KARACHI: 2012 was a strange year in Peshawar’s music history. The city’s narrative changed days after the brutal murder of singer Ghazala Javed, with skeptics and the public wondering who would be next. Although the motive was not clear but everyone thought she was killed for being a singer and that notion had silenced many other voices. On the other side, the city’s underground scene was brimming with hope, one band after the other, proving to be the balm on the bruises.
While most bands were trying to fill in the void left by Sajid & Zeeshan, who were about to release what proved to be their last album together, Khumariyaan stood out for many reasons. Unlike their contemporaries, they didn’t aim to master the art of electronic music and neither did they follow the trend of naming the band after its members. Every risky choice hinted at their early exit from an already dying music industry.
Seven years later, they’ve recorded their debut album, successfully toured US under the Centrestage banner, and are now set to partake in Southbank’s Centre’s Alchemy Festival in UK.
“We are going as an instrumental Pakhtun folk rock band as well as cultural ambassadors to present our music at the amazing cultural clash in London,” Khumariyaan told The Express Tribune in an email interview. Khumariyaan has been chosen to perform as a result of collaboration between the British Council in Islamabad, Funoon London and the South Bank Centre.
The band that comprises of Sparlay Rawail on lead guitars, Aamir Shafique on rhythm guitars, Farhan Bogra on Rabab and Shiraz Khan on percussions has strangely found a larger audience abroad. They perform smaller gigs in Pakistan and bigger shows abroad and that too not specifically catering to the South Asian diaspora.
“Our sound cloud page has over 10000 followers and every week there are about 100000 plays of our tracks, of all these, more than half are from international audiences including the UK, US and Europe,” said Khumariyaan.
“We enjoy being considered an indigenous act as well as a world music band. The ultimate aim is to keep our sound true to our style and be categorised in both, the world music genre as well as a band that performs ethnic music.”
Khumariyaan plan to keep things simple for their UK debut with the set mostly comprising their usual hit numbers. “The aim is to keep things simple because it is our debut in the country and we want to stay true to our sound as much as possible, having said that, a couple more tracks that we think would really compliment an international set will be added. It will be a mix of both, after all experimentation and evolution is always happening and that is how we make our music.”
Co-Founder Funoon London Nadia Rahman Khan is ecstatic to be part of this collaboration. “We believe that especially at a time when racism and xenophobia is at an all-time high almost globally, music such as theirs, which is used as a form of resistance against the narratives of hate and violence, is all the more critical, and must be heard as widely as possible,” said Khan.
The organisation feels this collaboration with Southbank Centre and the British Council has enabled them to serve their greater purpose of sharing the true essence of Pukhtun culture and music with the rest of the world. “It’s a festival we have attended since its very first year, and because we’ve seen it grow, we feel a strong affinity with it. We can’t wait to bring a bit of Peshawar to London!”
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