By Sonya Rehman
Always ahead of the game, Zeeshan Parwez has worn many hats throughout his fascinating career in Pakistan’s music scene.
While some would have remained in their comfort zones, Parwez has continued to push the envelope, as a musician, video director and an animator. A cerebral, humble and hardworking artiste, Parwez’s purpose lies solely in the art of creating things that are not only beautiful, exciting and impactful – but also work which resonates with his audience.
Apart from his band, Sajid & Zeeshan (along with fellow musician, Sajid Ghafoor) and their soon-to-be-released third electronic music album, Parwez has worked with some of the most well-known names in Pakistan as a music video director, including stepping in as video producer for the biggest local music platform, Coke Studio, for four seasons.
In the past, Parwez’s 2004 music television series, On The Fringe, hosted by popular columnist and talk show host, Fasi Zaka, was a hit for its insightful and incredibly witty delivery on Pakistani music, including its thoroughly raw interviews with local singers and musicians.
In addition, Parwez’s studio, Rokhan Studio, launched last summer, released COVID-19 public service announcements in the form of animated videos throughout the pandemic.
While Parwez has been in the business since the mid-2000s, he’s only just getting started. He’s a quiet worker with a solid vision for his role in Pakistan’s entertainment industry. But he doesn’t care for the glory, perhaps that’s why he always manages to be thrown back into the spotlight, even though he finds his balance by meticulously working in the background.
“I knew more about the directors and cinematographers than the actors,” Parwez chuckles, “I would draw a lot and visualize scenes in my head. I had this compact camera and would run around shooting everything and then piece them together on two VCR’s. Obviously it would be terrible, but I was so curious about the process.”
Currently juggling a few projects, one of which includes his debut album slated for release in the beginning of 2021, Parwez mentions that the sound is an amalgamation of genres that he has loved for a long time. From pop, glitch hop, drum and bass and most particularly, electronic music, the tracks highlight the past decade of the artiste’s life that he states has been “a huge struggle.”
However, in typical Parwez fashion, the songs, while encapsulating his inner changes and outer challenges, capture a vibe that is both positive and uplifting.
While much has changed in Pakistani music over the past two decades, what with the arrival of a pandemic which threw everything for a spin, local artistes find themselves in the throes of a survival race in the ‘new normal.’
With the fantastic Lahore Music Meet (LMM) festival in Lahore, including the Koblumpi Music Festival in Islamabad, both held at the start of 2020, the lockdown brought an end to the few and infrequent music-related public events in Pakistan.
At the same time, new music platforms such as the newly launched Velo Sound Station and the upcoming Bisconni Music platform, are bringing old and new artistes to the fore. However, are fizzy drinks, nicotine and biscuit companies the local music scene’s sole saving grace?
“Corporate backing has been happening for not just the local music scene but on an international level as well. The biggest shows aren’t possible without corporate backing,” Parwez states, “While corporate support is vital in its contribution to the music industry, what can be questioned is the intent behind the songs and what they showcase: is it true to the artiste’s vision? Is the artiste loyal to his/her sound? That responsibility is also shared by the show’s producer…do they want to contribute something new to the industry? As long as the artiste’s integrity is not being compromised, corporate backing can work.”
Speaking about his own experience regarding the forthcoming Bisconni Music platform whose line-up includes Sajid & Zeeshan, Parwez reveals that the show’s music producer gave the duo complete artistic freedom regarding their music.
“If brands trust the artistes they’re bringing onto their platforms, true art can shine through and have a big impact. Also, audiences intuitively know what works and what doesn’t.”
Regarding the future sound of Pakistani music, Parwez states that he has a “gut feeling” that the music scene is going to bring new faces and talent to the forefront very soon. And it’s already happening.
“Brands are very focused on signing on new faces. We have reached a saturation point – year after year audiences are being introduced to the same names and that has to stop at some point,” he says, “But there has to be an attitude shift, music platforms and their producers need to search for and support new talent and provide them with a platform. That’s the only way forward in Pakistani music. Also, audiences need to give new artistes a chance and not be too quick to judge, the new lot can be as great as your biggest stars.”