“We originally started out writing this song for the finale of Pepsi Battle of the Bands [BOTB], but that never happened — we left before it could take place!” laughs Zahid Qureshi, one of the band members of Tamasha, one of the more popular acts to come out of the last season of BOTB.

In the show, Tamasha was a jury favourite, often exhibiting, in their performances, the maturity of a seasoned band rather than one that had just gotten together right before the show started recording. I personally expected them to make it to the finale, but they were eliminated right before — the third last band to go.

Now, one year on, Tamasha is ready to release their first official single — other than the music they performed at BOTB that’s already out there on YouTube. I’m meeting Zahid to get a quick listen to Paisa Phaink Tamasha Dekh.

“We decided that Paisa Phaink Tamasha Dekh was going to be the signature song of our band, and was going to form part of the chorus anyway,” says Zahid. But it’s more than just a popular Urdu phrase with the word ‘tamasha’ in it.

A year after Pepsi Battle of the Bands, Tamasha is ready to release their first official single, Paisa Phaink Tamasha Dekh

“We realised that everyone complains that no one pays an artist,” he elaborates. “They all say ‘work for exposure’. We thought that time to work for ‘exposure’ has to come to an end. Ab paisa phainko gey, tau tamasha dikhay ga [Now, you’ll only get to see the show if you give us the money].”

They might have started writing the song during their stint at BOTB but most of the song was written in one night, at band member Annas Lutfi’s rooftop. While some of the band members jammed their music in the background, Zahid worked on the lyrics with Bilal and the others. They finished the song just as the morning call to prayer began blasting through the loudspeakers of the neighbourhood mosque.

Tamasha then recorded the song at producer/singer/songwriter Umair Dar’s space, Alif. “It’s a really well-built space,” says Zahid. “There are some beautiful options for recording live drums. Also, the chanting part of the song features Natascha Khan as well! She’s yelling with us.”

How long did it take to record the song? “It took some time,” says Zahid. “Perhaps a little more than a month.” He explains that was largely due coordination issues rather than the music itself.

While one of their more popular songs on BOTB (and my personal favourite) Roshni has a very strong ’80s’ rock sort of vibe, Paisa Phaink Tamasha Dekh sounds like a song right out of the noughties-era rock — it made me nostalgic for the time when bands such as Noori, Aaroh, Entity Paradigm, Mizraab and Co-VEN were in their prime, and would perform quite regularly across the country.

Did getting featured on BOTB change anything for the band? “It was everything for us,” laughs Zahid. “Whatever has happened for us has happened via [that show]. But we’ve also worked very hard to sustain that — we’ve performed at many concerts. Too many. More than perhaps the finalists of the show. We would just go everywhere.”

What are their plans for the future? “We’re going to release another single after this,” says Zahid. “In the meanwhile, we’ll also be working on our full-fledged album as well.”

He pauses for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts. “Paisay bhi honay chahiyein [We need money as well]. The first video that we’ve just recorded for this song … Just pretend like we had to sell our kidneys for it!” he laughs indicating at what an undertaking it was.

A quick look through the video stills and it looks like a larger-than-life performance-based video with different storylines and characters incorporated into it. “I’m pretty happy with it because I feel no one has seen such a video in a long time,” he adds. Tamasha plans to release Paisa Phaink Tamasha Dekh roughly a week after Eid.

Published in Dawn, ICON, June 2nd, 2019