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No longer do you turn to your television to find out what’s happening with your favourite artist – you just go online. A ‘spat’ between two generations of rock artists in Pakistan – one a living rock legend, the other the rockstar of the moment – has gone viral.

In a ‘leaked’ (ahem) mobile phone video Ali Azmat is seen making fun of those singers/musicians who later pursue an acting career when just being in the music industry makes it hard to make ends meet. He mentions Umair Jaswal in particular.

Jaswal responds with a video of his own, asking Azmat to “step into the future” and to “try to become relevant again.” Inexplicably, Azmat responds with how he could teach Jaswal a lesson about what it takes to be a real musician. Seeing how things are going, Jaswal responds, of course, saying, “Bring it on.”

Ali Azmat and Umair Jaswal, two of the biggest rock stars of our time are locking horns. They did at first online, through a series of ‘leaked’ videos, and they will very soon on stage, so we can judge for ourselves as to who has the bigger… voice. But is everything really as hostile as it seems?

This sound suspiciously like a corporate-constructed spat if you ask me.

And now we have Soundclash – a multinational-sponsored concert where the both of them will face each other off to see who will ‘win’.

Now this is an easy one. It will be Ali Azmat. I’m not questioning Umair Jaswal’s abilities as a performer or as an artist – I’ve seen him live in concert at a time when the band he was a part of was not even considered mainstream. Even during the worst of times, and well before he appeared in Coke Studio, he had an incredible ability to attract a crowd of some of his most ardent fans and keep them entertained throughout, which is nothing short of impressive.

But I’ve also seen what happens when Ali Azmat makes an unexpected appearance at a concert featuring some of the industry’s best and I’ve seen how the crowd responds to him. Everyone and their brother/sister get up. Everyone sings along – even those that didn’t before. Azmat’s songs didn’t just come out and become popular now; they’ve been the soundtracks for several generations. And continue to be popular with the current one. You don’t ‘love’ the music that Azmat has been a part of, you’ve lived through it.

This one is a no-brainer … or so it seems at first. Sometimes even legends can fall to their once-biggest fans. Case in point is the Rio Olympic 100m butterfly race in which Joseph Schooling beat his childhood idol Michael Phelps ….

Having said that, one decided to get in touch with one-half of this ‘clash’ to get to the bottom of it. Behold, a conversation with Umair Jaswal, about this most epic of ‘battles’:

You’re obviously trolling each other, right?

Umair Jaswal: “Yeah. We’re just having fun with each other. It’s nothing personal but at the same time just trying to respond to whatever we have to share with each other.”

Didn’t you grow up idolising Ali Azmat as an artist? How can you ‘face off’ with your childhood idol and expect to win? Although it’s been known to happen…

UJ: “I did. I did grow up idolising Ali and I’ve been covering his songs music on stage for almost 10 years now. But there is something I disagree with, when he said he’s not impressed with the new generation of musicians.

“Ali’s got a huge advantage. He’s got a song list filled with hits and my music is comparatively new. But that’s the test: I have to prove myself as well – that our music, my band, is ‘tight’ enough.” – Umair Jaswal

“With regards to his criticism about newer musicians getting distracted by doing other things, he also did everything. He acted, came in dramas and was in a film before me. Apnay giraybaan mein jhaank kar baat karni chahiye. He’s done everything himself, so how is it so wrong?”

“Secondly, Ali comes from a time when there were record labels, concerts and there were albums. People used to make albums because they could money off of them. Their content was played on television. Now, times have changed. He cant compare his time with our time. Nowadays you can make an album and that may do nothing at all. Recently a few musicians released an album and it did nothing for them. You can’t compare the results of releasing an album in today’s time as compared to when Ali was playing with Junoon.”

What can we expect in the Soundclash?

UJ: “You can’t expect a fight! [laughs] There’s not going to be much of a competition there as well. This is going to be a very loud night. Two good rock acts will take the stage and perform their hearts out for the audience. That’s what’s going to happen.”

“We’re going to fight for the audiences’ applause. That’s all that we’re going to ‘fight’ for.”

“Ali’s got a huge advantage. He’s got a song list filled with hits and my music is comparatively new. But that’s the test. I have to prove myself as well: that our music, my band, is ‘tight’ enough.”

Are you nervous at all?

UJ: “Not at all. I’ve shared the stage with Ali and other rock musicians in Pakistan. We’ve sounded fairly decent before. Given the right sound check, I know that we’re going to kick some major… backsides. I have full faith in my band. We’ve got a kickass band. We’re going to play some really loud rock ‘n’ roll music. ”

Finally, most importantly, what do you really think about musicians who turn to acting?

UJ: The first thing that comes to mind is Ali and his role in Waar [laughs]. He’s doing well for himself. So I think all musicians make good actors I guess!

Good one. And good luck!

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 21st, 2016