KARACHI: Not that the youth of the city need any reason to look forward to a weekend, but when the Redbull Soundclash was announced, every rock music enthusiast had their calendar marked for the big day. The ‘leaked’ videos and concert promotions that followed later, continued to build up hype and so naturally, everyone stepped into the arena brimming with a ton of expectations.
Saturday witnessed the most anticipated concert in Karachi in recent years — a clash between rock icon Ali Azmat and the promising Umair Jaswal.
Before the main event kicked off, DJ Faisal Baig attempted to warm up the audience with some electro music. His beats were unremarkable, to say the very least. However the audience clearly did not need a catalyst, and were only waiting for the two rockers to take center stage. Finally, it was time. Ali and Umair entered amid roaring cheers. Chants in the former’s favour echoed the hall as host Ahmed Ali Butt added to the hype. Ali’s band comprised Omran Shafique, Kamran ‘Mannu’ Zafar and Gumby. Umair’s band on the other hand featured Coke Studio in-house drummer Aahad Nayani, along with Ali Suhail, Amir Azhar and Haider Ali, among the notables.
Prior to the commencement of the clash, the two bands entertained the crowd with some of their tracks. While Ali already had the crowd in his corner, Umair struggled to make them cheer, until he crooned his famous Coke Studio track, Sammi Meri Waar. The song turned out to be a real game-changer and got the audience singing along and finally getting to their feet.
The ‘Cover Round’ saw Ali sing Aaroh’s Raag Neela, which he dedicated to the late guitarist Haider Hashmi. Umair, on the other hand, covered Babiya and created a mockery out of it. For round two, titled ‘The Takeover’, the two bands played a single song together. Ali started with the Junoon classic Mera Mahi, while Umair took over in the middle. While the former was at an advantage, Umair failed to step up his game with the track. The round proved that as a live performer, Ali was clearly superior. The third round saw the bands play songs in different genres. While Ali performed one in disco genre, Umair got a power ballad. It was during this performance that one realised the reverberation of the hall didn’t quite match the sound produced by the artists throughout the concert. The power ballad was, quite frankly, a relief for the eardrums.
The mega finale witnessed the two bands bring in a guest artist of their choice. Ali, who already had an edge over his rival, brought in guitarist Mekaal Hasan, and together they played the ever-popular Garaj Baras. This was the final blow, a coup de grâce on Umair. You could even hear an audience member asking him to just quit already, as the game was clearly over. However, the young singer was not one to back down and answered the call by bringing in none other than the rock legend himself, Faraz Anwar, to join the band for one final performance. Even the host applauded Umair’s choice and. Towards the end of the show, in a moment that caught most by surprise, Ali invited Umair on his stage and hugged him — making the night more a celebration of music than a battle for the top spot.
There were, however, a few things that compromised the overall experience. One of the most prominent issues being the small space allocated for the show. The indoor hall at Karachi’s Expo Center muffled the sound to an extent that the performances at one point turned into sheer noise, threatening to induce permanent tinnitus. Perhaps a better venue or a better sound system could have gone miles in making the show one truly worth remembering for years to come.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2016.
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