Archive for the ‘music’ Category

OMG… Kuch Khaas.

There has been a constant debate over how the critically acclaimed city of the dead is actually living up to its name as far as performing arts (mainly music) are concerned. The overall security situation of the country amongst many numerable reasons contributed to this sad state of affairs. But as they say, all hope is not lost for 2010 saw KUCH KHAAS (A community space for discourse, learning, meaningful entertainment and participation in Islamabad) break into the scene. I recently caught up with the KUCH KHAAS program team to discuss their new venture called Open Mic Gig (OMG).

1) For starters, tell a little bit about the program team at KUCH KHAAS and what it actually does.

The Kuch Khaas Program Team has Program Managers, Assistant Program Managers, Interns and extended Kuch Khaas Family Members. There is a whole lot of collaboration between the team on how to execute various ideas into programs such as events or classes/workshops.

2) How much in your view has KUCH KHAAS affected the arts/music scene in the capital?

Islamabad happens to be a place where previously being self-taught was the norm for most artists and musicians. Kuch Khaas hopes to have instructors who now can impart their knowledge and skill to eager learners. These learners have a relationship with their Instructors and Kuch Khaas, which later becomes a source of confidence for them to show their talent in events such as OMG.

3) You people have various music courses going on, tell a little about them.

We have previously hosted classes and workshops by Singing Instructors, Natasha Ejaz and Ahmed Ali.

Our ongoing classes include:

“Singing Success” instructed by Shahbaz Zaidi which has been one of our longest running classes alongside “Guitar Lessons – Beginners and Intermediates” instructed by Syed Salman Haider Zaidi.

“Classical Vocal Training and Tabla Classes” by Ustaad Umeed Ali Khan, student of Barey Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, while Ustaad Naimat Ali Khan Sahab accompanies him on tabla have been a great source of inspiration for all of us.

We also have “Percussion Training” with Asfendyar Ahmed. Rawal Shadab Ahmad is our instructor for “Basic Keyboard and Piano Lessons”.

A weekly facilitated drum circle conducted by Ammar Latif also takes place at Kuch Khaas, open to anyone who would like to participate and get together to make music, the purpose of this activity is solely recreational.

4) Do you think KUCH KHAAS caters to particular strata of society or is it inherently universal in its approach?

Kuch Khaas does not prescribe to a formulaic approach in building its community. We are here to mobilize not only the youth but also reaching out to adults in order for them to redefine their notions of everyday life in Islamabad. Kuch Khaas is an idea impacting society physically and theoretically.

5) When did you people decide to hold open mic nights and how has the response been thus far?

The Open Mic Night was to ensure a platform for local enthusiasts and musicians, a gathering that is intimate and casual enough for different genres to come together creating a diverse program for the audiences.

Kuch Khaas hoped to bring together acoustic playing singers, solo acts and local bands. To balance out the night we now ask for submissions a week before the event. These processes lead us to rename the Open Mic Night to Oh My Gig! Or OMG as Kuch Khaas manages the entire program. This does not in any way shape or form mean we dismiss or undermine some talent over the other.

The program each time leads to new realizations for the next OMG. As the Kuch Khaas Team we want to set out an example for local youth to come out and perform not because OMG is an official musical gig but a night to celebrate local talent.

6) A lot of noteworthy musicians have played at this venue; do you think it’s slowly becoming the GEN-Y Civil Junction?

Absolutely not, Kuch Khaas is not catering to solely musicians but multitalented individuals, who have potential and want to perform.

7) Are there any facilities/programs except the Open Mic Gig platform to facilitate budding musicians at KUCH KHAAS?

We now have started Karaoke Nights for those who might just want to sing out loud to their favorite tunes in a relaxed and informal environment. It is not about OMG the event but about the people who go through the experience with us.

8) Why did the chicken cross the road?

To go to Kuch Khaas.

9) Do you people plan on expanding further, if yes, then what avenues are you people looking to explore?

