By Sonya Rehman
Not one, not a few, but each of us – every single individual – at some point or the other, has a certain ‘light-bulb-aha!-moment’.
A moment, an instance, a feeling and a surge of insight, creativity, and intuition (all rolled up into one); where a situation’s solution becomes perceptible…where the light at the end of a deep, dark and dingy tunnel sparkles slightly brighter…and where one intuitively realizes which road, street, boulevard, highway to take on his/her life’s journey. ‘Should I walk? Should I run? Should I sit and wait – take comfort in limbo? Or should I abandon all fears, and run…wild, free, and smile…for life beckoning, has begun…’
Our ‘Aha!’ moments act as little ‘prompters’ you see, and in limbo, they spur us to run – both literally, and metaphorically.
And speaking with Omer and Tania – a new brother/sister music duo (called ‘Nishaan’) – at their studio recently, here in Lahore, they articulate this very notion.
It’s a pretty studio, and we’re sitting on a plush, purple carpet – where, towards my right – speakers, two computer screens and other equipment are situated. Tania has her wavy dark hair tied up in a loose ponytail and is dressed in a simple shalwar kameez, while Omer – cradling an acoustic guitar in his lap – sports an unshaven stubble, black jeans and a T-shirt.
Both siblings sit before me; and adjusting my recorder – and its tangled, spaghetti-like wires – and passing on the mike over to them, we begin talking.
“Basically I’ve been singing all my life”, Tania says, “I started music because of my mother and she’s been the main person who got me into this field”.
It is only much later that I find out that the duo’s mother is an accomplished music teacher, who has been teaching students at the Lahore Grammar School for years, and that Tania was a gold-medalist at the APMC (All Pakistan Media Conference).
Tania continues: “I got a lot of support from my mother. I basically work as a special educationist for special children and operate a clinic called ‘Turning Point’, where we work with special children on a complete one-on-one basis. Coming back to music, I’ve been learning classical music off and on for the past ten to twelve years – and have had quite a few ustaads, Ghulam Shabbir sahib being a recent one. But then there came a five to six year gap where I left music – but now Omer dragged me back into it!”
“We had become soulless”, Omer interjects – emphasizing; “I did my BA from Philadelphia College in Textile Engineering, and when I came back to Pakistan I worked in textiles for many years…but then I realized I just couldn’t continue doing this for the rest of my life”.
So that’s where the ‘Aha!’ moment must have spun off from. Did they feel better fulfilled now, after their decision to pursue music seriously?
“Definitley…bilkul”, Tania states, nodding her head in agreement. “I’d become very, very soulless working in textiles”, Omer pipes in, as Tania interjects; “Yes, basically we had become disillusioned”.
“Actually Tania was in an underground band called ‘Naqsh’ – they even recorded an album…but things didn’t work out. And after that she completely left singing…but now I’ve gotten her back into it”, Omer says good-humouredly as Tania chuckles and says: “Maar maar key wapis ghaseeta hay!”
Currently the duo has fully recorded their first album (called ‘Silsila’) completed their second, and in addition, they’ve already started working on some singles from their third album.
With two albums ready for release, haven’t they thought about swinging a local record deal? Omer seems slightly hesitant and states: “Local record labels aren’t very good – I mean we’ve invested a lot in our music and really worked on it, therefore, the returns should be good enough too…and yes, I am a little apprehensive about them”.
One really can’t blame the duo for feeling that way – with a majority of new (and old) bands/musicians undergoing upsetting experiences vis-à-vis Pakistani record labels and their so-called ‘contracts’, monetary pittances called ‘royalties’ and the nonchalant attitude regarding the promotion of the label’s clients, quite a few local artists have resorted to foreign (Indian) turf, to strike more lucrative deals. Can you blame them?
And resonating within the studio’s walls, ‘Silsila’ and ‘Zehr’ – two singles from the duo’s album play, and much later, after the interview, both Omer and Tania give me a wonderful, live performance.
It must be stated that ‘Zehr’ was an acoustic winner – and my prediction is, it’s bound to be a hit since it’s soulful, clean-sounding and incredibly ‘organic’.
Nishaan’s sound is crisp, commercial yet, with both Omer and Tania’s vocal dexterity, music and lyrics – it manages to have its fair share of ‘depth’.
Also present in the studio is Sheraz, Omer’s closest friend (since grade 1) and also the duo’s lyricist who pens his lyrics in Urdu and English, deriving inspiration from Ghalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
“I’ve been a banker for the past twelve years”, he replies when asked about his profession, “I love working with these guys”, he smiles, “because working with them makes me feel alive”.
With their first video to be out soon, ‘Nishaan’ seems exceedingly promising – and the fact that the band primarily comprises of two professional, incredibly humble, soft-spoken, highly talented siblings…makes it all the more fascinating.
I’m willing to put my money down on this one – because just you watch, the local music scene is bound to yell ‘Aha!’ very, very soon.
The Friday Times