By Sonya Rehman
At the Karachi airport – in the departure lounge – waiting for his flight to Lahore, Ali Azmat sounded positively drained.
But that didn’t come as a surprise; after all, he’s been flying back and forth – between India and Pakistan (throughout October) shooting videos for his current album ‘Klashinfolk’ (to be released in December), and is working in the capacity of a music director for two Bollywood films.
This isn’t the first time Azmat’s worked in Bollywood though, in 2003 along with the vocally-gifted Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Shahi, Pakistani compositions dominated Pooja Bhatt’s debut film, ‘Paap’.
And Azmat’s ‘Garaj Baras’ was a significant feature of the film and its soundtrack.
Speaking about the two, current Bollywood films, Azmat stated: “Rahul Dholakia and Sudhir Mishra [the Indian directors] are my friends and they basically asked me to do music for their films according to my sensibilities. It’s not as if this is the first time I’m working with Bollywood – I’ve always had offers…but it’s just that I don’t like doing mediocre Bollywood stuff. Rahul and Sudhir’s films are basically part of eleven films (by eleven different Indian film directors) on Mumbai. All these guys are artistic directors and they mainly do art movies – and each film will be the director’s take on Mumbai.”
Describing the feel of the song for Rahul’s film as “dark”, along with six reggae-inspired tracks for Sudhir’s, ‘Tera Kya Hoga Johnny’, Azmat seems to be going ahead, full-throttle in the experimentation department.
Azmat and reggae? Bet that’d be enough to make you balk, but at Royal Rodale (many months ago) in Karachi, Azmat performed ‘Divide’ (from Klashnifolk) which was a purely English, reggae/rock number. And surprisingly, he managed to pull off the toe-tapping ditty pretty well.
But coming back to Klashnifolk, slated for release in December, Azmat describes the album’s genre as: “urban folk music, rock and roll, it has a feel of the 60s, 70s and the 90s – the style approach will be something like Sound Garden, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, and Radiohead etc.” And what about Klashnifolk’s core theme? “It’s basically about the Kalashnikov times we live in, where an entire revolution is happening – where there lies an underbelly of monsters”, Azmat answers, “it’s about the modern times we live in – that we can’t cope in…the technologically ‘designed’ parks, the fact that the world is being destroyed; where our homes are burning, our fathers killed and our sisters raped.” Sounds like some heavy duty, anti-system social commentary – and pretty timely too, given the current state of affairs, if one takes global politics into consideration.
Klashnifolk is also due to be released in India – and will comprise of only seven to eight numbers, since four of Azmat’s songs have been given to Rahul and Sudhir’s Bollywood films. The Pakistani release however, will consist of the musician’s full, eleven songs.
With the nature of Klashnifolk’s theme – is the music melancholic? “Not at all”, Azmat states, “if you’re talking depressing, then ‘Social Circus’ was probably a depressing album. I’m not depressed anymore – and Klashnifolk is anything but depressing! Although it is shifty, in the same way Social Circus was, Klashnifolk represents the shift in human consciousness and habits…”
And ever since the channel which features Azmat’s talk show (‘Pappu Yaar’) that recently went off air due to the blockage of local channels, is Azmat still planning to record more episodes? “I don’t know, they weren’t paying up on time and that’s why I put them on hold, so let’s see”.
Winding up the conversation, Azmat said: “I’ve been trying to keep a low profile, I just want to get everything done first – breaks are important too. If you don’t have any breaks, you start believing in your own lies, and you end up getting too used to the noise of the media. At the end of the day, too much of a good thing isn’t good”.
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