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FOCUS: GOING FOR ORIGINALS

January 13, 2019

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Saad Hayat
Saad Hayat

Music producer Saad Hayat is on a mission. Ever since he returned to Pakistan in 2013 after studying music production in the UK and set up his own studio, he’s been a very busy man.

He’s a long-time bandmember of Mirage (whose album he’s currently producing) and has also toured with Jimmy Khan and Sara Haider among other musicians. Saad had a short teaching stint at Karachi University and CBM (now IoBM) but had to stop because he didn’t have much time — his studio in Karachi is used to record voice overs for TVCs, dubbing for television dramas and films, theme music for major awards shows, production of soundtracks and music by other artists and bands in the industry etc. As well-known as he is in the industry, he’s always kept a low public profile — until now.

“I always believe that my work should speak for itself,” he says. He feels very strongly that the “so-called revival of the music industry” is heavily dictated by corporate brands, resulting in the “advent of the cover songs.” And that it’s time the artists take back control.

Saad Hayat wants to steer the music landscape away from the current obsession with cover songs

“There are so many arists who may be doing good music but aren’t part of the right social circles and don’t have access to avenues,” he says.

Saad’s plan, quite simply, is to pick up relatively unknown artists, based entirely on their creative merit, and not only help them develop and produce their music, but also manage them, have their music videos filmed and give them a proper release — a fighting chance to ‘make it.’

While those close to Saad have said he wants to produce 100 artists, Saad gives a more conservative figure: “My initial plan is to do 10 albums. This can be more than 10 artists, but these people are deserving artists,” he says. “Those that may not have the opportunities, avenues or budgets, but are extremely talented. There are many people like that.” They intend to start rolling out their first releases in around four to five months.

“There is this kid from Hyderabad, Sami Khan, he’s got some amazing compositions, great lyrics, and puts great thought into the songs,” he relates naming a couple of people he’s got his eye on. “Jari Zaidi is another person with great compositions and mazaydaar music.”

This sounds like something that requires a massive investment of time, energy and money. All of the financial investment is coming out of his own pocket. Is he confident about the returns? “To be honest … to be really honest, I don’t expect any returns from it,” he says quietly. “You can call this my passion project, it might be risqué, but this is me giving back to the music industry, free from the hold of brands.

“I don’t want corporate involvement because, unfortunately, the corporate sector is controlling and running the music industry right now,” he says, adding that he’s not bitter towards brands, but that creative work should be dictated by the artists, not brand managers. “We’re running out of covers,” he says, adding that in a few years people will look back and realise that’s all they did in this era of mainstream music, a situation that corporate-led music has landed the industry in.

There is a financial incentive for the artists in this project as well. “There will be fair play, we don’t want to exploit artists,” says Saad. “We’ll have a certain percentage for the artists and they will also have an option to buy off complete rights from us — they’re more than welcome to do that — until then, we’ll share them.”

Do we currently have a market that can sustain that many artists if they were to choose this as their full-time career? According to Saad, a full-time career in music is difficult, but not impossible. “If 100 songs are released in an industry, maybe around 10 percent of those will be hits,” he says adding that they will do whatever it takes to produce the artist, develop their work, do their promotion, distribute the music, everything it takes to give them a good start. “Then obviously it’s the artists’ luck, whether his or her music becomes a hit or not.”

His studio, Saad Hayat Productions, where all of this work will take place, also has a rehearsal space popular with the musicians in the industry. There have been a few instances where one has heard of some of the most creative acts getting together and sharing their music there. “Almost all of the mainstream acts have jammed there,” relates Hayat. “It’s a very lively and active scene here. There’s always something happening. Barra mazey ka scene hai [It’s a very lively scene].”

Other than his own solo work, which he’s hoping to release later this year, Saad is also working on a collaboration initiated by drummer and producer John Louis ‘Gumby’ Pinto. “It’s a project that features different musicians,” he says. “It’s called ARC — Artists Reverb Collective. The first song is about to come out and the video has been shot. It features Russel on bass, Mohsin on guitars, myself on the keyboard, Intezar Hussian Saheb on vocals, Ahmed [an Arab musician] and Gumby on drums.”

Published in Dawn, ICON, January 13th, 2019