Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Showdown With Ali Zafar

As many of you have been following, Ali Zafar and I have been feuding over the internet for the past couple of months or so, creating an epic battle of Kanye vs 50 Cent proportions. By feud I mean I have been posting ridiculous rumours about him and he has been well..pretty nice actually.

But all this was about to change.

I was in Lahore this past weekend for a friends wedding and on my flight back to Karachi, who should I encounter at the departure gate? None other than my nemesis




How it happened:

Upon seeing Ali Zafar I shouted..."Yo! Choot ass! I hear you been talking shit about me?!"

Ali Zafar then responded "Aunty Disco Bitch! I am going to rape you!"

I dropped my luggage and then ran towards him, while he dropped his teddy bear and hustled towards me delicately on his tippy toes. Face to face, we angrily confronted each other.

Ali Zafar: "Before this day is over, I am going to make you taste my wrath"
Me: "Before this day is over, I am going to make you taste my balls".

Then I wrestled him to the ground and beat him with my shoe while airport security cheered on.

How it really happened:

I was sitting at the departure gate when I saw a dude with a guitar case briskly walking towards the boarding are, and recognised him as Ali Zafar. Ali turned around and looked at me, and kinda cocked his head to the side and gave me a look of recognition. Then I got up to meet him, feeling slightly awkward, keeping in mind that I had previously accused him of several different types of STD's in my blog. So I walked up to him and gave him a man-hug then he looked at me and sincerely asked, "Why you got a problem with me bro?"
To which I sheepishly replied, "I dunno, I guess cuz' I thought you had a problem with me"
Ali looked hurt and said, "No man, why would I have a problem with you? I love you man..."
I smiled back, and choking back tears said "I love you!"

Then we embraced in a passionate lip-lock and fell the to ground while airport security cheered on.

OK this is what really happened

So Ali and I met at the airport departure lounge and I gotta say, the guy is a complete gentleman. He was on his way to Karachi for Coke Studio and seemed genuinely excited about the whole thing. He mentioned that he'd heard our stuff and was really encouraging telling me to stick with it, because we'd all been through rejections and bad recordings. I really appreciated it and he really made me feel like I was part of this music industry fraternity.

It is also worth mentioning that I ran into Ali Noor the same weekend at a restaurant ( I guess Lahore really is pretty tiny) and he too was really encouraging and welcoming and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on with ADP. I know I've got a long way to go before I get to the level of these guys, but it was really nice to be acknowledged by people you look up to.

Both Ali Noor and Zafar are coming to Karachi to be a part of Coke Studio, along with our friends Zeb and Haniya. I guess I'm over my dissappointment at not making it this time, but I wish them all the best time in my city and I really am looking forward to seeing how it turns out. It sounds crazy exciting.

Does this mean I have to stop posting rumours about Ali Zafar on my blog? Well I thought about this, I don't think he'll mind, he's been an awfully good sport about this fake feud so far. But it is always going to be a little awkward meeting a guy who you have accused of sexual deviation on a public forum.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thoughts on the music industry

The ADP boys are having to evaluate the current situation we're in and make some serious decisions. The music industry has been hit pretty hard, just like every other industry, the corporate sponsors aren't there, concert attendances are dwindling and generally there's a real stagnation in the Pakistani music scene. The truth of the matter is, we're not getting paid the kind of money we were getting last year, sponsors are simply locking up their budgets.

I see a real opportunity here for the scene to get better, be more independent and learn to create openings for itself. I think this is a great time to be writing new music. Most other artists have simply shelved their current projects because they have been told not to release anything anytime soon. Most of the other industry big wigs are busy doing Coke Studio, so this is a great opportunity for underground bands to really perfect their act and fill in the concert gap. And I'm happy to see that a lot of them are.

But for us, we're kind of caught neither here nor there. We're better known than most local bands by virtue of getting our music videos on air, so we've kind of managed to shake that underground band label. But at the same time we're not really mainstream, because of the simple fact that our product, i.e. our recorded songs are simply not up to the commercial standard that they should be. I intend to remedy this situation very quickly.