We have an extensive video library in the making of all our previous programs and events. We hope that having an archival process will enable Kuch Khaas to go a step further in delivering constructive dialog beyond its four walls.

10) Any final words of wisdom, messages, dedications or statements?

Kuch Khaas is now coming to a full circle with the completion of its first year in May. A place open to youth and adults alike, bringing forth opportunity and support for a more engaging Islamabad.

 

Photo credits: Zeeshan Jamal/Kuch Khaas

Soz-e-Ishq

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaII05SfX9E[/youtube]

This season of Coke studio to many was very disappointing but there were certain artists that stood out for example the collaboration of Overload’s Meesha Shafi with Arif Lohar and the amazing delivery of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Mori Araj suno” by Tina Sani. But out of all the artists featured, Abida Parveen to me stood out. The second I found out that she was going to be a feature in this season, I was very very excited because I grew up listening to her and to see the house band giving the music to her voice was a very exciting prospect, and she didn’t disappoint, she was a star in so many more ways than the term.

This song is from the last episode that aired today. This song moved me in ways that I have never been moved listening to anything. Her strong vocal tone can easily jitter you and send shivers down spines. This is the definition of love :)

This is brilliant.

The World Music Day Concert by Cityfm89 and what followed…

The National Library auditorium in Islamabad was the venue for the “World Music Day Concert” organized by CityFm89. What follows is a review of how things shaped up and should have shaped up but didn’t shape up due to certain psychotic fiasco’s on part of the people managing and the people playing. First things first, as one of the performers “Zujj” correctly pointed out before the show even started “.. The management has gotten the demography wrong”.. reason being the invitation cards. Apparently you could only utilize the pass if either:-

a) You were a couple.

Or….

b) You were two girls.

So there is an event which features relatively underground acts ( I hate the term but it is what was commonly used so I will do exactly that)… and you can only go in if you either have a “girl”.. (as required by the management.. I swear..) Now as derogatory to the female population as it sounds, it indeed was the case and it indeed is a case at relatively all the concerts which are well, concerts and to me, it makes no sense at all. If there is a concert, instead of relying on the gender derogatory management rule, what can be done is to properly scrutinize the entrants and if there was an incident in which some hormonally imbalanced people got out of their safe zone, security could simply throw them outside.

That was a starting opinion, now on to the exact concert itself. It featured very diverse acts ranging from Zujj to Natasha Ejaz (Brilliant songwriter/singer) who was playing for the first time with a complete band (She is critically acclaimed for her solo acoustic performances), the Islamabad Heavy metal act Saturn and another classically trained vocalist who went by the name of Shan Khan. There was also another band by the name of “Alag The band” who will get a separate exclusive part in this review (Owing to their extremely versatile rock star persona’s, and arrogant rude behavior).

What startled me the most during the initial sound check proceedings was the sheer epiphany that it is very evident that a sound check scheduled for a 5 pm kick off will always manage to start off a couple of hours later but here’s the best part worth a million laughs, the other bands “had no bass guitar”…Yes, the Rock stars HAD NO BASS GUITAR… Here’s the part where all of you can say ” Hein WHAAAAT?”… But let’s leave that part even though I am still “HEIN WHAT-ofying”… The gruesome procedure of the bands sound checking did manage to be done but since the invitation said 6pm, people had already started to come in so the bands were technically “checking their sound check in front of a live audience”…

The concert kicked off with “Alag the band” which technically means “Unique” in urdu, but the only thing unique about them in my humble opinion was how they weren’t unique at all. Just your run of the mill people who think that making original songs on the underlining Roxen/Jal/Every other urdu dipsy pop act is “Cool” and wearing “chains and lockets” makes them a Rock Star. Their Rock star element failed to blossom on stage and all they delivered was an average set which had worse crescendos than Atif Aslam on a bad day (yes that bad)…

Following the rather unique act was Natasha Ejaz, accompanied by her live band which had Parham Faraid (The guitar player of Iranian descent, an amazing friend and someone who has played with the likes of Zeejah and Silversmoke and is a full-time band member of Sketch) playing the bass, Ahmed Ali (The immensely talented ex-vocalist of the ex-brilliant now no more band Nafs, stage play star and the new face of the Ufone family) alternating between the bass and the acoustic guitar, Asfandyar Ahmed (Drummer par excellence who has played with almost everyone from the Islamabad circuit and has an immense amount of concerts to his name) and last but not the least the extremely talented musician from France, Mickael Bon who was playing the keyboard and the acoustic guitar on a few songs.

