KARACHI: “Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’re gonna be rewarded.”Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix was spot on when he said those lines. Following the same mantra is Pakistani guitar maestro Asad Ahmed, who is carrying on with a solo career following the recent disbandment of his band Karavan.
The guitarist, who has come a long way from The Barbarians to Awaz to “Coke Studio”, speaks to The Express Tribune about his journey.
The Karavan blues
Right after Karavan disbanded last year in July, there was an announcement on their Facebook page regarding a farewell gig. However, Ahmed has denied this piece of news. “We were initially planning a farewell gig because the other guys couldn’t find closure as they were left shocked after I dropped the bomb on them, however, the concert’s not happening anymore and Karavan is done,” says Ahmed. Commenting on the breakup of the band, he claims it’s the ‘unprofessional’ attitude of the band members that was the root cause of the split; “You can’t drive a car with three flat tires,” says Ahmed. “There were people who were focusing more on themselves than the band, so it had to end anyway.”
He is currently working on his own yet-untitled album and to the surprise of many, the latest venture will not be instrumental and all the songs will be composed, arranged and produced by Ahmed himself. “Guitar solos or shredding is something that I would have loved to do if I was 16 but not at this point in time. I don’t want to do the whole guitar hero thing again,” laughs Ahmed. “I think, for me, it has always been more about the songs than guitar solos,” adds the musician.
His solo album comprises of 10 English songs — seven of them sung by Ahmed and the rest by guest vocalists, names of whom he is unwilling disclose as yet.
Meanwhile, intent on pushing his boundaries, Ahmed is now targeting the European market. He has travelled to a number of European countries to meet independent music labels such as Frontier and Roadrunner. “I plan to explore the foreign market hence all the songs on the album are in English.” As far as the sound of the album is concerned, Ahmed confirms it will not resemble the kind of music that Karavan produced. “Karavan was rock music tailor-made for Pakistani audience but now I want to go beyond that,” says Ahmed. “Had it not been for the audiences here, I would have never made songs like ‘Sajni’, ‘Shor’ or ‘Aagay Hi Aagay’.
Foray into Bollywood
Additionally, the guitar player has been busy with Ali Zafar’s projects. Ahmed has played the guitars for Zafar’s upcoming film London Paris New York. “I have nothing against Bollywood; it’s a huge industry and gives you a handsome pay cheque. However, one thing is for sure — you won’t find me dancing around in fields,” says Ahmed.
Just a click away
Apart from regularly updating his website, the guitar maestro is now all set to provide some infotainment through his video blog. “A lot of people have been asking me how to play certain Awaz, Vital Signs and Karavan songs and now I’ll handle all these concerns via a video blog that will answer their questions and also keep them updated with my upcoming music.”
Asad Ahmed’s musical contributions
1987 — 1990 The Barbarians
Ahmed started his music career in 1987 with The Barbarians, which is regarded by many as the first Pakistani rock band. The band got their first big break when they participated and won the “Rock vs Rock” show in Karachi. They released their self-titled album The Barbarians in 1989, which did not fare well in the Pakistani music industry. The band disbanded in 1990.
1991 — 1992 Junoon and Vital Signs
Ahmed did a gig with Salman Ahmad at a party in 1991. On Ahmad’s invitation, he hopped on board with Junoon and played bass with them for about a year. In a performance at the Marriott Islamabad in November 1992, he met Haroon and Faakhir of Awaz and Rohail Hyatt of Vital Signs. This led to his performances on Vital Signs’ “Aitebar” and “Hum Tum”.
1992 — 1996 Awaz
Awaz was formed in December 1992 by Haroon, Faakhir and Asad. The band was highly skilled and comprised of talented musicians, producers and composers, however, the band’s skill at composing and producing songs was often overlooked and the focus remained on their good looks, glossy videos and catchy songs. After the release of their third and last album Shola, all three band members went their separate ways.
1997 — Own studio and Karavan
In 1997, Ahmad established his own studio and simultaneously joined hands with Sameer Ahmed to form Karavan, thus returning to his rock origins. They brought the already established singer Najam Sheraz as the vocalist and Alan Smith as drummer to complete the line-up. In 1999, Najam Sheraz returned to his solo career, vacating the vocalist’s slot for newcomer Tanseer Daar. In 2005, the band issued an internet only unplugged album which had over 100,000 downloads.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2012.