad Munzar came together a few years ago and released their album, Basheer, earlier this year. Their unique sound has been earning them rave reviews ever since.

“[Basheer & the Pied Pipers] is mainly Saad and I,” says Salman. The group formed when Salman “came to Karachi in 2008 for school” and have been playing together since then. “We write and record all the stuff ourselves,” he continues. “Saad handles bass and guitar duties, and I handle samples, synthesizers, and drums, but there is a large degree of overlap. When we play live we have a group of great friends that help us out, each of them being brilliant musicians.”

The duo, who describe their music as “primarily instrumental, with sparse vocals”, gave us a taste of their recorded sound with their EP, paperclouds, which was released last year, and easily convinced listeners to take notice. “We played a few shows which really drove us to record our original material,” they reveal. “There were a few bands here playing a lot of their own stuff and it was really impressive. We picked up a cheap mixer and an interface and recorded our first EP, paperclouds, in 2011. We started recording Basheer right after that.”

Basheer, their first full-length release, is a 10-track collection of songs that play with a range of sounds, creating a blend that is both unique and impressive. “We started writing as soon as we got done with the EP we released last year,” says Salman speaking of the process of creating Basheer. “And after we had the writing process done, we just did what we did last time, recording drums in a soundproof lecture hall. We were on the strictest of budgets too, so a lot of duct tape was involved. Then everything else was laid down in either of our rooms.” “We live in the same building so it was pretty convenient.” adds Saad. “We knew we wanted our full length release to be more live band oriented. We jammed quite extensively for this one.”

As a debut album, Basheer is surprisingly confident, even though its makers are reluctant to discuss it. Instead of talking about the sound of their album, they'd rather the music speak for itself. “We really wouldn't know how to describe it at all,” they say. “We'd prefer you'd listen to it and call it what you want to.” You can hear electronic influences and hints of psychedelia on the record, as Basheer & the Pied Pipers create a mystifying ambience while weaving English vocals into the soundscape. The result is ethereal without sounding contrived, and from the opening 'been' sounds on the first track 'Yes' to the gentle guitars of the album closer 'You Know I Know I Know', there's much to be discovered. The beautiful 'Dreaming of You' is, well, dreamy, and feels like floating into someone's reverie; the crisp 'Monsoon' is short but memorable; and 'Mallet' is hypnotic. The songs have character, and the Pied Pipers' conviction shines though in the record. The two musicians say they have a plethora of influences, and cite Radiohead, Mew, Mars Volta, and Blockhead as some of the artists who have inspired them, and while these influences are reflected in their music, their sound still remains their own.

The album has been released as a free download online, and the duo say they don't have a particular business model in mind when it comes to monetizing their work. “We've never thought of making any money from our music really. If it comes along, great, but the whole process of making and playing music is enough reward for us both.”

And where does Basheer stand in the current Pakistani music scene? “I'm not sure really,” laughs Salman. “All I can say is that we're lucky to even be part of this huge wave of independent music. There are extremely gifted artists from all over Pakistan that are doing things completely independently, and are happy doing so.” Saad agrees; “Poor Rich Boy, //orangenoise, 6la8, Asfandyar Khan are just a few examples of some outfits that we have the utmost respect for, putting out great music relentlessly,” he says.

With output as impressive as this, Basheer & the Pied Pipers and their peers certainly deserve more recognition. And when their music is available for free, you simply have no excuse to not listen to it. “Support the independent music scene as much as you can,” the band urges. “Go to live shows! Download and share releases!”

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 18th November, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Teen Years: Mawra Hocane


Star and date of birth
My date of birth is 28th September which makes my star Libra.

The best thing about being a teenager
Carelessness. People don’t judge you and they expect mistakes from you. Once you enter your 20s, you have to be careful and act all wise.

I was always listening to
All kinds of songs, whatever suited my mood.

I was glued to the T.V. for
A few Pakistani serials and different series on Star World, like Gossip Girl, 90210, The Vampire Diaries, and America’s Next Top Model, but I was quite a bookworm so I was  never addicted to them.

My favourite movie was
Too many to pick one; a lot of favourites in both Hollywood and Bollywood.

My favourite actor was
Brad Pitt and Salman Khan.

My favourite book was
All my syllabus books except mathematics. :P

My room was full of
Books and notes.

My room walls carried the posters of
Cristiano Ronaldo; when I was 13 or 14, that is.

My closet was full of
Clothes, obviously.

