Leo Tolstoy considered music to be, “the short hand of emotion” and his golden words truly describe the 21-year-old musical genius Usman Riaz. His debut single “Firefly” introduced him as an outstanding guitarist, followed by a collaboration with Ali Noor in Uth Records and has now done a great job of revamping Junoon’s “Saeen”.
“I make music which I enjoy listening to,” says Riaz, who is amazed with the response “Saeen” has received in a short time. Like many people, Riaz is also a hardcore Junoon fan and was amazed when Salman Ahmad contacted him to contribute to Junoon’s 20th anniversary album.
“I chose ‘Saeen’ because the song itself has a very haunting and spiritual melody to it, which always fascinated me”, says the talented youngster. The music video of “Saeen” shows Riaz along with a few fellow musicians pushing a huge piano into an empty mansion and jamming together. One wonders if this was meant to add some narrative to the music video but the musician has another reason. “I wanted to prove that I can do much more than playing a guitar and ‘Saeen’ seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do that,” explains Riaz.
The new version of “Saeen” takes one on a spiritual journey and leaves a huge impact on the listener. It is by far the most well-received cover of Junoon’s 20th anniversary hits and has gained incredible attention on multiple social networking sites.
“I primarily wanted to keep ‘Saeen’ an instrumental piece and to accomplish that, I had to write a whole new violin melody and bring in a lot of percussion instruments accompanied with a sitar, which made it a whole orchestra piece,” explains the youngster.
The song might have impressed us all but it is Salman Ahmad who is more than impressed by the revisited version of this song, which is near and dear to him. He was full of praise for Riaz in an email: “Usman has achieved a beautiful and dark fusion of Sindhi and North African music and music. Bravo! He’s a very special talent, both as an instrumentalist and an arranger. I’ll be collaborating with him in the near future as well.”
This might be a very early phase in the musician’s life but he has achieved a lot in a short span of time and his participation in “Coke Studio” is yet another feather in his cap. “My teacher took me to Rohail Hyatt and he liked what I did,” reveals Riaz. “In January 2011, Rohail called me and had planned to introduce some Indian folk singers with my guitar playing, but unfortunately the project didn’t work out,” says Riaz.
For the future, a number of performances are lined up for the artist and he is looking forward to some of the ‘storyboards’ that he is working on. “I like to call my music videos film pieces because whenever I think of a music video, I imagine some rapper dancing or women clad in revealing clothes dancing to some Bollywood melody,” smiles the musician.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2011.