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First person: “I’m moving to Pakistan”

July 14, 2013

“It is so good to meet you,” smiles Jarar Malik. In board shorts, a Rolling Stone t-shirt and sunglasses. Jarar, 27, looks chilled out, collected and casual, even though he is jet-lagged.

Jarar Malik doesn’t actually live in Pakistan. He resides in the United States, but he visits frequently and is catering to Pakistan and its audience with his music. Jarar’s determination to make it as a professional musician is actually inspiring.

Here for the Lux Style Awards (LSAs) and some musical projects, Jarar is as sweet in person as he is on the phone and/or email. Animated, energetic and humble, he is pursuing his dream with all of its uncertainties, risk and magic.

We meet at producer Shahi Hasan’s place. Jarar stays with him every time he is in town. As we step into the house, Jarar and I talk about the LSAs. He is a nominee this year, in the category of Song of the Year, for his gritty tune, Jaag.

“What’s the deal? I don’t socialise with them or anything and yet, I’m a nominee. That means it’s on merit?”

That’s the idea, I tell him. Jarar is content with the idea of losing out to Sajjad Ali (who was also up in the same category with his song Katna Nae). It was a prediction that came true last week when Sajjad really did beat Jarar out to pick up Song of the Year.

For Jarar though, the nomination was simply an honour, competing with the likes of Sajjad Ali and contemporaries Mooroo’s Music and Overload among others.

As we move into the studio space to sit and talk, Jarar is hospitable, offering everything from lunch to tea. As we settle on tea, Jarar says, “Shahi is like my older brother. I’m a die-hard fan of the Vital Signs. He is my idol.”

Jarar arrived on the scene in 2012, with the second season of Uth Records and a rather catchy song called Bewafa. Few know that Jarar actually arrived on the scene years ago with a parody. When the Faraz Anwar-led band Mizraab covered Vital Signs’ Dil Dil Pakistan a few years ago, it compelled Jarar to make a parody of Mizraab’s cover.

“Faraz Anwar was not happy. You know, he thought it was very Weird Al-esque,” grins Jarar.

Without hesitating, Jarar admits that he doesn’t belong to a wealthy family. Having lost his father at a young age, he shares a wonderful bond with his mother. “She is my best friend,” he says.

The parody helped Jarar in the sense that it led to a few calls from musicians like Arooj Aftab and Haroon. Living in the States and still in college, Jarar took the opportunity and played with Haroon whenever he was touring the United States or the UK.

After graduating from George Mason University in Virginia, and going through the grind of a 9 to 5 job for a few years, Jarar eventually settled on music. During this time, he was also in touch with VS guys-turned-producers Rohail Hyatt and Shahi Hasan. They were family friends and the Signs were always receptive to his talent, especially Shahi.

And then came the second season of Uth Records. Having seen the show, Jarar sent his demo. And soon enough, he got the call to participate, “They flew me out and it was a fantastic experience.”

The show brought Jarar’s Bewafa on a national platform. With Pakistan’s sizzler drummer Gumby serving as producer and musician/video man Zeeshan Parwez as director, Uth Records caught attention and Jarar became (in my opinion) the biggest hit of the season.

In retrospect, Jarar was not too thrilled with the final version of Bewafa that we heard on the show. “It wasn’t a problem with Gumby or anything. It was the final mix. The song has a big groovy sound, which doesn’t come across in the show version,” says Jarar, adding, “but it was a great experience, nonetheless. A professional studio environment and a video, that was cool.”

And because Jarar had already begun work on his debut solo album in his home studio, the next step he took was logical. Teaming up with directors Shayan Agha and Bilal Khan, Jarar went off to Balochistan to shoot the video of Jaag which also features Syra Yousaf.

“Jaag has many interpretations. It’s this edgy rock song. It got me legitimacy,” he observes.

The year 2012 also saw Jarar cover Vital Signs’ Dil Dil Pakistan as a tribute to celebrate the 25th year anniversary of the tune. But Jarar didn’t release the single without talking to Rohail, Shahi and Junaid first. All three of them gave him a green signal and the song, says Jarar, “went viral!”

With the arrival of the New Year, things became complicated and life reared its cruel and mortal head. Jarar found things challenging after he lost his uncle, who was a father figure in his life. That loss put him in a funk of sorts.

“I wasn’t doing well. I was lonely. Music had taken a backseat. It was just the most depressing time of my life,” confesses Jarar. But he fought through those dark times and came out swinging with a new song and a spanking music video, Kehnay Do Na.

Amidst all this, the call came for Pepsi Smash, the new musical show led by Overload’s Farhad Humayun and Jarar was happy to be a part of it with his rendition of Jaag. Many wondered why he didn’t produce a new song for Pepsi Smash. Jarar squashes the criticism and says, “To be honest, it’s a favourite song. It’s pure and I believe in it.”

Jarar went with his gut and it paid off. “Pepsi Smash released and suddenly, I started getting calls from channels, talk shows, gig offers … it pulled me out of my funk. And then the LSA nomination came,” smiles Jarar.

I wonder how he makes it work, living in the US. “I’m following into Momo’s (Omran Shafique) footsteps, I’m moving to Pakistan. It might fall flat but no regrets. I just want to make music,” he explains.

In the coming weeks, Jarar has his debut album in the pipeline. He’s also produced a song for Bilal Khan. Plus a song for an upcoming animated series and a collaboration with Adil Omar is on the cards as well.

As we hit the end of the interview, Jarar makes an observation that sums up his musical journey. “I believe in albums, not one-hit wonders. Real artists put out records.”

In the end, all Jarar Malik really wants is to not only be a real artist but also get acknowledged as one. Thankfully, he is well on his way.