Creatively, we are going through a great period. A couple of months ago, we made a conscious decision to have a more democratic songwriting process instead of me just writing out the entire thing in one go. So our jams have been really fruitful and small riffs or chord progressions are being turned into complete songs, which I find really fulfilling. Omar Khalid is contributing actively, not just on the drums but with song structure and bass notes. Plus we've got Ali Alam, another gifted songwriter who's always there to flesh out the song. Of course lyrics are still a problem but I hope I'm getting better.

The other exciting development is that we're shifting away from using the darbuka for Yasir and having him play keyboards. While we haven't got anything concrete yet, it's a completely different dynamic to have a keyboard sound in the band and it's been really exciting for us to experiment and see what we can come up with. The resulting songs we're writing are really upbeat and...dare I say it...danceable. I think we've collectively moved on from moody music and are making a conscious effort to make stuff that's lighter and more fun. More on that later...when I talk about 'Laal'

The Second Floor

As most of you know The Second Floor Cafe on Khayaban-E-Ittehad is a place that's really close to my heart. I've hosted Open-Mic Nights and given people opportunities to hold their first ever performances there, I've also performed there on my own. To me it's the perfect little place to showcase upcoming talent and generally meet with like-minded people. I've met so many interesting people through virtue of the T2F shows, we've almost become a community, of artists, photographers, poets, musicians and social workers, it really has been one of the places that helps me believe in Karachi and the people in it. Unfortunately the landlord has decided to evict them and now they need money to buy a new location. I contributed by organizing a series of musical performances through the month of March with upcoming talent to raise money. For me it's been extremely rewarding and the bands we're showcasing are some of the most exciting underground bands out there. Plus we have one final Open Mic night, where I hope to find even more wildly talented people.

I hope any of you reading in Karachi will turn out to the shows to support the cause. It really is something special and I don't want to see it shut down. All the events are Rs. 250 (minimum donation) and the bands playing are as follows

Friday March 6th : 7 on 3rd (they played an amazing show, more about them later)

Thursday March 12th: Rachel's Plan B

Friday March 20th: FLAM!

Monday 23rd March: Open Mic Night

Friday 27th March: "The Big Cheese" (this is my side project, covers band...yep more on them later..."

I know that ADP has been really lucky to get to the position we're in right now, and we did it on our own, bypassing the usual industry system. But for me, it'll all be useless if I can't do anything to make the underground scene better. It's not enough to merely make it on your own, for me it has to be 'If we can do it, so can you, and this is how..." One thing I feel musicians lack here is real camaraderie. We're all in such a constant state of competition because there are such few opportunities to go around. Plus Pakistani fans tend to be extreme in their support which polarizes a lot of people. It's like you can only love one artist at the expense of hating another...for e.g. "I LOVE ATIF ASLAM...ALI ZAFAR SUCKS" or "MAUJ ARE WAY BETTER THAN ADP, I HATE THEM, THOSE SHEEP-FUCKERS".

Another thing I've noticed is that every time there's a show where more than one act is performing, members of one band will not come out to see the others play. Main acts refuse to see the opening acts play, and if they do, they usually make fun of them. I remember earlier on in the ADP days, we opened for Saijd and Zeeshan who were my heroes, and they simply left after soundcheck, not waiting to watch us perform. I was absolutely heartbroken. Now I'm sure they had their reasons but in the end it just ruined what I had hoped to be an amazing moment. The fact of the matter is that established acts do very little to help out the younger ones. Sure they might let you open for them at a college or university, but are they giving you constructive criticism or giving you tips on how to go about recording your album? Are they going to put in a good word for you with their sponsors? No. Not because they're mean, but because our industry just pits everyone against each other to grab whatever limited resources there are. Performing or promoting another band means less of the sponsorship money, less of the concert crowd there to see you and less of the media attention.

Now I'm not asking us musicians to all hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya'. but I feel that promoting the musical industry as a whole can only help us collectively, not hurt us individually. While I may not be a highly established act now, if I ever do become one, I'll make sure no one will be able to say I never did anything to help the underground scene.