The set list included a few originals and a few covers. Natasha along with her extremely talented band played a set list that consisted of original songs which went by the name of “Kahan”, “show me the mirror” and “Ankho ko Ankho nay”.. along with a Coldplay cover medley of the songs “Fix you” and “viva la vida (which was performed with a slightly up-tempo rather unique and refreshing arrangement) and a song which went by the name of “Fight for your right”. Her set was the high-light of the show and was very well received by a majority of the crowd present, the minority being the usual “lamers” who have nothing better to do than to hurl abuses at people who take music very seriously and practice all day to put up a good show.

This is the part where Alag the band gets a special mention, apparently one of their mail groupies had the nerve to abuse not only Natasha but also her friends present in the crowd as a reaction of which there was a minor tussle between the lamers and the good people who were only trying to tell the lamers that using the word “Fuck” in a concert is NOT cool and does NOT impraas any gaalz… But the band held their nerve and completed their song. Kudos people Kudos.

Following Natasha was Shan Khan who belted out a few covers which were very well sung and got the crowd on their feet. Talent was plenty in that person as Salman Zaidi of the band Saturn said after his first song ” Dude, Dude, DUDE.. (He might not have EXACTLY said these words but the dept of the connotation was pretty much that.)”.

Saturn followed Shan Khan and by this time, mentally as well as physically each and every person waiting for their turn was exhausted but Saturn put up a very decent show and played an original and a few covers (One of which was the Baby national anthem of Pakistan, Dil Dil Pakistan)… Which was I guess the “surprise cover” most of them were talking about. Saturn’s drummer Shahbaz did an amazing job on the drum kit so hats off to you man.

Zujj was to end the show and by the time he got on stage, as it was late and well the crowd wasn’t really the sort who would listen to System of a down or other linked musical acts, the hall was half empty. Due to the torment of not having a drummer to play with and no bass guitar (Due to Asfandyar’s other commitments and the bass required at an adjacent concert venue), Zujj with his band that consisted of Parham Faraid, Zain Ali (Deframed fame and awesome musician) decided to go unplugged and sang 2 of his original songs that were to be featured on an upcoming Bollywood film and ended the set with his ever famous “phoonk lay” which is quite quickly becoming a crowd favorite.

Being someone who has had the pleasure of being to amazing concerts and some not so amazing ones, this concert just didn’t cut the cake as it should have done, Natasha Ejaz as I mentioned earlier was the highlight of the show. The sound was “Okay” and the lighting was “annoying” but commendable efforts put in my Cityfm89.

Football was being played in the parking lot and there were CityFm89 finger gloves all over the place and that was something I HAD to mention because today was the first time I ever bought something at a concert… *thumbs up*

Apologies for not taking ample pictures and the two used were the only ones that came out good.

Sketch- Silent

Yes yes, a little self publicity never harmed anyone =p

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO8HsWYsChA[/youtube]

Overload-ed and ready to roll.

The music scene in Pakistan over the span of the last couple of years has really evolved. Not like there weren’t any bands performing or making original music. There was very amazing talent playing small shows in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. But that was it, small shows. Limited audiences. Not much mainstream exposure. The only exposure was at the helm of people who made Bhangra or pop songs. There wasn’t general acceptance of more heavier forms of music.

