By Sonya Rehman
While some critics would subscribe to the notion that the local music scene’s growth curve has tipped its way into an abyss of ambivalence, the fact of the matter is that currently, a majority aren’t really aware – nor bothered – about the breaking and entering of music acts, both old and fledgling.
These days, unfortunately or fortunately, what really matters is how aggressively a musician/band is promoted. This is because no one really has the time anymore to flitter away the hours channel surfing local music channels.
Because, quite honestly, instead of the tube, people are far more tuned into the World Wide Web.
That’s how musicians (and bands) like Zeb and Haniya, Sahil, Arooj Aftab (and countless others) got ‘discovered’ and hit the media jackpot as they were promoted by a host of newspaper agencies, radio stations and television channels.
And with ‘13’, the story is somewhat similar. Not that these fellas have hit the media jackpot just yet, but they’re (hopefully) bound to.
Comprising of Faraz Ahmed (a musician who has played with the likes of Mekaal Hasan, ‘The Trip’, and ‘Noori’), Ian Eldred (the golden boy of Shah Sharabeel’s musical productions – one of his finest roles which he played in ‘Moulin Rogue’), and Wahaj (who has musically dabbled in alternative acts such as ‘Azaish’, ‘New York Reflections’ and ‘Myle’).
“The band ‘13’ was formed in 2006 with myself and Hassan Taimur”, Faraz states, “We’d been playing with a lot of underground bands in Pakistan such as ‘The Trip’, ‘Noori’ and Mekaal Hasan’s project ‘Bare Chords’, among the lot. In 2005 Hassan and I were asked to play with an American Opera singer called Heather Schmid who was touring Pakistan and raising funds for the earthquake victims at the time.”
Soon after, Hassan left Pakistan to pursue higher studies abroad, resulting in the introduction of Ian and Wahaj to ‘13’.
Interestingly, via 13’s internet promotion, I’d learnt that the band also included a young female drummer called Mehreen Baxm.
“She’s Pakistan’s first professional girl drummer who is also involved in composing, lyric-writing, designing and promotions for our band”, Faraz states, “But currently she’s on indefinite hiatus due to a demanding program at a university in Georgia, United States.”
So considering the band’s played at public and private gigs, do they plan on releasing an album (since that stands as Step Number 2 for any new band entering into the local music scene)?
“With there being only one major record label in the country”, Faraz answers, “The window of opportunity has constricted which means less variegation within the music industry. Foreign labels are a hard deal because without an agent most bands get lost in some corner of the information highway.”
Fair enough. But a music video, then? “Yes we plan to make a video for our debut song and we’re currently looking for sponsors, even though the rubrics most of these potential sponsors we approach are addling at best – for example we had two different people within one corporation tell us that our music was not commercial and grunge enough but yet was also too commercial in nature to be considered marketable rock/pop”.
Faraz then goes on to state something which has been echoed by our local musicians, young and old, over the years; “You see it’s a very discernible and disturbing phenomenon, if you want to be a sure fire hit today and have the backing of a host of sponsors then unfortunately you will have to sell your ideals and principles by letting go of the music that you truly want to play and share with other people. Eventually you must become a cardboard cut-out that can be stereotyped and easily packaged by people ‘showing you the money’. It is terribly deleterious and can only mean the slow and attritional emaciation of diversity and heterogeneity.”
Part of the rock scene in Melbourne, Australia (in the 90s), Faraz, on his arrival back in Pakistan joined the Lahori underground scene in 2001 (and played with a few bands as mentioned earlier).
“Music had gall back then – from the late 90s to 2003”, he says, “Music was more then just an end to a means, it was collective consciousness, everyone was part of something, something that was just invigorating, facultative and binding. It wasn’t just a bunch of snooty-nosed kids playing guitars and indulging in all sorts of bourgeois nonsense”.
But of the music scene as it stands currently? Faraz remains optimistic. While the political and economic vista of the country may appear to be in shambles, Pakistani musicians – like each of us – have developed a to-hell-with-it attitude…carrying on with what they know best, yet dealing with it pragmatically on a day to day basis.
So whether or not the returns don’t flow in as soon and/or as much as they should, and whether or not record deals are struck (or lost) the local music scene is and always will be, in constant metamorphosis.
Sunday, Daily Times