Sunday, February 10, 2013

Andholan will be heavier and darker

interview: beat box

The MHB frontman talks about intensifying his band’s groove for the cult following they got with Sampooran

Since the group's inception over a decade ago, the Mekaal Hasan Band have established themselves as one of the predominant presences in sufi rock with their contemporary fusion of eastern and western sounds. They have released two studio albums, performed in various countries, and amassed a considerable fan following, impressing listeners and critics alike. In a chat with Instep, Mekaal Hasan talks about the band's long awaited third album, their upcoming single, and touring plans.

New material

Instep: We've been waiting to hear new music from the Mekaal Hasan Band for quite some time now. How soon can we expect any new releases from you guys?
Mekaal Hasan:
We are working on a single which will precede the album.

Instep: Tell us about the single
It's a folk song. It's different from what we've done before. It's basically a tribute to Tufail Niazi.

Instep: Your third album was slated to be released over a year ago. Why the delay?
The record itself was tracked a while back, so the bulk of it was written and recorded a few years ago actually. The severe lack of shows in the country has meant taking on work which can pay the bills which means completing the record gets pushed back. However, having said that, I think this year will see the release of Andholan, possibly in the winters.

Instep: How is work on the album coming along?
As I mentioned, most of the tracking has been done. Some overdubs for guitars remain and so do some bass tracks, but most of the other material has been recorded.

Instep: Tell us about the material that you have worked on so far
It'll be a more epic sounding record, as in, it will have some of the moodiness of Sampooran but also will be a heavier and darker record.

Instep: What is the group's lineup for the third album?
Javed Bashir on vocals, Papu on flute, Amir Azhar on bass, and Gumby on drums (he tracked them quite a few years ago). Live, Kami Paul or Fahad Khan will be playing for most of the time.

Instep: The band is a collection of so much musical talent and a fusion of different styles. How do you find the perfect balance in sound that makes use of everyone's individual talents? Is it challenging, or does it come easily/ naturally?
Depends on the song and arrangements. In the band, it's always a case of what do we choose to play rather than 'can we play this?'. The musicians are top notch, so executing parts is not the issue; it's balancing the range of playing to accommodate the songs.


Instep: You've toured Indian recently. How did that go?
India has always been an amazing country to play in. It's perfectly suited to accept the music the band plays since the musical base is the same for both the countries and the language too is in common.

Instep: Have you had any shows in Pakistan recently? How do you feel about the situation of concerts and live performances in Pakistan? And what can be done to make it better?
It's been very lean in Pakistan for us and many other artists. The way to make it better is for the live circuit to be revived by putting in corporate and sponsor money to rebuild the circuit. Right now, security is often cited as a reason for no shows, but I feel that if political parties can successfully hold huge rallies without any security issues, then it's just a matter of there being no interest from the government and the corporate sector to let people enjoy music and art. The entire attitude is dismal, and we are fast losing our best artists and years.

Instep: Do you have any more live dates coming up in the next few weeks, here or abroad?
We are scheduled to play in India in February. It's a very exciting project where we basically will be writing fresh music around the kalams of Amir Khusrau.

Other projects and future plans

Instep: Have you been working on any individual/ production projects recently?
Yes, there's a couple of new things I'm involved with right now which should be out soon enough; possibly in this year.

Instep: What can we expect from the Mekaal Hasan Band in the coming months?
Well, there's the single to look forward to and the record a few more months down the line. Also we'll be releasing lots of live as well as acoustic content through the Facebook page - that should be cool. With the band's touring on the increase, I hope we will be playing a lot more in Pakistan as well.    

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 10th February, 2013

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