Sound check: Born to run

Published October 20, 2013

Earlier this summer, when Jarar Malik, 27, (Jaag, Bewafa) returned to Pakistan to attend the Lux Style Awards after scoring a nomination, the US-based singer-songwriter, who at the time was staying at music producer Shahi Hasan’s place in Karachi, had revealed that he was making a video with Adil Omar, 22, for a song called Saza.

Jarar promised that the song would be different and surprising. Visibly excited at the prospect of doing a music video with Adil Omar and Taimoor Salahuddin (co-director), Jarar set high expectations. More to the point: he hit the nail on the head. Saza is both different and surprising because of the artists it features: Adil Omar, the rap sensation from Islamabad and Jarar Malik, a refreshing modern pop act who broke onto the mainstream in 2012 with Uth Records.

Madcap mix of innovation and inspiration

Saza is refreshing and has no counterpart in mainstream music. Adil Omar isn’t just another rapper singing in Punjabi, blindly aping acts like Bombay Rockers, Imran Khan or Bohemia. His influences might bring to mind a western vibe but the ideas in his videos and songs are original and often contain his own unique spin. One such example is the song and music video of Paki Rambo. With Saza, two young and different-sounding artists bring their A-game to the table and the result is as exquisite as it is hilarious, with no cacophonic elements to speak of. The sonic effects don’t overpower the song as it melts through genres with influence of pop mixed with electronica and dance, and a groovy hook to match.

The music video, directed by Taimoor Salahuddin and Adil himself, sees the rapper in his usual element: goofy, honest and ironic with just the right hint of a self-deprecating attitude. Jarar Malik adds more star power with his own mix of charisma and goofy.

Neither of them takes themselves seriously as the video rolls and one sees a fur-wrapped Adil fist-pumping and stuff and an equally playful Jarar Malik in a leather jacket, blowing smoke and enjoying his moment.

Evolving sound

Adil’s biggest USP is his self-confidence and that attitude works well with his music. Collaborating with Jarar Malik is a smart move because he is amongst the newer crop of artists such as Mooroo’s Music with an ever-expanding fan base.

Adil, alongside a breed of new-age musicians that includes the likes of Talal Qureshi and Dynoman among many, many others (read: all Forever South and Mooshy Moo artists), gets noticed because he is uncompromising about his sound and is constantly surprising fans. His production values are always curious because he often works with overseas producers like Fredwreck, DJ Solo and DJ Lethal among others.

Adil commands attention because he is also an accomplished rapper. His evolving sound is reflective of an edgier independent music scene where artists are mish-mashing genres to create a sound that is not only original and relatively new to the majority of local listeners, but is also global and unpredictable.

With the zany and genre-melting debut, The Mushroom Cloud Effect (MCE), behind him, Adil is once again reinventing himself. The collaboration not only brings him closer to audiences dedicated to Urdu music but reinforces the idea that music camaraderie is alive and kicking.

For Jarar Malik, the song is another step towards integrating himself with a cross-section of listeners. It’s also a sign that Jarar can do experimental stuff and hold his own.

In a quick Q&A, Adil Omar and Jarar Malik discuss the myth and magic of Saza ...

IoS (to Adil Omar): Talk to us about collaborating with Jarar Malik?

AO: Jarar and I have been huge fans of each other’s work for a while. I get what he’s doing and I’ve always felt like we’re on the same wavelength. I knew this was a collaboration I wanted to do but also that it would have to be so ridiculous and out there.

I was recently in LA, hanging out at Moonbase Venice (Sid Wilson of Slipknot’s studio) listening to beats by a producer he recently discovered who goes by Beatwife. He played me a rough version of what eventually ended up becoming Saza — the moment I listened to it, it reminded me of a K-Pop, Vital Signs, Awaz, Euro-Dance, Southern Hip-Hop lovechild. It was so ugly but so brilliant and beautiful at the same time.

Jarar came to mind instantly for the hook because I wanted to do an ironic, tongue-in-cheek tribute to old Pakistani pop and rock music, and that’s an era that has heavily influenced Jarar — though Jarar has much more of an edge, and like me, he doesn’t take himself seriously and is also pretty tongue-in-cheek about a lot of the stuff he does. It’s a rare and great feeling to find a serious and talented artist who also has a sense of humour and can bring that into his own work without being a parody.

IoS: What about the importance of corporate sponsorship (or lack thereof) since Stoneage has sponsored Saza?

AO: They were gracious enough to help and do their part, which is a ballsy move for a corporate sponsor because we ended up putting this out, and it’s not easy for many people to swallow. I have no issues with corporate sponsorship as long as I like the product and as long as they don’t interfere in the creative process.

Jarar Malik: As long as there’s no creative interference, what’s the harm? Only good things can (usually come) of it as ironically the “music companies” (whatever that even means anymore) don’t throw their weight behind artists, and popular brands do. Artists and listeners should be thankful of that.

Being on a billboard so early on in the career is wild! And the irony is that we are so not your typical ‘poster childs’ for anything!

I’m a huge fan of Adil and we have an artistic chemistry that is very hard to put into words. We both see/hear things from a fourth dimension. This collaboration was just logical. And both of us have no issues spoofing our own (and others) images/personas to the point of shock. Why not? You can’t take yourself too seriously or life becomes morbid that way.

IoS: Post-MCE, how would you describe the sound?

AO: I don’t really go for sounds. I usually do what I feel like doing and what comes to me naturally. It’s funny how a lot of people are mourning The Mushroom Cloud Effect already as if I’ve sold out and lost my essence, but I’m literally doing the same thing in a broader sense — just pushing myself, experimenting and having fun and still make something as bold and hard as Paki Rambo if I felt like it. I don’t like to be limited to genres or categories so Saza was also my personal way of breaking out that and telling people that there’s a lot more to my creativity, and understandably, I don’t expect all of it to be for everybody.

IoS: You co-directed the video with Taimoor Salahuddin. What about the concept and the reaction to the video of Saza.

AO: This was my first time working with him on a project of my own and it was a pretty fun experience. We co-directed it together but in different ways. The concept and idea was mine and Jarar’s, especially the way we carried it and performed as artists — the technical aspect, the shots and the way they were set up was all Taimoor. The editing and post for the video was done by Shahbaz Shigri who directed and edited my video of Paki Rambo. His involvement brought in the extra element that we needed.

Shooting Saza was interesting because Jarar and I wanted to satirise and play on every stereotype we could think of in the most obnoxious way possible (rappers, rock stars, South Asian pop stars, Jinnah boys, etc) yet wanted to keep it subtle enough to not come across as a complete parody. As serious artists, we wanted to make a quality product and encapsulate ourselves in the odd little universe we created like actors, but still keep it sarcastic, ironic and funny. The humour in it ended up flying over many people’s heads and resulted in some very mixed reviews.

The people who bothered reading up on it or understanding that it’s not meant to be taken seriously loved it, but many people dismissed it and seemed legitimately offended by it — as if we were being serious. We put in little jokes and quirks — making fun of ourselves as well as making fun of the international and local entertainment industry and certain stereotypes that come with it. It’s ridiculous because I’m wearing a dead animal around my neck and doing bad dance moves, while Jarar’s singing and body language is comically exaggerated to a ridiculous extent. There’s also a girl wearing a David Hasselhoff mask, as well as me fixing Jarar’s broken guitar strap after we walk away from an explosion in slow motion. I don’t get why it has to be spelled out that it’s not serious in any way.

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