KARACHI: Whether it's the lead singer's falsetto or the lead guitarist's goosebumps-inducing solos, Kashmir the Band have become clear favourites in Pepsi's Battle of the Bands.
Making their mark when they performed EP's Hamesha in front of former EP frontman Fawad Khan in the auditions, Kashmir has gone on to create a fan following because of their ability to make a song seem like their own. From their unique take on hits such as Mera Pyar by Amir Zaki and Aitebaar by Junaid Jamshed, it seems Kashmir can do no wrong.
Perhaps the greatest achievement for a band is when they are told that their audience looks to them in times of need. Music has the ability to help heal – which is precisely what Kashmir tells us. “One girl even messaged us saying that her father passed away a while ago and our song was one of the reasons that helped her sleep at night,” the band told The Express Tribune. For the band to receive such a message was an emotional moment, “These things are really overwhelming. We’re so glad that the music we make resonates with everyone we come across, and we love that.”
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The Karachi based band is made up of frontman Bilal Ali, Vais Khan on lead guitar, Usman Siddiqui on bass guitar, Ali Raza on piano and back-up vocals, Zair Zaki on rhythm guitar and Shane Anthony on drums.
The band name is inspired from the band's love of the English rock band Led Zeppelin who have a song titled Kashmir and also from the release of their first single titled Rani-e-Kashmir. Speaking to The Express Tribune, the band revealed they were originally named Quasars, which is defined as the brightest object in the universe. However, the term did not resonate with their Pakistani audience. "When we went to play concerts, the crowd kept shouting Kausars", said the band. Having your name mispronounced would not sit well with any band, and that's when Kashmir came into being.
Surprisingly, the lead vocalist and founder of the band Mashhad Sharyar parted ways with Kashmir. The original line-up also included Hyder Ali on drums. Left without a vocalist, the remaining members met Bilal Ali on vocals and Shane Anthony on drums and "haven’t been happier since."
Speaking to The Express Tribune about the success Kashmir has gained, Mashhad said "it's one of the best thing that has happened this year.
"Being the oldest member of the band, It truly feels amazing to finally see them at this stage."
When asked if he missed the band he simply answered 'everyday'.
Kashmir has dabbled in different genres on music both on stage at BoB and since their formation of the band in 2012. When talking to them about what genre they would classify themselves as, they said they would not put themselves in a box. "All band members are inspired by vast musical genres and when we come together, our creative process and music reflects that. The guitarist might come up with a dark tone and when everyone puts their input in, it becomes something different.
"But if we had to pick one, we would pick alternative rock/progressive rock", says Kashmir.
When asked how they would describe their music to someone who hasn't heard them before, they joked, "We would just play it for them and let them form an opinion".
It's not only Kashmir's covers that have stunned audience - their original songs have garnered widespread applause, including the BOB judges. With lyrics that resonate with people, Kashmir sings of childhood fears and insomnia in their songs Budha Baba and Soch. Vocalist Bilal who writes the band's songs draws inspiration from the problems he has faced or problems he has seen his family and friends go through. When talking about specific themes and approaches to his songwriting process, he says he writes for catharsis and motivation.
"Bilal comes up with lyrics and tunes late in the night usually when he's the most relaxed and away from everything else but creativity", said the band.
When asked what they would like their music to convey, they hoped it connected to people on an emotional level. "We want our music to sound like hope. In a world that's so darkened by the shadows of our problems, we would like to create perhaps even a glimmer of light."
BoB has played a huge role in evolving Kashmir as a band. From punctuality to being creative under pressure, the band members have only gotten closer during the span of the show. "We've spent more time with each other than we ever did, helping us understand each other's creativity and thus helping us become better as a band."
Despite the emotional and physical drain they felt due to the pressure of live shows, the band describes their experience as 'phenomenal.' For all of them, it was the first time being on live shoots and sets and while it drained them, that's what made their experience so much better as it opened them up to new avenues.
Many of the band's live performances have been lauded but when asked which of the songs they enjoyed performing the most, they said it had be to Kaghaz ka Jahaz. "It was upbeat and fun and different from anything that we had performed. Even before performing it, we had so much fun jamming to it during practice and the lyrics were interesting as well. It was just a fun performance overall."
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Kashmir has also taken on songs which most Pakistanis hold very close to their heart such as Aadat by Atif Aslam and Waqt by EP. When asked what some of the challenges they encountered performing renditions of renowned musicians, Kashmir says they put their heart and soul into them. "We knew it would be difficult but it didn't scare us that people wouldn't like our rendition because we put our heart and soul into them.
"Especially when it came to Mera Pyar. The song is extremely close to Bilal's heart and we played it by giving it everything we had, and we're glad everyone liked it."
On performing their own rendition of Waqt in front of Fawad Khan himself, they said they were excited, hoping he'd like it as much as he liked their cover of Hamesha. "We were excited because we had peformed Hamesha in front of him as well and that's what helped us get through to the top 8. We were hoping he'd like Hamesha as well. We received mix comments from the judges but the public really seemed to like it - which is not to say that we don't care about what the judges have to say."
As a band, Kashmir has faced multiple challenges including working under pressure with short deadlines. "We came up with the composition for Mendah Ishq in four hours. Some of us had never heard the song and we had to figure out a way to make it our own by putting our own touch to it."
"We've had highs and lows but we've learned a lot; it's still pretty unbelievable for us that we've gone through this amazing experience."
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