For the last 15 years, a group of musicians who call themselves Rushk have been churning out some very fine pop-rock music in Karachi. They toil all day long to ensure food is on the table, and at night they get together, plug their guitars in and just play; in their own words, the catharsis makes them feel they’re there.
Two years ago, Rushk old-timers, guitarists Uns Mufti and Ziyyad Gulzar, were joined by Tara Mahmood on vocals, Sikandar Mufti on drums and Ali Jafri on bass. When The Express Tribune caught up with them on the band’s progress, they had just wrapped up a consuming jam session and retired on comfy sofas in the dimly lit studio where Uns, the current composer and the band’s frontman, says, “You see, we do a lot of things. We all have our day jobs … Only Sikandar is a professional musician. But we really want to do this.” Tara feels when the band mates are together, they feed on each other’s energies and do what they love.
The band is now itching for a return to the stage with a string of live shows and new releases on the cards. As Tara puts it, “Something will strike a nerve somewhere.”
Uns is unsure about calling it a comeback for the band, simply because in his own words, none of the band members never left the scene. “We’ve been playing for a good two years and we never stopped. Ali went to Noori and came back. Sikandar is constantly involved, be it Coke Studio, co-Ven or Mauj,” he says, adding with a laugh, “There’s hardly a band or a musician he hasn’t played for.”
This makes the band’s newfound gusto a little difficult to understand and before we can even frame it into a question, Uns has an answer, “Actually the act of putting it all out there is now beginning.”
He says another reason they’re making a return is because the indie scene is doing so well. “Most indie bands today have gone beyond the aspiration of becoming the best band of the country. They now make music for themselves. If people like it, great! If they don’t, never mind,” explains Sikandar.
Uns claims they, too, have been making music constantly. Sikandar pitches in, “Eight of our songs are in the final stages. We don’t want to release them as an album … we will launch [them] one by one.”
Uns has an explanation that resonates with many acts like theirs. “Who listens to albums these days? Probably only people like us who were born in the 70s,” he chuckles. “There is no real avenue. Whom should we go to? EMI? Back in the 90s when there were labels like Sadaf, they wouldn’t do anything for you unless you were a friend or something.”
Although Uns admits it’s heartening to see online streaming platforms spring up as an alternative, it’s too soon for him to predict any prospects for the industry.
Nonetheless, Rushk is hopeful that the singles they will put up on their Facebook and Soundcloud will help with the live shows. “The new material has a very live feel to it. It doesn’t sound the same in recorded form. I think when people listen to them, they will get a sense of our music,” Uns maintains.
But doesn’t that mean working in the same comfort zone the band has stayed in, for all these years? “If you mean lazy by comfort zone, we’re not lazy at all,” says Tara. The vocalist says the first release, Aye Na, is almost done. Uns begs to differ. “Pakistani speed pe horaha hai kaam single pe,” he says. Hilarious disagreements like these pepper the entire conversation; perhaps this is what brings the bunch together.
The band members feel the new music is fun and different from what Rushk was all about back in the day. “We can’t call it feel good music,” says Sikandar. “Feel bad bhi nahin hai,” interrupts Tara. Uns had slipped away to grab a glass of water. His voices echoes, “Feel weird!”
To Sikandar, it can be termed mood music. “Sometimes, it’ll be uplifting. Other times, it’ll make you think. It’s certainly not the clap-your-hands type.”
There’s another avenue not fully new for Rushk – film music. In the past, their tracks like Behti Naar have featured in more than one movie and they have also lent their music for a couple of Bollywood flicks. Jami’s upcoming film, Downward Dog, will see Rushk helm the soundtrack. “I think the indie scene will flow into cinema because our film-makers are doing all sorts of stuff,” Tara maintains.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2016.