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

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