Atif Aslam just made news in and around Kashmir when he sang a Kashmiri song in the ‘Pepsi Battle of the Bands’ contest.
Pakistan has had rock bands battling each other for quite sometime now.
Rock music …
When I say this word, what appears in your mind is probably this loud, unapologetic, audacious music from the West. Of Jazz, you might think of it as the type of sensuous music with men in black suits performing in bars in the West.
Punk music, if you have heard of it, is a type of music which dominated England in the seventies. A layman from any part of the third world would definitely frown upon such kind of music. It won’t be wrong to call a man a slight victim of cultural imperialism if he claims to like such music in our part of the world but not in Pakistan in the first decade of the millennium.
In the first decade of the 2000’s, there was this immensely powerful Rock music scene in Pakistan in which bands played Rock music with Urdu lyrics with local ethos and traditional roots intact.
It has to be noted that bands and artists like the Vital Signs, Junoon , Amir Zaki paved the way for a thriving independent music scene in the nineties. Vital Signs had come up with this amazing indie pop, a blend of pop musicality and Urdu writing.
Junoon surely invented an electrifying genre they called ‘Sufi Rock’.
All these artists were producing music independently, in an Indie way and not producing music for music directors or films. These were artists who produced music on their own terms and were famous for it, unlike the modus operandi in Bollywood, where the artist has to adhere to the film’s director and film’s theme.
All this made way for some brilliant rock bands from Pakistan who took the loudness and audacity of the Rock music and blended it with their own style of songwriting and respective music styles.
Below are eight such bands from Pakistan …
1- Mekaal Hasan Band
A jazz fusion band from Lahore formed by the Virtuoso guitarist Mekaal Hassan. The very famous classical vocalist Javed Bashir who sang for the band and Mohammad Ahsan Papu who played the flute, endowed the band’s sound with a very eastern soul. Numbers like ‘Rabba mere haal da mehram tu’ and ‘Andholan’ are not just songs but musical landmarks showcasing the brilliant amalgamation of influences from west and east. The effective manner in which they fuse traditional folk tunes with Heavy Rock and Jazz creates a sound that is exclusive only to this band.
2- Entity Paradigm (EP)
In simple words, EP was Pakistan’s answer to Linkin Park. Although they could never come close to the magnanimity of Linkin Park, their music was honest and surely rocking. It would be an interesting fact for those who don’t know that the lead vocalist of the band EP was Fawad Khan, the guy who in the coming next decade became a heartthrob. The band is noted for being one of the pioneer mainstream rock bands in the Pakistani music industry. Their debut album, Irtiqa, released in 2003, is the first mainstream concept album to be released by a Pakistani artist. The album produced by Zulfiqar J. Khan, Fawad Khan and Mekaal Hasan, was a critical acclaim in Pakistan. Songs like ‘Hamesha‘ , ‘Kaha hai tu‘ and ‘Shor macha‘ are those kind of songs you can’t stop headbanging to and hearing the lyrics in Urdu gives these songs a different feel altogether.
You probably have heard them on Coke Studio but that’s too late, years before that when they were a bit younger and hot-blooded they rocked out big time, which is clearly seen in the song ‘Kuttay the to uttay’ which is a Punjabi punk rock song featuring the band showcasing their crazy side. Songs like ‘Nishaan’ and ‘Suno ki mei hu jawan’ are Rock anthems written in Urdu carrying an essence of high-spiritedness which the youth could very well relate to. The first two albums which Noori released in the early 2000s were crucial to the Rock music scene in Pakistan.
The band is known for their very popular singles ‘Aankhon Ke Sagar‘ and ‘Khamaaj- Mora Saiyyan Mo Se Bole Na’ which even transcended the Indo-Pak borders. With Shallum Xavier on guitars, Emu (Imran Momina) on the keyboards and Shafkat Amanat Ali on lead vocals the band was able to create some unique and memorable melodies with intricate musicianship. Shafkat’s voice resonated with the essence of eastern soil while Shallum and Emu blended it with their craft of creating a song which is pop but at the same time deeply melodious. Listen to ‘Tere Bina’ and ‘Aakhiyan‘.
Of all these bands which are mentioned Jal was the most prominent. The number of guys who would have wanted to pick up a guitar after listening to the song ‘Aadat’ by this band is unimaginable, its probably over millions. The band initially achieved commercial success with the release of their music video for ‘Aadat’, directed by Umer Anwar, in 2003. After the success of the single, lead vocalist Atif Aslam parted ways with the band, due to differences with lead guitarist Goher Mumtaz, to pursue a career as a solo artist. This led to Mumtaz recruiting musicians Farhan Saeed on vocals and Aamir Tufail aka Shazi on bass guitar. The band’s new line-up followed with the release of their début studio album, Aadat, in 2004. The album was declared as the best-selling album of 2004 on Geo TV by the record label Sadaf Stereo. In terms of success and influencing the masses the first album by this band named ‘Aadat’ was huge. The album had good catchy acoustic rock songs which managed them to gain wide popularity even in India and their songs being favourites of college and high school students.
6 – Call
Call is what I would like to call the ‘meatiest band in the list’. They had all kinds of songs in their armour, loud hard rocking ones, soothing acoustic numbers, dark and doomed tracks and passionate anthems. Xulfi who plays the guitar for this band is the driving force of this unit, Junaid Khan’s vocals have the required attitude for a screaming rock song and a deep slow ballad.
‘Pukar’ a song by this band is a perfect specimen of what Pakistani Rock music actually is. It hits you hard and grabs you and it does this with lyrics in Urdu and a tune you can hum all day. Song like ‘San bhula ke’ on the other hand will put you to sleep with a smile on your face and a feeling that the next day would be a better one.
‘Shaayad’ is a track which is as dark as it gets, the guitar work in this track can hit you in the gut and the loud screams will make you sleep with the lights on!
The band Mauj doesn’t even have a Wiki page but it surely has left a mark on the Pakistani Rock music.
When you listen to their songs you know that you are experiencing something new. They have this old-school sixties and seventies rock-feel going through their songs. Omran Shafique who is the lead guitarist, singer and songwriter of the group is also a long-standing session guitarist for Coke studio and in Mauj he and his band have showcased brilliant musicianship through beautiful songs
listen to ‘Khushfehmi’ and ‘Paheliye’. The way they play Rock and Roll music and yet not make it seem like a completely alien sound is commendable.
This band calls their music as progressive rock. The band is well known for being one of the few bands to have brought progressive rock music to Pakistan, thus being one of the few heavy metal music bands to receive significant acknowledgement by the press. The band earned a growing fan base in the underground music community and critical acclaim, with their debut album release Panchi , described as the first progressive rock album in Pakistan. The album got rave reviews from musicians all over the world hailing Faraz as a great guitar find from Asia. In 2004, the band, fronted by Faraz, found renewed success and popularity by the release of their second studio album, Maazi, Haal, Mustaqbil, which received critical acclaim. The album sold more than 30,000 copies and is the band’s highest selling album. Singles from the album like ‘Panchi’ and ‘Kitni Sadian’ received a lot of airtime on local music channels. The album is also credited to be the first proper Urdu metal album released in Pakistan. Listen to their song ‘Panchi’, peculiar as it may same but it is unique and different for sure.