KARACHI: Independent Pakistani music made it to one of the largest streaming platforms for live performances in the world, Boiler Room, on Monday.
Starting out as a somewhat fringe platform with a webcam taped to a wall — opening a keyhole into London’s rich underground music scene — Boiler Room is now one of the biggest online stages of its kind.
The performances were recorded earlier and streamed ‘as-live’ on Monday night, featuring both well known and upcoming acts from Pakistan’s indie music scene, such as Natasha Noorani, Natasha Ejaz, Lyla, Tollcrane, Malik, Kukido, b2b, TMPST, Jaubi and Ozzie.
The Pakistan edition kicked off with a “celebration of its live music heritage”, with the first performance by Balochistan’s legendary Banjo player Ustad Noor Bakhsh. Accompanied by two other musicians on traditional stringed instruments, the group couldn’t wait to perform.
Deeply influenced by his environment, Ustad Noor Baksh played his version of old folk tunes. In between, he would describe how this was the music of the desert, of the mountains and of the birds and the animals that lived there.
He would then demonstrate what they sounded like, his fingers flying across the instrument, weaving musical magic on the banjo.
He played several compositions, each distinct from the other. Ustad Noor Bakhsh’s performance was a whole concert in itself.
The mood then shifted to classical-jazz as Lahore-based act, Jaubi, took centrestage. The band’s name is a very Punjabi pronunciation of the Urdu “Jo bhi” [Whatever, whoever]. This quartet “explore[s] the spiritual self through a fusion of North Indian classical and jazz vibrations” through their music, in the band’s own words.
Jaubi consists of Ali Riaz Baqar on the guitar who couldn’t attend the show, Zohaib Hassan Khan on the sarangi, Qammar ‘Vicky’ Abbas on percussion and Kashif Ali Dhani on the tabla. It’s worth mentioning that Zohaib Hassan Khan is a seventh-generation sarangi player. There was also a flute player present, Akmal Qadri, who performed phenomenally.
Described by the host as a “modern-day Pakistani pop icon”, Natasha Noorani performed songs from her upcoming album Ronaq. In her set, the focus shifted from live instruments to electro-pop. Noorani’s performance was romantic and playful as she peppered it with fun electronic sequences and recordings of quirky dialogues from classic TV programmes and films.
Her performance served as the perfect bridge from the folk and classical to electro-pop.
As a trained ethnomusicologist, Noorani also spoke about her passion for archiving Pakistani music. “I look into recorded pop music history, between 1947 and 1993,” she said, adding that she’s collecting different vinyl records and digitising them, in an attempt to create an archive.
“The sad thing is that Pakistani music constantly deals with erasure,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of access, as someone who was born, bred and raised in Pakistan, to a lot of music that came 10 years before my birth.” Noorani was of the opinion that the same five names are regurgitated through time but that there as a larger community of artists producing work that she’s adamant to uncover.
Other noteworthy performances included a set by Natasha Humera Ejaz, who started with minimal music, allowing the listener to focus on her vocals.
Using double-tracking to full effect, the richer, electronic sound was very reminiscent of her earlier project, Gintaara, a vocal ensemble based out of Islamabad. In the second half, Ejaz picked up the pace. Her performance was packed by a dizzying variety of pre-recorded sounds and vocal samples beautifully packed into her performance that she playfully tweaked with her bilingual verses.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2022