Thoughts on the music industry
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.