Mohammad Sibtain Fazli aka Sibti is among those rare artists who can still surprise listeners. You can’t predict his music, and that’s the beauty of it. With his new song, Badnaam, Sibti has taken a somber direction. The playfulness, cheeky lyrics and gorgeous riffs from his other songs are not on display here.

For Badnaam, Sibti joined hands with Spoonful — an underground band from Karachi — and the result is a moody melody. The musicianship on display is yet another sign that the burgeoning alternative-indie music scene in Pakistan is, in a word, brilliant. It deserves a lot more attention, but that’s a different argument altogether.

Back to the song … Badnaam grows on you with every listen. Sibti and Spoonful mix well, and it’s obvious from the sound of this track. There are delicate notes, acoustic magic on top of electric riffs on top of haunting bass and it clicks.

“Badnaam,” says Sibti, “is the typical tale of a person who is down in the dumps, alienated by society, struggling to understand the true meaning of life, how to deal with human beings, the age-old need for the companionship of a partner with the support of whom one goes on to achieve great things in life. And finally it’s about hope and never giving up regardless, I think.”

The collaborative nature of the song is another reason why it stands tall. Talking about Spoonful, Sibti tells Images on Sunday: “Spoonful used to be an underground cover blues band in Karachi. They were friends of mine. They suggested that I move to Karachi and join forces with them, as they needed a songwriter in their team. Also, they claimed to love my music and wanted to perform my songs with me as a band. The suggestion was tempting and I went for it.”

Sibti and Spoonful got along like a house on fire.

“They’re fun people, hilarious. Spoonful are a talented bunch and they operate their own production house (audio/video) by the name of Grassroots, and they’re all quite liked by everyone that know who knows them.”

The Badnaam music video also demands attention. This is not a Sibti show. The focus is on all of the band members, playing instruments in a studio environment, alone and as a group. Shot in black and white, it remains unclear why Badnaam, like so many other fabulous music videos from alternative bands, don’t get space on our ‘music’ channels (if you can call them that).

“We wanted it to be a simple, performance-based video demonstrating the recording process of the song and introducing everyone that was involved in this new project; Sibti and Spoonful,” explains Sibti. “It was mutually decided that this is what we wanted. The goal was somewhat to bring across the notion of a new team at work and the studio process of creating their first song. Also, our resources only allowed us to do as much as we did.”

Sibti grabs attention because his solo work is different. He’s not trying to become the next Atif Aslam, and it shows. From the early days of Ramlal, the two-man act featuring Sibti and Mohammad Agha to the solo days, it is remarkable how he can make us laugh and think and groove at the same time. And he’s not one to mince his words either.

“I’m a selfish songwriter,” he says. “I must confess, many of my songs (if not all) emanate from my personal experiences and feelings and are aimed at alleviating my own frustrations rather than depicting our general environment or the ills of society.”

However, if people in general are able to relate to his music, he considers it an added bonus.

With two songs under Ramlal’s belt — Naughty Boy and Arab Blues — one wonders if Sibti and Mohammed Agha will play as a unit?

“Ramlal disbanded due to major personal differences and we went our own separate ways. That band had no future,” he says, clearing the air once and for all.

However, Ramlal, it seems, was just one step. Going solo has worked out well for Sibti, who has given us singles like Aanay De and Peshawar Ka Larki.

“I plan on only pursuing a solo career as I feel I work best on my own. The unfortunate fact that I am a perfectionist and have a crystal-clear vision of what I want my work to be and reflect doesn’t seem to settle well with anyone I’ve come across. You could say I’m a difficult person in that regard,” he admits.

Sibti is back in Lahore nowadays and is assembling a trio. “They’re going to perform with me live but I have decided that all creative control in terms of releasing anything into the market or our so called industry and the direction of the music rest solely with me,” he concludes.

Having heard and seen his work in the last few years, one has to admit that we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Opinion

Editorial

Taliban anniversary
15 Aug, 2022

Taliban anniversary

A YEAR ago on this day, the Afghan Taliban rolled into Kabul as the Western-backed government fell like a house of...
Extreme measures
15 Aug, 2022

Extreme measures

A GOVERNMENT comprising political parties that used to rightly accuse its predecessor of throttling freedom of ...
A depraved society
15 Aug, 2022

A depraved society

IF the extent of sexual violence against women and children is any measure of a society’s moral degradation, then ...
Taking stock
Updated 14 Aug, 2022

Taking stock

There are numerous reasons behind our predicament, and many of our wounds are self-inflicted.
Medicine in short supply
14 Aug, 2022

Medicine in short supply

THAT rising import prices of pharmaceutical raw materials and increasing production costs of manufacturers have...
Police excesses
Updated 13 Aug, 2022

Police excesses

Crass thuggery and victimisation of ordinary citizens are unlikely to earn govt plaudits from any quarter.