Zohaib Kazi’s Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher

In case you missed it over the holidays, Zohaib Kazi’s album is out in full. The album features a roving cast of Karachi’s best musicians: Jaffer Zaidi, Zoe Viccaji, Sara Haider, Omran Shafique, Abbas Ali Khan among other.

The record was released with an accompanying graphic novel, and is a sketch of space, of the future, of the unchartered – most importantly of something new and different. In its newness the album retains a familiarity of early 2000s Pakistani pop. It has spiritual links to Coke Studio, as it does to Junoon’s Piya and to Vital Signs’ Hum Tum. This is an album of sound-scapes, but it still makes still, for great pop.

Kazi’s journey to this point is quite remarkable, and there is no doubt now that he ranks among the country’s best record producers.

This is Ahmer Naqvi in a profile on Kazi for the National:

In what was the first of many serendipitous moments, a friend noticed that three of the tracks he had made seemed to be hinting at a larger vision, and he encouraged Kazi to pursue it. Those three songs were part of a film soundtrack Zohaib was working on that had only one problem – there wasn’t any film. iphone 5s replacement screen Spurred by his friend’s encouragement, he decided to start writing the story he had wanted to be filmed.

Almost three years later, Kazi mailed a CD with one of his songs to Rohail Hyatt, one of Pakistan’s most acclaimed musicians and, at that time, the producer of the show that would define the last decade of Pakistani music – Coke Studio.

 

On the Production of CS 8’s Tajdar-e-Haram

Hasan Ansari for Express Tribune:

But it has been revealed what became the biggest hit of season 8 was in fact not produced by Strings duo Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Atif revealed, “Tajdar-e-Haram was actually produced by songwriter Shiraz Uppal.” Atif had initially planned to keep the track for himself and had Shiraz arrange the music. “When Coke Studio approached me, I thought why not perform it on the show,” he added. He shared he brought Shiraz on-board to give the producer a feel of Coke Studio.

When approached for a comment, Shiraz said Atif is his long-time collaborator. “He had approached me because he wanted to do a modern version of the qawwali. We took the CD to Coke Studio where he performed the same version.” It’s interesting to note that neither was Shiraz’s name mentioned in the song credits nor did he appear in the BTS clip that showcases the song-making process.

There are two concerns here: what role did Strings play in this recording? And was Shiraz Uppal denied a credit that he deserved?

First, on Strings’ role: Recordings often start in one place, end in another. They start with one band, end with others playing on it. Collaborations work in different ways, and Coke Studio itself is testament to that. Some songs are brought in by artists and modified, others suggested to artists and worked on together, sometimes entire songs composed by the house band and a singer called in to front them. In each case the Producers of Coke Studio retain the final responsibility of tying each song together, and of tying each song to the whole theme of the season. So that Shiraz Uppal was the original producer on this version of the song before it came to Coke Studio I don’t think takes away anything from Strings. Ultimately it is likely that they were involved, if anything as commentators and curators, though the final facts here are not necessarily known. This discussion is relevant given recent news that Strings will likely lead a collection of producers on Coke Studio 9, similar to the model employed with Coke Studio @ MTV (a.k.a. Coke Studio India). All in all, I think this is not as big a deal as it seems. There is potential to burn the producers at the stake, and criticisms of the production of Seasons 7 and 8 aside, I don’t think this deserves to be one.

Second, on crediting Shiraz Uppal: Unfortunately even after this story it’s a little unclear what role each producer played. That said, with Coke Studio’s recent emphasis on crediting heavily — many videos start with text crediting the original singers and composers of the song, even video montages and thank you notes — giving some credit to Shiraz Uppal may have been warranted and a nice gesture. But this seems erroneous, not malicious (if incorrect at all). It is good that we are talking about these things, but it should only help the industry improve, not bring anyone down.

Junoon 25 to feature many great artists

The Express Tribune in an article on Salman Ahmad:

The release of Rhythm in February coincides with the 25th anniversary of Junoon’s music. Salman’s plans for the year include another local film project, alongside Ali Zafar and Humayun Saeed. There is also a new, silver jubilee album being recorded at producer Shahi Hasan’s studio, as part of the Junoon 25 celebrations. “The album features special guests like Ali Zafar, Strings, Outlandish, Peter Gabriel, Morten Harket, Shubha Mudgal, Sunidhi and more,” shared Salman. “It has some of Junoon’s golden hits as well. I am also in talks with AR Rahman — let’s see what happens.”

As is common in the case with stories on Junoon, the article focuses on whether the band will reunite. As great as that will be, there is something to be said about being able to enjoy bands in the time they were together, and being okay with their eventual ends. Most bands stop working together eventually. Most people switch jobs. It’s how we live. Sometimes we fight, sometimes we’re tired, other times we just want to move on. But it doesn’t make our time together any less meaningful.

Regardless of what Brian, Ali and Salman choose to do in the future, their time together, along with their many collaborators (Nusrat Hussain, Fifi Haroon, Samina Ahmad, Sabir Zafar and more) will always be special to us. And while it is heartwarming to see them together when they are so, the solo careers of Junoon’s members have given us many great gems. Arguably it is music that we wouldn’t have received had Junoon remained together.

In fact had Junoon continued to play it is likely that Ali Azmat may never have needed to build a band of his own, a band that would play on Klashinfolk, comprising Omran, Mannu and Gumby, a band that would then form the underpinning of Coke Studio. You can extract countless narratives like this from the end of Junoon.

