Covering Vital Signs has become an industry in itself. Just last month, DJ Shahrukh and Faiza Mujahid reinvented “Do Pal” – a radically different cover that created a party track out of the original. “There is always a challenge because the cover is compared to the original, so the goal is to have elements of the original sound as well as creating something new,” says DJ Shahrukh, who adds that he likes the nostalgic feel to the song. “The song had a very clear and attractive form which made it difficult to find out how to switch from the 1980s pop feel to something from 2012,” he added.
In the last few weeks, two more covers of Vital Signs classics were uploaded to YouTube. The first amongst those is by Walnut Studio CEO and social media/marketing specialist Muhammed Adnan Butt, who made his debut as a vocalist alongside Kanza with “Ajnabi”.
When it comes to Junaid Jamshed’s flawless vocals, Butt agrees that few can match Jamshed’s vocal range. “Very few people can match the way Jamshed sings, because he used his upper throat. Low tempo songs are harder to emulate, which is why it seems easier at times to cover Junoon.” Despite the challenge, Butt and Kanza gave it a shot. “I was inspired by Aaroh’s Vital Signs cover. I like the melody of the song and grew up listening to it so it has sentimental value,” he added.
Another on this ever growing list is the band 7 on 3rd, who took on “Dil Dil Pakistan”. They transformed the classic pop anthem into a more contemporary, rock piece to bring more depth and emotion to the sound. “There is a sense of connection and pride with the music produced by Vital Signs and Junoon for people who grew up listening to them,” says Ahmed Hashim, the band’s drummer. “The originals are far more superior; taking these classics and giving it our own twist was something we have wanted to do for a long time.”
Vocalist Gibran Nasir says, “Vital Signs were the first band to come out with anthems about the Pakistan that we love,” says Nasir. “I think the renewed interest has to do with reliving or redoing those lost feelings and memories.”
According to FM 89 RJ Khalid Malik, underground bands focus too much energy on covers. “If musicians are looking for longevity, then it’s wise to stay away from covers. They should try to create something unique,” says Malik.
Former Vital Signs band member Shahi Hasan disagrees. “I think covers are good for the learning process of a young artist… he gets to learn a certain music style, chord structure and production arrangement when he figures out a good song – at least that’s how I learned music!” he said, adding that he jammed mostly to famous English songs he loves, including those by artists such as Led Zeppelin, A-ha, Madonna, Nazia and Zoheb Hassan and Mehdi Hasan. “It’s virtually like you play along with a bunch of musicians of international quality. And it’s a great exercise.”
The power of Vital Signs
“It’s a testimony to the power of Vital Signs’ music that 25 years later, “Dil Dil Pakistan” and the band are symbols of national unity,” says Salman Ahmed, former Vital Signs member who later became Junoon’s guitarist. He recalls with pride his days with the Vital Signs; a time when Pakistan lived under oppressive military rule and there was a war happening in Afghanistan – an era of drugs and gun culture.
“Most young people were cynical and negative about Pakistan,” says Ahmed. “But instead of drowning in despair, we got together to make music which gave young Pakistanis a vision for the future: to be modern and patriotic with style and class.”
Commenting on the tendency of young artists to do covers, Ahmed says “You were born an original; why die a copy?” adding that while musicians start out by singing famous songs, ultimately one has to make their own music.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2012.
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