They arrived on the music scene with a thundering roar. Much like the title, their song Toofaan starts off almost unassumingly and then descends upon you like a storm. It’s a hard-hitting, gritty, old-fashioned rock anthem that harks back to the days when rock and metal ruled the media, stage and our hearts. It also pays tribute to the band’s influences which, according to lead singer, songwriter and overall frontman Sherry Khattak, includes Linkin Park and the Foo Fighters among many others. According to Patari, Toofaan was the second most popular song on their charts in 2018.
I catch Sherry in a post-concert conversation over the phone. He’s in Multan on tour with one of the many acts he plays sessions music with. Karakoram may be a ‘new’ band, but the line-up is old. “I came to Lahore from Karachi for the third season of Nescafe Basement,” he relates. “I’ve been here since then. The band itself has me, Umer Lahooti, Bilawal Lahooti — the drummer for Basement — and on bass we’ve got Omair Farooq who’s also on Basement now.”
They first got together around six-seven years ago and formed a band called Overdose. Seriously? “I don’t know why we named it that!” laughs Sherry. “All of us are so clean, we don’t even smoke! Aiwayien apna naam Overdose rakha tha [We kept the name Overdose just for the heck of it].”
Sherry Khattak talks about what to expect from Karakoram after Toofaan
How did you end up re-naming the band Karakoram? “That’s also a funny story,” laughs Sherry. “We were sure we had to rename the band. But farigh hain iss maamley mein ke kya rakhna hai [But we were at a loss about what to name it]. We were travelling from Lahore to Karachi, for Call — we’re technically [playing as sessions musicians] with everyone these days. The seat tray in the aeroplane had some Russian written on it. There was a ‘K’ on both sides. Xulfi said, ‘This could be a very fit logo.’ That’s when the idea came, to call it Karakoram.”
The band was named, not for the love or any connection to the mountains, but because of a potentially cool logo with the letter ‘K’? “Yes!” laughs Sherry. “There was no vision, no nothing. We just named our band Karakoram. As weird as it sounds.” His honesty is refreshing, but I’m trying hard not to feel totally scandalised.
The bandmembers are a part of the house band that plays in Basement — whose latest season is on air right now. They also perform with a variety of other acts, including Call, Farhan Saeed, Meesha Shafi etc. How do they even find time to give to their own band? “That’s the biggest issue we’re facing right now,” confesses Sherry. “We’re trying so hard. We weren’t expecting such a good response. People come up to me, on tours where I’m playing sessions for other acts, because they’ve heard Toofaan. I wasn’t expecting this, especially that in Pakistan people listen to heavy music.”
Despite the obstacles, they’re determined. “We’re not going to stop,” says Sherry. “We’re going to do two more songs in around February-March. We’ve recorded two demos, one is a song from season four, called Fa’ana. I did that song, it’s kind of ambient. The other one is like Toofaan, it’s heavier. We’re just confused about what to put out first.”
Perhaps they just need to meditate about it in the mountains.
Published in Dawn, ICON, February 10th, 2019