But that changed with the very famous “battle of the bands” airing on national television.Sponsored by Pepsi and having Ex-Vital Signs members Rohail Hayat and Shehzad Hassan as judges along with media person Fifi Haroon. The show saw some of the best bands come up. Bands like The Mekaal Hasan Band, Aaroh, Entity Paradigm to name a few. Ever since then lots of people have stepped up to the forefront backed by the ever growing styling industry and a large number of Music Channels and “apparent” record labels. Only a few have actually maintained a qualitative approach making good music, good videos and playing good live shows.

1

One such band is Overload. I remember when they came out with their first album I heard many critics deem them “short-term fun” and giving out remarks like ” who will listen to an all percussion band”. But they defied all “critics” and made their way into the Industry and quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Not only did their album get acclaimed by avid music listeners, their live concerts were an experience. Overload has since then played concerts all around the world making Pakistan proud.

They have recently released their second album titled “Pichal Pairee” through their own record label and it’s available for download on their website:-

I got the chance to interview their new vocalist Meera Rahman and talk to her about her role in the band, their new album, the new sound and the plight of the current music industry:-

Overload

1) Being a painting graduate, a model, and now the vocalist for Overload, do you think that these three forms of expression differ in their approach even though the core of all three is “creativity”. If yes, then how do you approach them differently?

The three are actually very similar, each is a creative process which develops steadily after you realize what it is you are trying to express. Writing a song or figuring out what to paint on an empty canvas can be quite alike. The only difference is input. When producing a song, I’m working with the other musicians in the band. Their input can influence me to steer the lyrics into a different direction. Or to soften the melody, build up the tempo etc. Every painting is a completely solo project. Even if there are influences or inspirations that show in a painting, an artist has to seek them out for him/herself. Modeling is probably the most different of all. Often, a fashion model has little or no creative control. Although, I have observed over the years that if your opinion is credible, your team will be very receptive.

2) Who are your favorite singers/musicians and who did you listen to when you were growing up?  Being a musician myself I know how your first influences have a deep impact on the way you make music.

I grew up listening to any and all kinds of music. But what always appealed to me more as a vocalist were big, powerful voices. Vocals that come from the pit of your stomach, as opposed to hoarse, whispery crooners. Breathy vocal delivery and acoustic guitar strumming type songs which became very popular in the early 2000s were not my cup of tea. To name a few, some of the artists I have been listening to for many years now are Fiona Apple, Jill Scott, Robin S, Erykah Badu, Laurin Hill and more recently Moloko, now a solo artist calling herself by her real name, Roisin Murphy.

3) How did you come across joining overload as their vocalist? How do you think you added to the sound scape of the already very unique overload sound i.e their first album which had ethnic beats and papoo sain magic on dhol?

The band wasn’t looking for a vocalist, neither was I looking for a band, we both realized that their was an exciting potential in putting together my vocals with the band’s sound and we took it from there. The biggest difference obviously is that before, Overload was an instrumental band, and now it has lyrics, vocal melodies and a more user friendly language. We are musically very complex and our compositions can be quite complicated, I feel that my band members have become a little less intense on some tracks because some of my lyrics and melodies are happier than the moody music they are known for. But we still have many intense, brooding tracks on the second album.

I joined an already very well established band. So I have had to carve my way into their signature sound which was challenging but exhilirating at the same time. Their sound was unique before I joined them, and is unique still. This was one of the biggest reasons I was proud to be on board. The band consists of musicians who have been playing their respective instruments for over a decade now, they have immense knowledge, aesthetically, they have very high standards and they do not compromise on their music for popularity. The sound has reinvented itself with the second album, but in order to keep your work from stagnating, it has to evolve with time. That is what I have seen since starting jamming and then recording with them. The new album has a lot more electronic music, has a lot of heavy guitar parts, and is less dhol intensive. But without a doubt, it is still loud, fun and sometimes aggressive.

meesha2

4) “Pichal Pairee” is a rather interesting name for an album. What made you guys name it that and having said that, is the music on the album as unique as it’s name?

