|Co-founders of the band — Uns Mufti and Ziyaad Gulzaar. – Photo by Amean J|
The resurfacing of Rushk is something hardcore Pakistani music aficionados have been hoping and praying for, ever since the band released their first album over a decade ago.
Their most popular song, Behti Naar, was even used as the soundtrack for director Mehreen Jabbar’s critically acclaimed television drama Malal (2009).
When Rushk first came out, their work was labeled as a product of genius and they soon amassed a cult following but they never really broke through in the mainstream media and they never really performed — until recently.
Where the original line-up had Uns Mufti and Ziyaad Gulzaar — who collectively wrote, composed, played the songs while Nazia Zuberi lent her soulful and yet haunting voice to the songs — the new line-up sees the addition of Tara Mahmood (who’s replaced Nazia as the lead singer), Sikandar Mufti and Ali Jafri. All of these are prominent members of the music industry. And where this line-up may not have performed locally yet, they have performed Rushk’s music in a variety of venues abroad.
Their music videos from the previous album, Behti Naar and Khuahish, were controversial at best — they dealt with everything from the repercussions of war to fighting your own inner demons — and ‘allegedly’ banned. They found airplay and were, at some point, abruptly taken off mainstream media.
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Rushk has just come out with their latest video for Mera Naam. It contains some footage of the city but most of it is performance-based and is focused around their new lead singer, Tara Mahmood, and the other band members.
We sat down with the songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of the band, Uns Mufti, to talk about the video and on the resurfacing of Rushk. He responded to our questions with his characteristic, if somewhat brutal, honesty.
There are no credits in the video for the director. Who directed the video?
Uns Mufti: It clearly says Rola 2014 at the end of the video and everyone knows Rola is Ali Jafri, Vasi Hasan and myself. Vasi is in London getting his masters degree in film distribution. We are here doing whatever we can. As far as this video is concerned, 75% of it is performance, so it kind of directs itself. The last quarter however is something Mr Jafri and I decided on before we went out to shoot.
Previously all of Rushk’s videos have either been banned, or generated some kind of controversy or the other. This one seems relatively ‘safe’ and inconspicuous in comparison. Was that a conscious decision on the band’s part?
Uns Mufti: Not really. None of our videos have been banned. Behti Naar ran for eons as did Khuahish. With Mera Naam we felt the song had enough juice in it for us to not do something extra clever with the visuals. That said we did play with speed (fast, slow mo) and the final act does say something about who, what and where we are. We did want the video to compliment the song and not overtake it. However ‘safe’ isn’t our operative word.
You once mentioned that you wanted to create an ‘illusion’ through your music — incorporating both sound and visuals to achieve that. Do you think you’re on your way to realising that?
Uns Mufti: As we recall, that conversation took place in 2006 and a lot has changed since then. The idea of creating an illusion was appealing, even romantic back then. Right now we want to strip you of your illusions.
This is probably the worst time for music in Pakistan. There is civil unrest, and one of our provinces has been effectively turned into a battleground. At this point I think Rushk should be spending its time learning how to assemble pistols and dig trenches in and around its jam space.
What happened to Nazia?
Uns Mufti: If we received a chawannee for every time we’ve had to answer this one we’d be filthy rich by now and enjoying our refugee status in Denmark.
Our current line-up is born out of like-minded people and friends who live and work together and are not worried about working at whatever pace.
Nazia lives abroad with her family. We would love to work with her when she is here and has time for us. But at this point we felt it might have been unfair to have her move to Karachi indefinitely to do something even we’re not too sure about.
Then there are things like playing in Thailand with 18 other acts or shooting videos on the road. Rushk has evolved to this point in the absence of Nazia. I will say this though, Rushk was around before Uns, Ziyyad and Nazia took it over, and will be around after these guys leave.
If you’re looking for Rushk with specific people in mind I’d advise you stop listening to us immediately.
|Ziyaad Gulzaar in a video screenshot of 'Mera Naam'|
Did you adapt your music to Tara’s voice and style of singing or was it the other way around — she had to conform to the ‘Rushk’ sound?
Uns Mufti: It’s a bit of both. As she would say, taali aik haath say nahi bajti.
Tara has a distinct voice, but more than that she has great expression. She’s a fast talker and is generally loud. Both those traits are great for loud, live band such as ours. So this time we are piling word upon word with almost no repetition.
Also gone are the days when we wrote in riddles. Now we’ll give it to you straight because our vocalist can handle it. We’re certain that in due time, Tara will shine brighter especially with the upcoming material.
What’s the story behind the song? It seems to be a lot about disillusionment — with pretty much everything. What was going through your head when you were writing it?
Uns Mufti: Disillusionment?! Never. I’m just upset with my level of indifference, my lack of empathy.
I don’t write with my head. I write from the heart and this song is considerably angry with itself.
Lately I got a lot of flack for not being poetic enough in my songs. I'm through being poetic. Shayeraana baat sunna chahtay ho to shayeree parho.
I don't write poetry. I write pop songs, in Karachi no less. Forgive me for being loud and obnoxious.
|Uns Mufti. – Photo by Amean J|
We don’t really get to see the band in any of Rushk’s previous videos. Now we get glimpses of them. Again, was that a conscious decision, to come in front of the camera?
Uns Mufti: You didn’t see the band in the earlier videos because there was no band.
Now there is a band. Not that any of us are dying to appear in videos and I’m sure some of our upcoming videos won’t feature the band at all, but we thought it might be a good idea to feature the band in at least our first video in decades.
Between 10 years ago and now, how much do you think everyone’s changed and how is the band different from the one that came out a decade ago?
Uns Mufti: We’re not as sure of ourselves as we were back then. That alone changes everything.