Both of you have been friends for a very long time and worked together in Nida Butt’s Karachi the Musical. What is the story behind you forming a band together?
Rubya: “We started talking about music and discussing ideas. It was easy for me to sing or read what I’d written to Hamza. And I believe he always knew how passionate I was about being able to express myself through this art form. A kind of creative comfort level was developing between us. Eventually, the idea of making an album together came up. And before we knew it, we were looking to name our band. And here we are.”
Hamza: “For Karachi the Musical we also recorded few of the songs for a soundtrack CD release, and Rubya’s song came out very strong. One of the factors was her performance, unique singing voice and varied scale reach. After that experience I had kept her in mind for a musical collaboration. Over the years I’ve composed several pieces of music which I thought another singing voice and different lyrical approach would mix nicely with, and so the Hamza|Rubya collaboration came to be.”
When well-known rock musician and music director Hamza Jafri and model/actor Rubya Chaudhry get together and form a band, music not only sounds good, but looks good too!
Where Hamza Jafri’s work with Co-VEN has carved him an indelible niche in Pakistan’s rock music history, Rubya is more known as a model and actor. What is her sound or identity like as a musical artiste? What are we to expect?
Rubya: “I love Co-VEN. Hamza has a distinct style which is recognizable each time he strums a chord, but having said that, we’re experimenting a lot with the sound for Hamza|Rubya. Since I’m developing as a musician, I’d prefer not to confine myself to a particular style. In the meanwhile, for our band, we’re playing around with acoustic, pop, rock, funk, some electro and alternative.”
Hamza: “Rubya is very expressive, you can hear that in her voice and she’s comfortable singing any style of music. Her lyrics are emotional, uncomplicated and sometimes personal.
“For this band I’m working with acoustics and electronics. So far we’ve recorded three songs with audio production by Omran Shafique and Taha Malik. There’s rock, break beats, dance, funk and other experimental stuff going on.”
The first time I heard about Rubya wanting to pursue a career in music was sometime around 2005-6. It’s been almost a decade since then, why wait so long?
Rubya: “It’s true that I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in music and 2005 was the year I took up performing arts as a profession — fashion modeling included. There were talks of my singing a lot those days, also because I had recorded a few tracks with Uns Mufti (Rushk) that caught people’s attention.
“Soon after, I was faced with some opportunities to make and release stuff, where I wouldn’t have had much creative control and it didn’t feel right to be compromised that way. So I waited it out.”
Do you guys plan to work on compiling an album or will you be releasing singles as and when they’re done?
Rubya: “So far, we’ve decided to release few singles. We have songs ready that we can’t wait to release. An album will be ready by the end of the year.”
Who is writing the songs? What kind of themes do you think you’ll explore with this?
Rubya: “I’m writing the lyrics. We’re doing some collaborative writing too on a few tracks. It’s difficult for me to put in parameters and describe a theme, but I know that it’s all definitely very personal. It’s from all sorts of places — angry, naughty, and thought-provoking. There’s love, heartbreak, resolve, fantasy etc. It’s all very ‘human’. “We are but a product of our environment. What happens around us, affects us. And that will come across. If I’m stranded at home for three days due to a curfew in the city, I believe it will resonate somehow within the songs.”
How does this affect Rubya’s career as a model/actor?
Rubya: “In a good way I’m sure! I’m getting to do what I love and started off believing in. I’ll continue working as an actor and as a model. My priority will be music, since I’ve got lots to catch up on! I’m not worried about how the audiences would react because I always stayed true to myself and didn’t change anything to fit in anywhere. Hope my beloved fans make a smooth shift like I did!”
The music industry has shifted from being prominent on mainstream media to being completely underground. Some say this is not a good time to be a musician. What made you start a whole new project like this in an environment where it isn’t easy for a musician to survive?
Rubya: “Any time is a great time to pursue what you love. Art has always suffered at the hands of political turmoil but that can’t stop us from what makes us tick. We hope to find a way. We want to inspire and be inspired all the same.”
Hamza: “There’s actually a lot more opportunities now for musicians, composers and studio engineers than ever before. There is ample work in music for television and movies, as our film industry is rising. India is working with our artistes; the West is particularly interested in music coming out of Pakistan. This year the popular American festival SXSW is hosting a series of Pakistani underground, folk and mainstream artists. I think this is a good time to be making music.”
Omran Shafique: “Taha Malik and I have had a great time producing the Hamza|Rubya tracks, especially because Hamza was interested in incorporating electronic-based elements into their songs. So we had fun experimenting with them. It’s definitely a fresh new sound and the rest of the album is going to be just as much fun as Let’s Get Together.
Nida Butt: “I absolutely love the sound of Hamza|Rubya. It reminds me of bubble gum and fireworks — a mixture of pop and electro funk. It’s the kind of music that will make you move, or at least have your head bobbing and foot tapping. The launch was a blast, as was shooting the music video Let’s Get Together. I can’t wait to attend their first public concert. It’s going to be crackling.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, February 1st, 2015