Point being that as much as I like Junoon in the form that we remember it, I like to see musicians play. And I like to see them at peace with themselves, and if the end of Junoon’s traditional lineup gave them that, that is what they, and we, needed.

Zahra Salahuddin interviews Babar Sheikh from Dusk

Great profile of the metal band in Dawn:

When it comes to heavy metal or extreme music, the ’90s were a special time as a lot was changing, Babar recalls. While mainstream bands ranging from Iron Maiden to Judas Priest existed, at the same time there was an underground metal scene erupting the world over — including in Pakistan.

The article is written on the occasion of the release of Dusk’s latest single, which itself is commemoration of the band’s 20th Anniversary:

The band’s links to Karachi’s music scene are extremely diverse. Both in terms of the number of Karachi’s stalwarts that have played with the band, and the number of acts the band’s members have been involved in.

Quite special also are the band’s collaborations with other metal acts from across the world, releasing records together with bands from Singapore, India & Japan.

In all of this lies a deep love for metal. Often at the fringes of most musical tastes, what is heartwarming about metal in Dusk’s case is not just whether it makes for easy listening all the time, but that it is played with such love. You get a sense of the band’s connection with the music when you listen to Babar Sheikh talk to Patari about the band and about the context in which they played:

If you’re new to Dusk, like me, you can get a feel for their music using our new Popular Tracks feature on Dusk’s page.

Pop Sitars

Noorzadeh Raja has this great mellow-afternoon soft-rock song that we featured in Haftanama 18:

It caught our imagination:

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The song has many great things about it, but it’s the texture of the song – made by Rakae Jamil’s sitar – that sets it apart.

The sitar has lagged behind desi percussion and the harmonium for uptake in Pakistani pop, which is strange considering it was one of the first Indian instruments to make it to Western pop. The biggest Western coup for the sitar being late Beatles music (prominent songs: Norwegian Wood, Love You To, Within You Without You).

The sitar’s travels to the West also gave us piece of magic:


The closest thing we have to this is psychedelic work from film composers Sohail Rana & Nisar Bazmi:

And perhaps the most prominent public presence of the sitar today is at Nafees Ahmad’s accompaniment at Zia Mohyeddin’s new year’s eve show at Lahore’s Ali Auditorium. Nafees Ahmad also played in this year’s Coke Studio:

Western pop’s infractions towards the east have mostly looked at North Indian Classical Music, where the sitar is often prominent. On the other hand, recent Pakistani pop’s explorations into South Asian musical traditions has largely centered around Sufi music. Junoon, of course, led this effort, and many others have taken it up in their stead. Which has meant that qawwali is the primary genre that pop has interacted with, and qawwali will often have only a harmonium and some percussion. Both of which have seen more successful forays into pop.

The sitar really found it’s voice in Pakistani pop when Rakae played with cousins Noori on Coke Studio 2:

Coke Studio has tried a handful of sitar pieces since, most of which are rooted in classical composition. Pop’s sitar players are few and far between – Rakae Jamil may be the only prominent one.

And if nothing else, I appreciate the effort to broaden the horizons of both pop and the use of the sitar in contemporary music. Why? Because unlike many other things in life, in music new-ness is almost always good. Because new means different, and difference allows art to do what it’s meant to: shake things up. The great thing about art, music especially, as opposed to other creative production like software is that art never goes out of date. Which means that even if a style isn’t fashionable in the moment, it may become so later. It is this permanence that leads us now into Sohail Rana’s work from many decades ago, which was perhaps ahead of its time in terms of fashion.

Zohaib Kazi’s Album & Graphic Novel Coming This Month

Dawn’s Images:

The album will be launched in December this year. Published by Markings, the album will bring forward popular artistes like Zoe Viccaji, Omran Shafique, Abbas Ali Khan and Kazi himself.

The animated video has been looked after by Kamal Khan and the project spanned over four years with some of the frames hand-drawn digitally.

Sneak peek of the video:

How I feel about this:

 

Zohaib Kazi’s music, perhaps along with Janoobi Khargosh, is near the top of the charts if you order them by quality to lack-of-knownness ratio.

The demos we have off the album are already some of my favorite recent songs:

Arshad Mahmud is Launching a Record Label

The Express Tribune on MoUSICi: 

Elaborating on the model, he explained that audience these days mostly comprise of youngsters. “Eighty to 90% of our music would be catering to the popular choice but we also want to have music for the remaining audiences,” stated the music producer.

Works for me. We wish them the best, and look forward to the possibility of working with MoUSICi.

The Tribune quotes Mahmud:

“Most of the music being made by musicians these days is either a remixed or cover version of classic songs. Musicians like Vital Signs and Nazia & Zoheb made a name by doing original songs and not remixes,” Mahmud told The Express Tribune.

I’m not sure if this is quite true, but a lot of original music isn’t receiving the airtime it used to. So you have to go looking for it. The death of the music channel, the inhospitable nature of the FM stations, probably both a big part of this.

Bumbu Track

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It’s out.

Though it’s not by Bumbu Sauce in full, just ‘Masterjee Bumbu’.

True to form: tongue-in-cheek, urban-lingo reference heavy, and punkish. Perhaps sonically not as rounded as the Bistee Proof EP but interesting.

I think we’ll look back in a few decades to these songs as records of what we used to talk about. In some ways these songs are our life’s phrases in a sonic time-capsule.