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Soundcheck: The Sketches — Dastkari

March 07, 2010

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The Sketches are musicians who — from their web site and the CD inlay — appear to be truly passionate about their music. They've also just released their first album Dastkari, a collection of sombre, melancholic yet uplifting tunes.

The band comprises two like-minded individuals, Saif and Naeem. Both take the reins of lyricist and composer, whereas Saif is the vocalist and Naeem the guitarist. Besides these two, they have had help with compositions and arrangements from Kaiser Zain and Salman Akhtar.

The album kicks off with Kaanton Ki Deewarain, a tune that sets the tonality of the rest of the songs. It's a classic opening number in the sense that it has a bit of everything from the rest of the album.

Haq Maujood, Raat, Maujood is where the band adapts the poetry of sufi kalam. Haq Maujood is originally by Sachal Sarmast; Raat by Shaikh Ayaz and Maujood by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. It's always a daunting task to render sufi kalam the way it is meant to be covered; it's even more daunting when you have the likes of Abida Parveen who has performed these tracks before. But Saif and Naeem seem to be totally at ease covering them all the same.

Doobti Aankhain and Justuju remind one of Pakistani songs of the past. Particularly those by Aamir Zaki and the early years of Strings — simple yet eloquent and very easy listening.

Dastraki also has a video with a very interesting concept. Though it is the title song it is probably not as good as the rest of the tracks on the album. Its power ballad-like tempo doesn't seem to do justice to the lyrics. Somewhat similar is Tanhaiyoon Mein, also a power ballad but the song definitely needs some extra work put into it.

Aik Insaan is where things pick up. It's the loudest the band gets in the entire album and in doing so the track sticks out from the rest of the songs on the album. Heavily inspired by the melodies of Fuzon (in a good way) are the tracks Subha and Bhool Chukay. Both are similar in the sense that they have incredible uplifting tempos with some interesting lyrics. But comparisons aside, both the tunes presented here are interesting in their balance of lyrics and compositions.

Kabhi is probably the track to listen to here. Not to say that there aren't any good tracks on this album, but this is the track which truly encapsulates the spirit of the album. The lyrics speak of a yearning and the melody lingers on.

The Sketches is definitely an interesting band to look out for. The closest comparison would that be of Laal, albeit minus the political angle to the songs but a rather heavy inspiration from old school Pakistani pop in terms of sound and sufi kalam in terms of lyrics. The Sketches has the kind of music that you leave on in the background and let the music take over you. Also not to forget the exquisite flute played by Sajid Ali throughout the album, which adds a whole new layer to the entire experience that is Dastkari.