SOUNDCHECK: SOUL FUSION

October 27, 2019

Email

We first met Khamaj when they were featured on the third season of the music show Pepsi Battle of the Bands. They had also tried their luck in Season Two but hadn’t made it past the auditions. They were selected as one of the main bands to compete against in Season Three but dropped out after a few rounds.

Describing itself as “A fusion band from Islamabad trying to make its way through these tough conditions in which the art of live music is dying”, the band’s line-up is quite extensive. Khamaj is composed of eight members in total. Mahmood Khan is the band leader and main guitarist, Mohsin Khan plays the bass guitar, Arsalan Ali Shah is on vocals, as is Humail Safdar, Yourash Parvez plays the dholak, Shahzaib Parvez plays the tabla and tambourine, Saqib Sagheer is on drums while Jibran Raffique is on the keyboard.

This young band just collaborated with one of the biggest names in Pakistan’s music industry — the legend of legends, Abida Parveen. Anyone collaborating with Abidaji is sure to be upstaged by her, but what is even more impressive is that the band held its own against this queen of soulful music.

Khamaj does an impressive collaboration with Abida Parveen

Faryaad, the song they collaborated on, has been written by Syed Kumail Abbas Naqvi. It’s a heartfelt duet between the lead singer of Khamaj, Arsalan Ali Shah and Abidaji to an amalgamation of South Asian and, what sound like, central Asian music and beats — aided by the tabla and rabab. Towards the latter half of the song, it travels into rock music territory, but just enough to get a flavour of it without losing or ruining the essence of the song. The diversity in the music and yet it having a structure and an almost seamless flow is impressive.

According to Abida Parveen’s YouTube channel, Faryaad is the third kalaam of Bazm-e-Rang Chapter 1 — a collection of music she’s releasing single-by-single. It seems like she’s keen on developing a more modern sound for her music by collaborating with younger and more contemporary artists from Pakistan’s music scene.

Khamaj also posted a behind-the-scenes video on their Facebook page. They spoke about how they only had six minutes to convince Abidaji to work with the band. The queen of soul can be seen sitting on a sofa in a lime green tunic and an ajrak around her neck with the rest of the band crammed inside a tiny sitting room. The band begins their demo for her, and she nods in acknowledgement during different parts of the song. Arsalan Ali Shah is singing in the demo and it seems like he’s giving every ounce of his being into this little performance for this one personality they’re hoping to collaborate with. Towards the end, a visibly moved Abida Parveen can be seen wiping her tears. She agreed to do the song with them.

Anyone collaborating with Abidaji is sure to be upstaged by her, but what is even more impressive is that Khamaj held its own against this queen of soulful music.

Clearly inspired by Abidaji, the bandmembers can be seen donning ajraks in the video to match hers. It’s a performance-based video with Abida Parveen on one side and the band on the other, facing her. The whole set up, and especially the way it’s been lit and filmed, is very reminiscent of the last season of Coke Studio.

By the time this article went into print, the video of Faryad had garnered more than 640,000 views on YouTube — an impressive number considering that this was released independently and not through any major platform or show. Well done, guys!

Published in Dawn, ICON, October 27th, 2019