Lahore-based band Club Caramel’s lead duo Kiran Chaudhry and Adnan Sarwar walk into Mocca Coffee dressed in dark, rock-star palettes, fresh off the tour bus. Chaudhry contemplates a Berry Ice Smoothie while Sarwar lights a cigarette — the two give off a vibe that’s both confident and accessible like most well-seasoned musicians.
Following the pop/rock/fusion band’s Saturday night stint at Kuch Khaas, the Centre for Arts, Culture and Dialogue in Islamabad, The Express Tribune caught up with Club Caramel for an exclusive on their role in the ever-expanding Pakistani music industry, what makes them tick and upcoming projects.
Chaudhry gushes about both the venue and the city’s spirit. While so many out-of-towners enjoy spitefully writing Islamabad off as a place where good music comes to die, Club Caramel proves otherwise. Their concert at Kuch Khaas, sponsored by the recently-launched Urban Culture outlet, was a real stomper that got the crowd off its feet moshing and grooving — the federal capital is unfairly hailed for its subdued audiences. “Islamabad is always fabulous and the ticketing system here is great. People are willing to pay for arts and culture. You see less of this in Lahore,” says Sarwar.
To give credit where it’s due, Sarwar was a smooth demon on the guitar while the siren Chaudhry, a veteran performer, played the crowd with her charm, confidence and good-humoured teasing. The band’s trademark covers include an eclectic mix of recent hits — the likes of “Bad Romance” and “Moves like Jagger” — while original tracks (like “Zindagi”) also featured in the medley.
When did it all start?
Chaudhry: Back in 2006, we met at a jam in Lahore (the city’s got such a great underground music scene) and I heard Sarwar on the guitar. He was actually connecting in a very soulful way and I appreciated that and approached him right after.
Sarwar: We were originally ‘Caramel’ and did smooth jazz, lounge stuff. Kiran was more into it. ‘Club Caramel’, in fact, was originally an event; it was only later that we combined the two. It’s Kiran and me — the rest of the band consists of session musicians.
What’s your take on the country’s music scene?
Sarwar: It has certainly deteriorated. If there was ever a time for music here, it was after Ziaul Haq. I got really busy in the Musharraf era around 2002-2007. This was another boom period with Indian content banned, our musicians had to get original.
Chaudhry: It was a big game changer for the Pakistani music scene. I think things are changing big time for the South Asian music scene now. We’re in an advantageous situation, I think, because the Pakistani diaspora is turning heads all over the world.
Chaudhry, your thoughts on being a woman in this industry?
Chaudhry: It’s a definite advantage if you can get beyond labels and being boxed as a ‘novelty’ act. I think the space is wide open for women. It’s actually easier for us but you do have to work extra-hard to be appreciated as a musician.
Let’s discuss ‘Zindagi’
Sarwar: Well, the era of albums is over; we release singles now. “Zindagi” came out in March 2011 and it’s very close to our hearts. It’s a song about life, its tribulations and its positive aspects. It’s important for us to be authentic, relatable and honest.
Can you give us a sneak peek into your upcoming video of ‘Tere Bin’?
Chaudhry: It’s coming out end of this month. All I can tell you is that it’s an emotional song that depicts both the destructive and beautiful sides of love. It’s about pushing boundaries.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2011.
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