The music is definitely unique. Altogether, the tracks on the new album make for a very eclectic sound. Everyone of us has very different tastes in what we listen to, what we have grown up listening to, what has influenced us and inspired us. Pichal Pairee is not the only unique title you’ll find on the album. The album is named after the title track, which is actually an English track but has a desi name. This track has vocals that we thought sounded a bit haunting and crazy. In Punjabi folklore, a pichal pairee is a mythical witch with inverted feet.

5) Having seen the first video titled ‘pichal pairee” I can’t stop but think how slick the camera angles and the overall production were. Who directed the video and is it just your usual performance based video or does it have a theme?

No theme, no storyboard, no characters. Personally, I am quite sick of everything having a theme just for the sake of having a theme. I think it helps people decide where to start when developing an idea. We wanted a very clear, crisp, no-nonsense video and we got it. The video was directed by Hasaan Ashraf. He is a film making major at the National College of Arts and was our junior. We picked him because he is formally qualified and trained in film making, and understands music since he himself plays bass and has great musical taste and plenty of exposure.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n01gcSmWQIM[/youtube]

6) You guys decided to release the album via your own label. Do you think releasing an Album in Pakistan is tough business keeping in mind the expenses are way more than the actual income?

The state of affairs as far as the legal infrastructure of our music industry are appalling, virtually non existent and highly useless. There is no copyright law, no royalties, no payback even if you go through a distributor or a label. We’re at least a hundred years behind the rest of the world as far as artists’ rights are concerned. Our primary objective is to get our music across to as many people as possible, that’s what makes us happy. Our audience and our fans are what motivate us. Releasing the album online on the 5th of October on www.overloadbeats.com is the way we want to do this.

7) Being the daughter of one of the best Actresses Pakistan has ever seen, do you see yourself acting or have you ever tried your hands at acting?

I have done a lot of theater and some T.V. Both take a lot of time and I have too many other things to concentrate on to be able to take out that kind of time for something I don’t have too much passion for. I don’t want to be a jack of all trades. When God blesses you with talent you shouldn’t be ungrateful, you should master what you are good at.That for me is not T.V. Besides, Pakistani T.V is not what it used to be, there are some great plays being made these days, but the glory days of our plays are gone. Maybe they’ll be back, when we stop following in the footsteps of all the horrific Star Plus, Zee T.v soaps.

8) Since this IS for the Islamabad Metblogs, have you performed in Islamabad? If yes, how was the response, if no would you like to perform here?

We have indeed. Since I joined the band, we’ve only performed once, but what a night that was. The crowd was a lot cooler than I expected, but it was a very select crowd, consisting of only the rich and famous, the movers and shakers, whatever you want to call it. Also it was invitees only, I’d love to get the true feel of the average Islamabad crowd at a proper, big concert. Besides, the youth is where the energy always is!!!

9)How do you feel about breaking the norm of the female pop star image (hideous make up, no substance, out of scale vocals) and standing out in a genre where girls in general are virtually non existent?

I’m not moving towards becoming a pop star at all. What that asks for and represents in Pakistan specially, I am not ready to do. My standards are high and my quality control very strictly administered. I’m all for doing crazy things and taking chances, but sub-standard and tacky are words you will never use to describe me. And that’s a promise!

Competition is always a good thing, unfortunately I don’t think I have any. The only successful female artists we have are making very different music from mine. They and their music is in a whole different catagory. Besides I’m the only girl I know who’s part of a band and not just playing with session players.We write, produce and record together, we make videos together. That in itself is a first, and yes, it does challenge the norm here. I joined Overload to sing, not to become famous. I see a lot of girls in this industry concentrating on everything but how they sound. Very sad.

10) Any message for the Youth?

With the passing of youth, start focusing on what your strengths are. Work towards realizing what you’re good at and what you’re great at. When you’re young, you want to try giving everything a shot, which is great. But with time, It’s essential to prioritize and focus on what you can really achieve. Otherwise, you’ll just end up being mediocre at a lot of things and outstanding at nothing.

I also want to take this opportunity to tell everyone who’s reading this that we have released our album for free, and you can all download it at www.overloadbeats.com

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