In the heart of the old city district of Karachi, Sunday night was quite an affair. While on one side of the road the Frere Hall gardens were abuzz with food connoisseurs arriving for Karachi Eat Festival, enthusiasts of a different breed were gathered on the other side of the road at the Pakistan American Cultural Centre to get a taste of what indie band Rushk had to offer.
In the presence of a select coterie of music aficionados, the five-member band took centre stage. Although the band has been around for 15 odd years and their last public appearance at the I Am Karachi Music Festival was an absolute treat, the Sunday concert had a strong “comeback” feel to it, with the band playing 12 of their old and new releases.
A strong opening number is always essential for setting a show’s tone and Tara Mahmood’s rustic vocals on the cover of famous ghazal Honton Pe Kabhi Unke had just the right ingredients. While the singing abilities of Mahmood shone through most of the tracks, notably Malal, Aa Bhi Jao, Tum Sang Naina and Chingaari, the audience’s applause was largely targeted towards the interplay between bassist Ali Jafri, multi-instrumentalist (guitar and piano) Ziyyad Gulzar and drummer Sikander Mufti.
Even though guitarist and band frontman Uns Mufti did have his moments on stage, most of them seemed to be reserved for the LED monitors in the backdrop; for the most part, the guitarist had his back towards the audience. Another noticeable element was the sense of reunion within the attendees as most industry stalwarts of the city had turned up to show their support for the band. Emu, Omran Shafique, Sajid Hasan and Gumby could all be seen in the crowd. One of the attendants even jokingly remarked, “Aaj toh saaray puranay paapi jama huay ve hain (All the old-timers are here today).”
Having followed the band since its inception, drum virtuoso Gumby praised Rushk’s performance, terming their “attention to detail” and use of visuals aids new and innovative. “I don’t think you have many people making such visual music in the country. For me the production quality was a standout feature,” he told The Express Tribune. “Although it has been close to a decade since they last released a single, I feel they haven’t changed their style of music.” But with musicians like Jafri, Sikandar and Mahmood also in the mix along with old-timers Uns and Gulzar, Gumby concluded, “Their music is pretty much the same but it’s a bit like old wine in a new bottle.”
As the visual experience added to the show’s grand feel, the sound arrangement, many a times, pulled the envelope back, disturbing the flow of the playing. “The sound seemed to have taken away a lot of sheen from the performance,” remarked Emu.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2016.