My friends were
Always there.

My first crush
Is now one of my closest friends.

What hurt me the most

My dream was to become
Like my mom.

I wish I had known then
What’s meant to be would happen.

Relations with siblings
It’s the best relationship in the world. Typical, yet we’ve always been there for each other.

Relations with parents
My mom is my best friend, and she has been my constant support and strength through all the ups and downs in life.

My school was
Fun. I was the apple of my teachers’ eyes. I always found it full of [losers] back then; exceptions were there, which were, of course, my friends. :D

Ragging at college/university
Yet to come; just got done with my intermediate.

I couldn’t stand

My favourite superhero was
My mom!

My favourite sport was

My favourite pastime was
Music and photography.

My favourite hangout was
Wherever my friends were.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 16th November, 2012

Friday, November 09, 2012

Brewing music in the Basement - Part II

cover story

Aspiring musicians and their big dreams; let’s have a look at the remaining musical genuises from Nescafé Basement, who explored themselves during the show and are all set to make it big in the music industry...

Shahrukh Aslam
- Background: I’m 20 years old and currently studying Political Science at LUMS.
- Music: My father is a big fan of all sorts of music, although he prefers rock and jazz. I wasn’t interested in music until around the 8th grade when I began listening to different types of music and forming my own opinion and preferences. My father bought me a guitar around the same time and, despite disliking it initially, I kept playing until I fell in love with the instrument. I’ve been playing and jamming with friends for years both in LUMS as well as in high school. I am a big fan of bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, as well as heavier music; at the same time, I love more atmospheric and progressive music. I suppose it shows in my playing style.
- Nescafé Basement: I was called in for auditions, but I was unable to attend. Despite that, I was invited to one of the jams. I was expecting that I had been called in either to audition or just to see what I was missing out on. Instead, I was handed a guitar and told to get ready for the first play - ‘Babiya’. From that point on, I was the ‘main’ electric guitar player for the Basement and I have been as much a part of the formation of the songs as everyone else who was involved. The show has helped me learn how to interact with people without offending them, how to collaborate with people who are not necessarily operating on the same musical or creative wavelength or who do not have the same tastes as I do. I am particularly proud of ‘Uth Jawana’ as I felt that the original music for the song did not do justice to the intensity and the force behind the lyrics. I also love our versions of ‘Romantic’ and ‘It’s My Life’ because of the sheer fun behind playing them, as well as the fact that they felt like the most organic pieces that we had created as a group, almost like we were all on the same page as we worked on them.
- Future: I plan on finishing my degree and then seeing what’s next on the table for me. I am not planning on pursuing music as a career, nor do I want to. When a hobby becomes a job, one has to compromise. I’d rather not be forced into a position where I will have to give up my musical freedom for money. I’m still going to play like crazy, though.

Hamza Butt
- Background: I am 21 years old and have studied at Lahore Grammar School for my primary and secondary education. I then went on to get a Bachelors degree in Biotechnology at the University of Hong Kong (2009-11) and have been currently transferred to the same programme at Forman Christian College, Lahore. My parents are both medical doctors.
- Music: I developed an interest in music from an early age, beginning with eastern classical and ghazal vocals. With time I diversified my interest to include a variety of other genres ranging from classic rock to contemporary pop and learned several instruments. My earlier musical endeavours were limited to representing my school at gigs, performances (especially during my tenure as Music Society President of LGS JT) and also a handful of works with the LUMS music society. During my stay in Hong Kong, I had the opportunity of singing and training for a year with a Chinese Choir.
- Nescafé Basement: I actually got enrolled in Nescafé Basement through my sister Alina, who was approached as a vocalist for the team. She introduced me to the recruitment team through some of my cover song videos on YouTube and I was glad to hear about their need of a keyboardist. In addition to keyboards, I also had the opportunity to play my part as a violinist. The show really helped brush up my musical coordination skills as we had a large, diverse team of 15 performers covering a wide range of instruments; this is quite different from the smaller groups I had performed with on earlier concerts. I was really fascinated with the originality in arrangements and instrument combinations that our producer, Zulfiqar Khan, helped us put up for each song, whether it was a cover or an original. I am particularly proud of several songs in our ‘pop night’ category; a few titles would be ‘Ajeeb Se’, ‘Waqt’, ‘Aa Bhi Jao’, and ‘Hamesha’ from our ‘rock night’ package. The show goes to show the amount of talent and creativity Pakistan’s young, amateur musicians possess but fail to develop just because of limited opportunities.
- Future: Regarding my career, I am looking forward to making a mark in agricultural sector research. However, music is something that I cannot survive without and will continue to pursue and polish. I would like to brush up my playing and singing skills sufficiently to create good instrumental and vocal compositions that combine aspects of Chinese, sub-continental, and country genres.

