Last year, music prodigy Usman Riaz came onto the scene with Firefly and his cover of Junoon’s hit Saeen for the band’s 20th year celebratory album — two feats for which we petitioned everyone listening to make a Nobel Prize for music and gift it to him.
This year he proved to everyone (except to the LSAs) that he is Pakistan’s brightest music talent by being one of the few artists to come out with an album, Circus in the Sky, at the hardly ripe age of 20.
Of course, Usman Riaz doesn’t seem like he will at all be like the breed of musicians that we are accustomed to.
His sound is entirely instrumental and would fit perfectly in providing a score to a movie — not quite the Atif Aslam, or even Noori, that we are familiar with. But he is certainly a ‘string doctor’ (to borrow Andrew Bird’s self-coined title) and a multitalented one at that — ask the folks at Ted, where he was invited to speak and play at with guitar legend, Roy Preston.
At the launch in Marriott, Karachi recently, he not only unveiled the creative process that led to the creation of his album but also a short film called "Ruckus."
The film highlighted Usman’s creative talent in full form and carried some of the loudest tap dancing, stomping, harmonica playing music that you would have ever expected in a silent film. Who knew Usman Riaz could tap dance as well?
It took Usman Riaz two years to complete Circus in the Sky, an album which he said was about growing up and facing challenges. In his own words, “My aim was to create interesting soundscapes and textures rather than a typical album. I believe people don’t compose or play this kind of music anymore. And although I am very much influenced by the compositional styles of people from the past I have still tried to keep the theme and phrasing of each piece as contemporary as I could.”