Omar Khalid Leaves the Band.
It's time I confirmed what many people have suspected, that Omar Khalid, the drummer and founding member of Aunty Disco Project has left the band.
Usually when somebody leaves the band there are rumors of an acrimonious split, whispers of fights and clashing egos. Then each party issues some sort of statement with the usual 'creative differences' being listed and how they wish each other well etc. I want to make clear that this truly wasn't the case with OK leaving.
There were several reasons contributing, but the most prevalent one is that OK's life plans simply couldn't accommodate being part of a band full-time. He won't be in Karachi much longer and he simply couldn't carry on with us the way we were. ADP is looking to get to the next level, we've all collectively decided that we don't want to do this just for fun anymore. Even if we don't succeed, we have to try to make it, and that meant an increased focus and a lot more dedication and commitment to the band, something we simply couldn't ask from OK anymore.
There's been no hard feelings, we all knew that OK would be leaving, it was just a matter of time. When we performed our last show at Rangoonwala Auditorium, we were all fully aware that it could possibly be our last show with OK. And it was. I'm glad he got to go out on a high note because that show was probably our best, and OK gave it his all in a fantastic performance.
I can't speak for the rest of the band, but for me, the whole thing was really sad. I'm going to miss him. We'd been together right from the start, we'd gone through so many highs and lows together, we'd been part of the struggle for so long that it kills me to see him go now, just when I think we're finally starting to make things happen. To me OK wasn't just a drummer, he was this hilarious character, my brother, my partner in crime who just happened to be an incredible musician.
In the beginning it was just OK and me, just two guys jamming in my bedroom. For the longest time we didn't have anyone else. It was just me on guitars and him on the drums. It was the beginning of a long and joyous musical partnership that formed the backbone of the band. I built my guitar playing around him and his style of drumming. He really did have a unique style of drumming. He smacked the skins harder than any other drummer I had played with and his beat had a really heavy stomp, which came from a massive kick-drum attack. I think the fact that he played the kick-drum so hard contributed to his knee problems later on. But that was the way he played, loud and aggressive and a trademark swing that kept him just behind the beat that would create this wonderful push-pull dynamic, that was so evident in songs like “Sultanat” and “Shehar Kay Aansoo”. Playing fast wasn't his thing, he liked to get stuck into a slow but powerful groove that sounded like a sledgehammer. He was massively into hip-hop beats and that's one of the things I loved about his drumming was that the guy had swing. He didn't simply play wooden straight beats, he loved to accentuate and vary. To OK, drumming was all about the groove and feel, never about simply keeping time. You'd never see it in his demeanor, because Omar remained stoically poker-faced every time he played drums.
Omar was the complete antithesis of the 'wild drummer' image. He was never flashy or an attention whore (I suppose he had to balance the obvious showboating of Yasir and myself). He never really paid much attention the whole 'rockstar' image, probably because he cultivated his own cool/aloof image so effortlessly. It's true that while onstage, Yasir and I got most of the attention, OK had his own clique of female fans who were intrigued by his 'mysterious' persona. OK's trademark look involved him looking like he just got out of bed, with a heavy stubble and a cigarette nonchalantly dangling from his mouth. While Yasir and I would obsess and fret over our hair and clothes, OK would turn up for a show wearing a red t-shirt and track pants, much to our exasperation. He spoke little, but when he did it was usually hilarious. He was the king of sardonic commentary and a master of ripping apart someones stupidity. He had a particularly evil sense of humor and usually Yasir was at the receiving end of it. Yasir and OK had a special bond, despite the fact that OK had, on various occasions...
Convinced Yasir that there was a bomb in the car.
Convinced Yasir that I had kicked him out of the band
Convinced Yasir that we were throwing him a surprise birthday party. When we weren't.
Hidden in the backseat and scared the shit out of Yasir when he got into the car.
Convinced Yasir that the plane they were on was going to crash and that he should start praying.
A lot of times, OK would get criticized for being inconsistent. In the beginning a lot of factors affected his playing. His troublesome knee, his grip on the sticks, if his monitoring was bad, he tended to fall apart midway through the show. But he was a pressure player, The bigger the occasion, the bigger the performance from OK. He relished a challenge. Just when you thought he couldn't pull something off, he'd do it. I remember back in July 07 when we were due to play the K-Fest show at Royal Rodale with Mauj and Mizraab and we had been toying with the idea of performing Led Zeppelins 'Black Dog'. Anyone who's tried to play it knows its a complete nightmare to do, with its complicated rhythms and stops and starts. Till the last minute, I wasn't convinced we could do it. It wasn't until the very last day that OK simply powered his way through it and got it spot on. We performed it the next day at the show bowling over the audience with such a massively difficult cover, OK was magnificent and his volcanic performance was the highlight of the show.
And man did he improve. While we all improved together as a band, OK had a single minded determination to become a technically better drummer. Once he finally bought his own drumkit, he practiced religiously and it showed in leaps and bounds. This past year, OK's drumming was incredible. Before he had raw power and talent but now, he had the technical knowledge and the polish that truly began to lift our songs to the next level.
He was the guy I counted on to be the voice of sanity when I thought I was losing mine. When we were doing a PACC show with Mauj, I was down with a 105degree fever and completely bed-ridden, unable to do anything for a show I was organizing. That same day we were shooting the video for “Iss Tanhai Ko”. OK stepped up to the plate and completely took over all responsibility, handling the money, ticketing, transport, soundcheck, setup. That show was really special to me. With our backs up against the wall, we played out of our skins thanks in no small part to OK's timely management of the crisis.
I hope this doesn't read like an obituary, because OK isn't dead. I simply wanted to pay tribute to one of the most talented musicians I have ever had the pleasure of playing with and I hope he continues to play. He'll always be my friend and brother, and this really is the end of an era. But I know it's the beginning of a new one, and I know that nothing would make OK happier than to see us succeed. And if we do, it'll be because OK was part of the Aunty Disco Project.