Turaab Khan
- Background: I am a 16-year-old boy currently doing my A-levels from LGS Phase 5. After ten years of living in Australia, my father decided to move back to Pakistan.
- Music: My father was a big fan of Entity Paradigm and other bands like AC/DC, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Foreigner, et cetera. When I was in 6th grade, my father bought me my first guitar. I taught myself to play piano, drums, guitar, and ukulele. Currently, I am a music producer and an aspiring vocalist.
- Nescafé Basement: Pre-Basement, I had visited Xulfi to show him an original song I had produced. After a few months, he called me and asked me to join the Basement. I am the youngest member of the Basement, and I do vocals and backing vocals, play piano, bass, and guitar for the Basement. The Basement experience gave me four of the best months of my life. I am proud of the ‘foreign night’ (English) songs, considering the relatively less amount of time we had to prepare for each song.
- Future: I plan to continue my passion by producing more songs with the many wonderful people I have met through the show. I would love to have another season of it, so I could spend another three months with the best people in the world.

Adrian David
- Background: I am Adrian David, and I am 22 years old. I recently finished my Bachelors in Business Administration. I belong to an army background, my father being an army officer.
- Music: Music has always been a part of my family and I have grown up listening to my father (Maj. David) playing music. So my heart and ears were attuned to music from childhood, and I started singing when I was as young as four years. I developed interest in learning instruments at the age of ten.
- Nescafé Basement: Before being a part of Nescafé Basement, I had done music underground only. I became a part of Nescafé Basement as our mentor (and now an elder brother) Xulfi needed a mouth organ player and I was approached through a common friend at a later stage when the Basement crew had been jamming for a month. Later, apart from the mouth organ, I played harmonium, flute, keyboard, and guitars. The show helped me in diversifying my listening as every musician had a different inspiration. I am proud of each and every song in the Basement because every song is a musical masterpiece.
- Future: In the recent future, I’ll be releasing my single, which has been recorded and mixed by Turaab H. Khan (another Basement artist). What I want to achieve is that no matter what the response is to the music I create in the future, my focus is to come out with good music, because that is eternal, not the fame.

Mansoor Lashari
- Background: I’m 20 years old and a true Lahori. I studied up to my A-levels at Aitchison College, and currently I’m in my second year at LSE. I come from a family that doesn’t really have a musical background but I am lucky enough to have their (hopefully) undying support.
- Nescafé Basement: I was one of the lucky few to be contacted and directly recruited on to the Basement team by Xulfi bhai. The entire experience was phenomenal and exceeded my expectations in every way. The Basement greatly helped me improve and diversify myself, not just in terms of playing drums but also in terms of perceiving music as well.
- Future: Playing drums has been a very passionate hobby for me for the past five years. To me, it is an endless and exciting learning process which I don’t want to constrict in any way. I plan to use every opportunity to create awareness,learn, improve, grow, and, most importantly, enjoy music.

Abeir Shan
- Background: I am 21 years old from Karachi, studying fashion and design in Lahore at Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design.
- Music: My khala used to play congo, and being a kid, I used to admire her a lot. So, I can easily say that she inculcated in me the interest to try and play music. I am a part of PIFD music society, performed on Earth Day at Aitchison, and have done various performances at Cafe Rock.
- Nescafé Basement: I got to know about this project through a friend. I had just initially come to see the Basement jamming, but Xulfi bhai asked me to play the instrument I had brought with me, the djembe, and from that day onwards, he recruited me for the project. Through this whole experience not only did my skills get refined, I also got to know about the terminologies of music. I met a lot of talented people and we gained a lot from each other in terms of music and experience. Being a part of this project, I cannot name any one song since I know how much hard work and effort was put into each and every song; all the songs have their fortes and standout in their own ways. Xulfi bhai has been a great mentor and support throughout.
- Future: I would love to explore and learn more about music and I might take it up as a profession. Currently, I am doing fashion designing so my idea is to merge music into fashion because both of these are excellent ways of expressing oneself.

