“In case you’re wondering who’s the best … ?” Borrowing a line from Top Gun, most of you musicians and music lovers out there have probably had many a heated debate about this.
As a bedroom guitar player myself, I’ve had this conversation one too many times. Given the timeless nature of these debates I thought we might as well hash it out with of all of you out there.
In the past 15 years or so, Pakistan has seen an explosion in musical talent. These days it’s hard to swing a dead cat in a room without hitting someone who plays guitar. So I figured I’d put my own two cents out there and see where the chips fall.
It’s a tough assignment, for art is as subjective as anything can be. Just for this reason, using the immense resources here at Dawn.com, I’ve devised a secret but scientifically calibrated formula to weigh each guitarist according to a few criteria of technique, musicality, body of work and the oh-so-essential intangibles.
So without further ado … here goes nothing!
Peheliyan. With his star rising, he found himself as a permanent fixture for the Coke Studio house band as well as a stint with Uth Records. He’s one of a long line of new comers cementing his name as a solid guitar player with a penchant for funky, bluesy licks. From what I’ve heard he’s a great pocket player, but at the same time possesses the good sense of when to restrain himself. In addition there’s a lot of personality in his playing, which is refreshing given the ocean of distorted guitars that make up our music scene. Given what he's done so far, I'm looking forward to what he has in store for us in the coming months and years.
Ankhian, probably Fuzon’s greatest hit was a catchy track with a great riff and a quick-fire solo that’s perfect for the song. That said I do find his playing to be a touch too mechanical. It’s almost clinical to the extent that you could replace it with a computer and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Insaan is a really well-written hard rock song. But over the years I’ve lost the appetite for the kind of guitar playing that once made me tear up when I was simply trying to figure out Barre chords. Sure virtuosity is great to a certain extent, but what I look for is heart. And sometimes a few sweetly played notes are more expressive (think B.B. King) than blazing through the guitar neck at superhuman speed. But there's no denying his ability, which is why he's on this list.
nice groove and he’ll hammer out some bluesy and crunchy guitar parts. With his current stint at Coke Studio he’s been able to show his versatility and maturity as a musician, proving that he’s not just another guy with a Les Paul and a few pentatonic licks in his quiver.
Mekaal Hasan Band, he managed to take a genre of fusion and made it palatable to generations of music lovers all over Pakistan. There’s an academic air to his playing — it’s almost like watching a mathematician play guitar. Everything he does is deliberate and seems completely calculated, even when it’s not. Despite his facility with the guitar, you’ll never see him over play. His solos and compositions all reflect a philosophy that regards the song more highly than its individual parts.
Bheegi Yaadein. Starting with the simple but gorgeous acoustic riff, the solo to the song is one of the most well written solos I’ve heard. It’s beautifully phrased and lyrical to the point of almost being a song within itself.
Salman Haqqi is a reporter at Dawn.com