Sufis on guitars: Badnaam opens up on inspiration, sufi-rock fusion

The grunge rockers are loud, aggressive, passionate and proud of it


Rahima Sohail September 12, 2017
PHOTO: FACEBOOK

KARACHI: Unapologetically loud and passionate, Badnaam has made a name for themselves with their grunge rock and angst music. Standing out as the rebels in Pepsi's Battle of the Bands, Badnaam plays music that can transport you back to the days of teenage angst and phases of 'no one understands me.'

Badnaam, the band name which literally translates to 'infamous' is a testament to how the punk rockers embrace their public persona - they are loud, aggressive, passionate and proud of it.

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Musically inspired by Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Ustad NFAK, Abida Parveen and the Sabri Brothers, speaking to The Express Tribune, the band said their inspiration comes from "the truth that resides inside every human", which is seen from their focus on sufi music.


The Lahore based band was formed in 2009 and consists of Ahmed Jilani on vocals and lead guitar, Raheem Shahbaz aka Sunny on bass guitar and Muhammad Ahsan aka Lala on drums. Friends for more than eight years, it is their mutual love and passion for music that brought them together and kept them going.

Badnaam has been evolving their sound since they came into being, but always they have been serious and focused towards their message.

Describing their style as a "combination of grunge music and our traditional folk/sufi music", they say they found a lot of similarities in both styles of music like repetition, passion, aggression, energy hence the need to fuse them together.

"You know when you see a malang performing a dhamaal with full conviction and passion you can feel his energy.. we want to capture that energy in our music. A lot can be said about this but talking less and feeling more would be more appropriate."

Badnaam frontman, Ahmed Jillani, is the lyricist behind the band's original songs. Focusing on spiritual enlightenment and message of sufi saints, the band said their songs are based on 'truth.' Describing their songwriting process as 'intense', they said it's a "personal experience based on what you're feeling inside so music naturally is the first expressive element before words that comes out of us."

BOB has allowed Badnaam to perform on a bigger platform and evolve as a band. During their journey not only have they found new ways to express themselves but evolve their sound through mentoring of producers and judges' feedback.

"We jammed for almost 3 months for this and during this time we made mistakes and that helped us evolve into a tighter and smarter band. We are still evolving and we have a vision we want to follow individually and as a band."

Speaking about their experience on the show, Badnaam said their favourite songs to perform were Bismilla Karan and Ishqnaam "because of the sheer energy that these compositions gave us." The songs brought out the true essence of our music and was their chance to shine.

Describing their experience as 'exhilarating', the band spoke about the friends they made along the way and the strength they gauged from the advice, encouragement and support of the judges.

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Badnaam has put their own spins on sufi kalams and describes the task of taking them on as one of their biggest challenges. "Great people have sung these songs, so the name themselves carry a huge weight. That's the biggest challenge, the weight of those names. Our music has totally changed what these songs were originally so that's a huge risk we took."


The public has responded positively to the rock band and through their music Badnaam hopes to bring something new to the Pakistani music industry and change the landscape and views of public.

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