KARACHI: The open air auditorium at the Karachi Arts Council was considered the best venue for bands during the heyday of live rock music in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Almost a decade later, when the prospects of the Pakistani music industry go from gloomy to gloomier, the sight of hordes of eager fans cheering outside the same venue was pleasantly surprising. It was in anticipation of Islamabad-based rock band Qayaas that made the fans’ voice go up by several decibels.
After a painful delay of two hours, Qayaas — comprising of Umair Jaswal on lead vocals, Khurram Waqar and Sarmad Abdul Ghafoor on guitars, Shaheryar Ghayas on bass guitar and Salman Rafique(Fifu) on drums and percussions — finally made their way into the auditorium.
No matter how good a band is at live performances, the most important thing is to have is an entertaining vocalist. Jaswal is an ideal person to lead the band as he knows where and how to lift the crowd as well as how to cover up technical glitches (if any). Meanwhile, Waqar and Ghafoor are two of the finest live guitarists in Pakistan, who, when perform together, can steal the show. However, the most interesting member of the band was Ghayas, who, despite being the bassist (one of the most undervalued positions in the band) showed the energy of a one-man army. His attitude and energy on stage should be inspiring for upcoming rock musicians.
Though around 400 in number, the crowd looked scarce in a 1,200-seating capacity venue. However, this did not, in any way, seem to hinder Qayaas’ energy on stage. “Can anyone tell you how to live?” shouted Jaswal. “Do you believe in what the government says?” And the crowd roared in a loud disagreement. It was more than just a healthy response for a band that is performing in a proper concert for the first time in Karachi.
The band played their entire debut album Uss Paar and some songs in particular had people head banging throughout. A song that was requested over and over again by fans was “Ishq” — a beautifully done Sufi track. However, the most popular tracks of the evening remained “Umeed” and “Tanha”, as the entire crowd sang to them.
The last song of the evening, the album’s title track “Uss Paar”, was dedicated to Rohail Hyatt, who was also in attendance. The heavy-yet-catchy beat was an ideal ending to a night full of pure rock music, something that Karachi has been longing for for a while.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2012.