Fawad Hassan Zaidi
- Background: I am 25 years old and in the last year of my B.S. (Computer Science). I am the first person in my family to do music. My father is an electrical engineer and my mother is a professor of Urdu.
- Music: Since a very young age, I have been interested in music. As far as I can remember, at the age of 10, I started playing on table imagining as if it were a tabla. My parents noticed my talent at a young age and always supported me. At the age of 15, they arranged for me to go to Radio Pakistan for my basic tabla lessons. During my lessons at Radio Pakistan, not only did I learn tabla, I also observed how professional musicians worked and the whole learning experience was really amazing for me. As my O-level exams were near, I had to stop going there. After my O-levels, my uncle gifted me a guitar and that was the turning point in my musical interests. In fact, my first guitar teacher was  Xulfi himself, and I took lessons for a year. Since then I have played sessions with different bands, and composed songs for my own band (o2) as well. I have worked with the Rising, Lagan, and Call.
- Nescafé Basement: As I have been playing with Call, Xulfi knew about my multiple talents and Nescafé Basement was the perfect place to utilise them. I played tabla, guitars, djembe and in one song the rubab. Other than that I have sung for the first time in my life. It was my original composition that was arranged and produced by Xulfi for the Basement. The show was an experience of a lifetime. I had never recorded tabla properly before Nescafé Basement. I also got to experiment with my vocals for the first time. My favourites are ‘Aa Bhi Jao’, ‘Larri Adda’, ‘Raaz-e-Fitna’, ‘Hamesha’, and ‘Kabhi Mein’. Nescafé Basement is a very good effort as such shows help youth to experiment with their talents and help them channel their energies doing something productive.
- Future: The plans are big, the aims are even bigger. I hope everything goes according to the plan. Now the main focus is my degree; I have to finish this year in any case. For now, I have tried all my talents in Nescafé Basement and will surely continue working on improving my skills.

Asfar Hussain
- Background: I am 21 years old, living in Chitral with my family. I have lived there for the most part of my life and came to Lahore a few years ago. In Chitral, I studied at Langlands School and College. And in Lahore, I am studying Musicology at NCA.
- Music: I’ve been listening to music since childhood as my father is a poet and has always encouraged me to do music. I was eight years old when I started taking more interest in music. I participated in a competition, ‘Thumri Singing’ in All Pakistan Music Conference, in 2011, and attained second position. I am also the Director of the Eastern Music Society NCA for the last two years now.
- Nescafé Basement: Xulfi bhai came to NCA for auditions for the show. He selected me after hearing me sing and play the rubab. I loved this experience, as this is the best musical experience that I have had in my life. It really taught and groomed me immensely and also broadened the horizon for me as now I think of music in a more diverse manner. From the songs we did, I loved performing ‘Waqt’, ‘Hamesha’, and ‘Tau Kia Huwa’.
- Future: This show has given me a lot and now I am clear about my future. I want to sing, sing and sing! I am a songwriter and will hopefully be releasing my own versions of ‘Tau Kia Huwa’ and ‘Raaz-e-Fitna’ very soon.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 9th November, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

Brewing music in the Basement - Part I

cover story

The new music show Nescafé Basement has introduced us to a group of aspiring musicians as they come together to unite their talents, experiment with their sound, and record songs, which are subsequently aired as part of the televised programme. Assembled by Call guitarist Xulfi - who gathered some of the unknown musicians that he had come across in his own musical journey and discovered through a series of auditions at different colleges and universities - the group of fifteen individuals from different musical and ethnic backgrounds recorded covers of pop, rock, and foreign tracks, as well as created original songs. So now that you’ve seen them perform on television, it’s time to find out more about these young musicians...

Haider Abbas
- Background: I’m 21 years old and I’m doing B.Sc. from LUMS. My primary instrument is the bass guitar.
- Music: The first band that I religiously followed was Junoon, which had a very heavy and mature style of music for me, considering the fact that I was in grade three at that time. I took up the keyboard to experiment with a few songs I had learnt. Since then, my music influences have changed and evolved over time, clearly moving in the direction of the heavier realm. To be very specific, the genre that is closest to me now is progressive metal. I started playing the bass guitar around three years back and have been married to the instrument since then. Although I have been a part of several projects and works, I currently play in a progressive metal band called Odyssey, which has two albums under its belt.
- Nescafé Basement: Since I’m utterly lazy (everyone agrees), I was forced to be a part of the audition being conducted by Xulfi at my university, and got selected. Despite the initial skepticism, I was excited to jam with such a diverse range of instruments. And after the first jam, I knew that this was going to be one experience to remember! In the beginning stages, I felt slightly intimidated by the style of music being played, which was definitely not the one I had ever put myself through, but things smoothed out with just a few jams. I enjoyed playing almost all the songs, but the ones closest to me are ‘Yeh Pal’ and ‘Uth Jawana’, for obvious reasons!
- Future: I plan to be more active musically in the coming years. One thing that I really want to learn in the near future is music production and studio work. And about the aspirations, well, who doesn’t want to perform in front of 50,000 people? Haha!

