Aag: Off to a fiery start

Aag talks about their unique sound and aspirations.

Sher Khan June 16, 2011


For Haroon and Usman Sheikh, the lead members of Aag, music is an extension of one’s inner expression. Formed in 2005, the band aspires to fuse eastern and western classical music along with progressive rock and jazz.

The band recently announced the release of their second music video for their single “Kafla”. The video, which has been directed by Haroon, is said to have an intense, patriotic feel to it. It is set for a release to all the major networks in the next two to three weeks.

They also plan to release their untitled debut album sometime next year. They have received praise from many in the music industry including Ali Noor, Bilal Maqsood, Atif Aslam and band EP. Their sound can be bracketed into several genres, but a close classification would be Incubus-styled indie rock.

The band has uploaded three rough cut singles on their Facebook and YouTube pages. “I want to work with the legendary rockers of our music industry and blow people’s minds with the resulting fusions.” said Usman. While talking about the aim of their upcoming album, he said, “It’s hard to classify our sound. We express our selves with each song in our own unique way.”

The album’s philosophy, which is perpetuated by the diversity of their influences — ranging from Pakistani pop to classical western music to The Beatles, Green Theater and Muse, leaves them confused on how to describe their sound. “Really, we aren’t sure how to classify our sound. It is different and versatile,” says Haroon who plays guitar and does the vocals. “All we know is that we are trying to bring a new sound in Pakistan.”

The band itself has achieved several accolades since its inception, but the success has been fleeting. Haroon said that getting shortlisted for the Metal Asia Compilation Award from Pakistan, along with only two other bands from the country, felt great. Landing an interview with Bobby Friction, a show on BBC, Radio 1, at the start of 2011, was another turning point for them. Since then, offers for gigs and concerts in Lahore have also increased. Haroon said that with the album being the band’s first priority, they had cut down on their rigorous jamming and practice sessions which would usually last up to 12 hours a day. Despite all this, however, sustaining positive attention for them has been challenging.

In November 2010, Haroon was in the news for what he calls ‘a social experiment’. To generate a ‘buzz’ around them, he announced on “Coke Studio’s” official Facebook page that Aag would be participating in the show’s fourth season. Later, he set the record straight but the ordeal was widely talked about, especially on various Pakistani music websites.

As far as their musical talent is concerned, Usman is quickly becoming one of the better drummers in the country, while Haroon is showing wider vocal range by the day. They have been composing and writing songs in Punjabi as well. Usman said that the band had been together for four years and their coordination, which he deems more important than individual skill, had improved a lot.

Getting back to the album, the band says that they were still not sure about signing with a record label yet. They had privacy concerns and were not entirely satisfied whether record labels benefitted musicians. They were also not worried about commercial success. “It’s quite obvious that this is a volatile industry and nothing is for certain. If our albums don’t make money, we don’t care. It’s the music that has to be good,” explained Haroon.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2011.


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