From deep within the dark, the antiseptic heart of Aga Khan University, Karachi, beats a sound that transcends genre — a marriage of ambient, electronica and acoustic riffs.
Ensconced within the confines of a soundproof lecture hall, Basheer and the Pied Pipers (BNPP) craft moody and ponderous instrumentals with surgical precision. There is an order to this chaos of sounds; a method to the madness.
Two medical students — Salman Younas Khan, who is on the drums and synthesisers, and Saad Munzar, the bassist and the guitarist — are dividing time and effort between heavy coursework and creating music, which is essentially inspired from their immediate environment, Karachi, and the duo’s hometown, Islamabad.
They recently released their six-track extended-play, “Paperclouds” on social networking site Facebook, and have also uploaded their tracks online for free downloads. The band’s striking name is something they decided on the spot at a gig. The two, who are essentially friends, work well with each other and each brings something unique to the fore. However, currently, BNPP’s other-half, Munzar, is away in Colorado.
“We do express certain feelings about medicine in our music,” says Khan. Tracks like “Journeyman” are mellow enough to listen to while studying and eerie enough to work as a soundtrack for scenes that might take place in a morgue. After all, Khan is no stranger to carving through bodies.
It is as if BNPP’s medical know-how and knowledge of the body as a whole has led them to produce a full-bodied and robust sound with a focus that’s almost natural. The synthesisers, drums and bass give BNPP an urban tempo while dhols, flutes and eastern melodies accented by ambient samples and phrases demonstrate a style that fuses different genres.
“We make what we want. We basically take all our influences and put them down. We’ve got everything from post-rock, bhangra to ambient,” says Khan with a grin. “We’re extremely proud of ‘Margalla Winds’, which is one of our tracks.” The song is in homage to Islamabad, a city Khan finds breathtaking. It’s the sort of track evocative of a cool Islamabad night, driving down Margalla road.
When it comes to their process, nothing is rigid or set in stone. They will jam whenever they can make time and tend to engender their tracks on the spot in a flurry of creative activity. “Like so many bands in Pakistan — and this is the one thing that I admire the most about our music scene — we’re a DIY (Do It Yourself) effort. We pooled in $300 worth for recording equipment and instruments,” states the doctor-in-the-making. Every bit they make from gigs, including their recent victory at the Battle of the Bands, goes towards production.
On the music scene
“Karachi is very open to new music. Islamabad is not, unfortunately. Karachi’s got the Mad School and a great ambient/electronica scene,” says Khan.
Karachi-based Mole has also been a great asset to the band, helping them along the way. “They’ve been incredibly supportive, which can be said about a lot of established Karachi bands,” comments Khan. “They keep us posted on gigs, upcoming events and what they’re up to.”
They’re not rushing for a label and are inching towards releasing an album, currently untitled, and are planning on introducing vocals. A music video for “Journeyman” is also in the works: “It’s going to be very interesting, flashy and animated,” says an enthusiastic Khan. Munzar happens to be a very talented animator and the “strong message” in the video is one BNPP wants viewers to interpret for themselves.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.