There comes a time in every band’s life when they realise they’ve had enough. Enough of each other’s egos, enough of commercial appeasement for financial gains or sometimes just enough of the kind of music they could possibly make as a unit. Aaroh crossed that tipping point more than once for different reasons.
First, when their founding guitarist Nabeel Nihal Chishty left the band, second, when their vocalist Farooq left the country for greener pastures, third and a rather tragic instance was when their exceptionally talented new guitarist, Haider Hashmi, passed away after battling cancer.
The band has gone through so much on a personal level that its real claim to fame, hits like like Na Kaho , Raag Neela and Jalan, seem like a distant memory. However, 2017 will be the year of Aaroh’s comeback as the band gears up to perform at the upcoming Battle of the Bands as defending champions.
“I still can’t get my head around the fact that Haider won’t be there,” Farooq writes from the US in an email. “We were all buddies, but Haider was the one who brought punctuality and life into the band. I wasn’t there when he passed away so I can’t say how I am going to react to his absence on stage. I am very excited about stepping back into the scene but I will certainly miss him.”
Farooq stresses on the fact that Aaroh had never split due to differences within the band; the times were changing for music in Pakistan and so they took an early bow. “We never fought with each other so our comeback is not something unexpected. That’s what nearly two decades of friendship does to you.”
In 2013, bassist Khalid Khan, Hashmi and drummer Jason Anthony released a new song with a new vocalist that didn’t create much of a stir but it was clear that Aaroh had moved on from Farooq. “He was just Haider’s friend and we wanted to put out a song, he was never meant to take away Farooq’s spot,” says Anthony while speaking to The Express Tribune. “We also took Farooq’s permission, who was just settling in the US back then, so it was more like an experiment and not a permanent arrangement.”
The Pakistani music industry has changed in the past 10 years and so is the audience. Where Aaroh’s comeback will give a lot of dead and dormant bands hope, it may also turn out to be a disaster. “We have not been missing out on much,” says Anthony, “I agree that the security situation took a huge toll on the concert culture but things have been great since last year. As far as changing tastes is concerned, music is music, whether it’s an Elvis song or Dream Theatre, if it has to work, it will”
What worries Khan, the bassist of the band most is the lack of original music being produced these days and he believes both Aaroh and Pepsi Battle of the Bands can play a pivotal role in changing this situation. “No music industry can survive without original music and that is primarily the problem with today’s situation,” says Khan, who after Aaroh disbanded, worked as a session musician for different bands before going into music production.
“Trust me there is no respect or recognition in session playing, no matter how big a star you are playing for, it is eventually going to get redundant and you won’t even be recognised as an individual. There’s nothing like having your own band.”
For those who haven’t followed Aaroh as much as a generation that is about to get married or has a kid on the way, the band came to the forefront through 2002 Pepsi Battle of the Bands. While they won the competition, it was Entity Paradigm (EP) that ended up being the runner up under the showmanship of Fawad Khan, Ahmed Ali Butt and Xulfi. So in many ways, life has come full circle for Aaroh.
“I am really glad that Pepsi remembered us,” adds Farooq. “I appreciate their effort in bringing us back. Nostalgia. Hahaha.” He may be ecstatic about making a comeback after a decade but music hasn’t been his day job since he owned a chain of One dollar stores in the US. “I agree, I have gotten rusty,” he quips, “But hey… It comes naturally to me, I have been singing since I was 8, so I don’t think it’s going make that big of a difference.”
Perhaps there’s a lot more in store other than just a performance at Battle of the Bands and Farooq has only given us a few hints. “Let’s see if the industry is ready for Aaroh’s third album. If we find a decent deal than we might just end up releasing something later this year.”
With Farooq on vocals, Khan on bass and Anthony on drums, Aaroh is currently looking for a guitarist to complete their line up.
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