Mujeeb Mustafa Rizvi
- Background: I’m 25 years old, an MBA in marketing from Lahore School of Economics by qualification, hailing from a well known family of doctors in Faisalabad. I feel music runs in my blood, and I can’t help myself from tapping to the tune I like. It has been the case ever since I have known myself.
- Music: A musical capability that anyone has is blessed by God. In a matter of time, a person realises it and starts his/her journey - the same thing happened to me. I’m a trained eastern vocalist and a shagird of the prince of Patiyala Gharana, Ustad Asad Amanat Ali Khan. I shifted to Lahore in 2006, and played a number of underground concerts with an underground band, Moen jo Daro. Early in my singing career, I won the Olympiad ‘09. Now I am pursuing my solo career and working on my album. My video is going to hit the screen soon, so watch out for it.
- Nescafé Basement: Xulfi bhai (Captain Xulfi as I like to call him) contacted me with the idea of this project in his mind. The idea grew to be Nescafé Basement and he convinced me how it is going to play a vital role in my career and my development as a singer/musician. In Nescafé Basement, I have been able to portray both my talents as a singer and a musician (bass player, guitarist, shaker player). I am really proud of my own tune ‘Kabhi Main’, and also a Sajjad Ali cover ‘Lari Adda’ that was reinvented in a qawwali format.
- Future: My musical inspirations range from Jason Mraz, Michael Jackson, Sajjad Ali, and, of course, Asad Amanat Ali Khan. I want to take all that I have learned from these great artists and mould it according to my own taste and perception. This is going to be translated in my upcoming album where you will see a touch of western and eastern music coming together to make a unique experience. Ideally, I would like to become the next big musical icon in Pakistan.

Adnan Dhool
- Background: I am a 25-year-old from Khanewal. I did my graduation from Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan. I started off playing piano in my childhood, which made me interested and eager to do something in music.
- Music: Currently, I am running a band with Rabi Ahmed (Soch band), and ‘Uth Jawana’ for PTI was one of our first projects.
- Nescafé Basement: One day I got a call from Xulfi bhai; he wanted me to be a part of Nescafé Basement. I am the lead vocalist in some songs and gave backing vocals for some songs as well. ‘Awari’ is the song which I really like doing again and again because of its unique topic and feel. The Basement is one the best platforms for the upcoming artists as they provide you [the chance] to prove yourself to the world.
- Future: Currently, I am running a band with Rabi (Soch) and we are planning to launch our first music video. I am very much inspired by Sonu Nigam and Kailash Kher. We plan to deliver something good and unique to the Pakistani music scene in the future.

Haris Usmani
- Background: I’m Haris Usmani, and I’m part of the Nescafé Basement. I’m 22 years of age and a true Lahori (I love food! :P). I did my O - and A-Levels from LGS and am currently pursuing my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from LUMS.
- Music: I always had a heart for music. From Michael Jackson’s live concerts to pioneers of the Pakistani pop rock scene, I followed all the music my TV-box provided (there was no YouTube back then!). I was always part of the school choir too, but it wasn’t until my A-levels that I got my hands on an old, deserted guitar. The incongruent notes gradually formed into harmonious chords and I started to explore my vocal power. I formed my first band in A-levels, to represent my school at the LUMS Olympiad 2008; this was a pop rock band called Project JT. We recently released an original as well. In LUMS, I’ve been an active performer in the music society as well as being part of a metal cover band, Beneath the Covers.
- Nescafé Basement: I missed a part of my class to take out time for an audition when I heard Xulfi bhai had come to LUMS to recruit people for this project, and it was totally worth it. I’m primarily a vocalist at the Basement, specialising more with western-style vocals. The Basement was the perfect milestone for my musical journey. It was not only an opportunity to learn from one of the best in our industry, but also to interact with fourteen others like me with the true spirit of teamwork and collaborative music making. It was the best musical experience I have had so far. Out of the songs which I directly contributed to, I think I’m most proud of ‘Hum Rahain Na Rahain’ and ‘Romantic’. ‘Hum Rahain’ was an interesting song; we tried to westernise an eastern piece, using a different vocal technique and melody as well as subtle dynamics. But perhaps the song that perfectly captures the ‘moment of sheer performance’ for me is ‘Romantic’. We entirely transformed Soulive’s jazz piece into funk rock, and because it was the last song we recorded on the Basement, we gave it all we had.
- Future: I think this is what Nescafé Basement says to the youth of Pakistan: nurture your talent and bring it out. Everyone has their own special ability. It’s time to explore what you’re gifted with rather than trying to be someone else. Explore yourself. Right now, I really can’t say for certain what my plans are, but one thing’s for sure - I’d always do music.

