Before boarding a flight with the leading musicians of Pakistan, many questions come to one’s mind. It is like being in Almost Famous — the film that every music journalist has watched and hoped to experience in real life. However, this is no dream — the characters are real. We are on a Karachi-to-Lahore flight scheduled to take off at 8 am, with musicians who start jamming at midnight and finish by the time the kids are off to school. Naturally, you would expect these stars to show up fashionably late.
Contrary to expectations, at 6:50 am Asad Ahmed, Omran Shafique (aka Momo) and Mannu have lined up for security checks in the queue next to mine. Their casual attire and laziness, with which they drag their luggage, says a lot about their exhaustion. Luckily, they are not carrying their guitars on them — they are boarding a flight to attend the press launch of the sixth season of Coke Studio.
As we proceed, it turns out that the session’s drummer Louis J Pinto (aka Gumby) is way ahead of the rest of his Coke Studio colleagues. Gumby, who is ready to make a comeback to Coke Studio this season, has already received his boarding pass. Unlike others, he is wearing an Adidas zip-up and boots. Known to provide comic relief, Gumby acts as though he has failed to recognise his Coke Studio fellows for a moment and whispers something in the boarding officer’s ear. The whole group laughs out loud and Zoe Viccaji joins the clan.
They move past the final security check before the departure lounge, where the sleepy and zoned-out Momo decides to move to a faster and emptier queue. Mannu, who gave his place in the queue to an elderly gentleman, is poked by Gumby who says, “You never gave your spot to me, even I have a beard.” They burst out laughing and Mannu responds, “Once you’re as old as him and I stay the same age, then I’ll do this for you.”
Soon after making their way to the boarding lounge, hunger creeps in and artists huddle outside a food outlet. The waiter is both star-struck and baffled. And the conversations begin: they talk about the food, and a recent tour to Bangladesh they are unwilling to disclose details of. They talk about Gumby’s wit. “I am not humourous; they are all lying,” Gumby responds. “Mannu has the best sense of humour, don’t you Mannu?” Gumby elbows Mannu, who laughs, understanding the ‘inside joke’ and says “I am a malang; I can take anything that comes my way.”
The group discusses everything from bands which have split to the infrastructure of the music industry — even their casual conversations at 7 am boil down to music. “Making an album takes a lot of time and concentration so that’s why I am just working on solo projects with other artists. There is hardly any money left in the industry,” says Gumby, as he takes a bite of his sandwich.
When the final call for the flight is announced, the musicians finish off their food in a hurry and rush to the plane.
Inside, I gather my thoughts in the hope of starting a conversation with Zoe. I want to talk to her about her sudden popularity within the industry and her thoughts on travelling with the whole gang for the first time. But alas, my efforts are obstructed by a cabin crew member who asks me to leave my seat for a lady who is feeling uncomfortable sitting between two men. And we take off!
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2013.
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