Rabi Ahmed
- Background: I am Rabi Ahmed and I am 24 years old. I have done my MBA from NCBA. I belong to a business-oriented family.
- Music: I started playing guitar five years back. My friend used to play rubab, and because of him I started playing the guitar as I was really fascinated by the instrument. Besides Nescafé Basement, I run a band with Adnan Dhool (Soch). One of our songs ‘Uth Jawana’ is the official song for PTI, and soon we are releasing our first video, ‘Bandeya’, after the Basement.
- Nescafé Basement: I played guitars in Nescafé Basement and also contributed to compositions for the show. It is more of a learning experience for me. Xulfi bhai really helped me in improving my guitar playing skills and this learning will help me throughout my life. I am very proud of ‘Uth Jawana’, ‘Awari’, and ‘Ajeeb Se’. The Basement was overall an amazing experience of my life. Now, I really miss the time when we all used to jam. My musical inspirations are quite a lot but to be specific I really follow John Mayer.
- Future: I plan to continue my band in the future and take my music to new horizons after all the learning and exposure. I want to be one of the best acoustic guitarists of Pakistan with our different compositions. I want my band to be a force to be reckoned with in the local and foreign industry.

Jibraan Saeed
- Background: My name is Jibraan Saeed and I’m 22. I’m studying law. I also work at Chima & Ibrahim.
- Music: I don’t know life without music. It’s been a part of everything. As far back as I can remember, I loved music. I used to steal my father’s CDs and play them when he wasn’t home. I must have been three or four at the time.
- Nescafé Basement: I would have to say that my friends, Hamza and Marium, encouraged me to open a concert for Xulfi. Xulfi got in touch with me a couple of years later after our first meeting. We discussed the fresh idea he had and I was on board from that moment onwards. The show helped me understand my musical journey, as well as everyone else’s at the Basement, in more depth. It is a highly therapeutic experience; being able to build your character and encourage peace through music. Music is, in my perception, the title for a universal language. I loved all of our songs, and I saw the effort being put into everything. I played the saxophone and did backing vocals on one track.
- Future: I plan to have a two-pronged plan of action for my future. I intend to complete my law degree and pursue further education - I love learning. But I plan to give an equal amount of attention to my development in music. Ultimately, although it may seem farfetched, I intend to acquire the right knowledge to successfully bring jazz to Pakistan and help use music as a tool to spread peace as well as develop intellect.

Alina Najam
- Background: My name is Alina Najam. I am currently doing my A-levels from Lahore Grammar School.
- Music: I was exposed to music at a very early age. My family always encouraged me to listen to and learn songs. Gradually, I fell in love with music as I would always turn to it to get a break from my daily routine. With time, my passion for music grew stronger. I have taken part in many different music competitions through my school. These include the All Pakistan Music Conference and Grammathon.
- Nescafé Basement: I received a call from Xulfi who had previously seen me perform at Grammathon. He told me that he was planning this project and that he wanted me to be a part of it. I am a vocalist. The show has acted as a challenge for me and has helped me discover my own capabilities. It has also acted as a guiding light that has shown me how to interact with fellow musicians and produce beautiful music. It has taught me patience and through it I have also made some great friends. I am particularly proud of ‘Waqt’ and ‘Laree Chootee’. The Basement is a platform that brings people closer and connects them through music. I am glad to be a part of it and in the future I hope to see more people participate in and benefit from it like I have.
- Future: Ideally, I would want to study music as a subject that would help me understand the complexities of it. I want to continue singing, but I also wish to write my own music.

To be continued...

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 2nd November, 2012