Rockin’, rollin’ and cringing at Open Mic Night

Published: September 20, 2010
An overload of musical acts made the event a jarring experience. PHOTO: NOOR JAVERI/EXPRESS

An overload of musical acts made the event a jarring experience. PHOTO: NOOR JAVERI/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Open Mic Night at the Base Rock Cafe, held last Saturday, was a mixed bag of some of the best and worst amateur performances in Karachi of (possibly) all of 2010.

The reason for such a colossal range on display was the cafe’s decision to fit over 14 mini-performances across the entire night. While this may have helped filter out the good from the bad, the downside to this decision was a decently packed crowd left hanging between performances, a total loss of energy and direction between some truly bizarre and disconnected acts and just plain old music overload.

The gems

Usman Riaz, who performed twice during the night, with nothing but his guitar was an overdose of talent, showmanship and pure musical genius. The young man laid down a seemingly unending string of licks, arpeggios and rhythm sections (including using the guitar body for percussion) which made the rest of the night’s guitar solos look like the random doodling of five-year-olds.

The next best act of the night was singer and guitarist Taimur Tajik who managed to hold his own with his songs. The same cannot entirely be said for solo performer Shaheryar Ali Mirza whose 15 minutes were filled with the occasional loss of lyrics and a few stops and starts, but overall his voice held a smidgeon of professionalism similar to Tajik’s performance.

The duds

Skipping over the other lack lustre performances included an MC, ‘rock’ bands with average sound and quality and some guy laying down some forgettable pieces on the synthesiser, the two unforgivable acts of the night were rock band Crackdown and Faisal Amin.

Crackdown failed somewhere between their utterly clichéd song list (Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and so on), their adaptation of the lyrics of Metallica’s “Unforgiven’” to “trust I seek, when I find in you” to the appalling guitar solos which sounded like note playing, not music playing.

However, Faisal Amin stole the show from Crackdown, with a truly bizarre performance which included stepping on stage with a synthesiser auto-programmed to blast pop songs which he sung to in a stunning display of all that is wrong with karaoke (and mind you, this was not karaoke night). Half the audience rolled over laughing while the other half cringed in silence as the mostly tuneless Amin made a passionate attempt to cover Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” and Bryan Adams’ “Please Forgive Me” — and the irony of the latter song’s lyrics were not lost on many in the crowd.

Overall, Open Mic Night was pretty much what you would expect given the sad, miniscule and mostly stale state of affairs of Karachi’s music scene. However, Base Rock Cafe must be lauded for providing a venue for such events to take place, though they will hopefully consider opting for quality over quantity in the future.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Tim Cameron
    Sep 20, 2010 - 11:54PM

    What self-indulgent rubbish. The REAL irony is some hare-brained nobody writing (attempting to write more like) an entire article on an “open-mic” night when he doesn’t seem to have a single clue of what the term actually implies. Open mic or open stage sessions are held all around the world to give a platform to amateur hobbyists and novices aspiring to become pros. If the writer (for the lack of a better word) understood the concept, he would have realised that the objective of these sessions is to encourage and foster talent rather than to judge it and compare it. Nobody starts out absolutely amazing; everyone begins from zero and open mic sessions are the stepping stones that allow them to grow. I was unfortunate to not have attended this event, but I’m sure it would’ve been very enjoyable. What the gentleman who wrote this did, is akin to going to an Alcoholics Anonymous’ meeting and then writing an article stating “everybody there were drunkards”.Recommend

  • rahim
    Sep 21, 2010 - 9:51AM


  • Farah Ali
    Sep 21, 2010 - 2:45PM

    Very rightly said Mr. Cameron. The writer of the article, given the task of covering this event and writing an article on this, tried to cover it from different angle including good and bad. What, he however forgot to consider is, thats what Open Mic is supposed to be. People who attend open mic know that what they are going for, some gems along with duds. Thats the whole point of open mic. So audience present there should anticipate and expect the up and down flow of performance!!Recommend

  • hassam baloch
    Sep 21, 2010 - 10:06PM

    i happen to be a regular visitor to the BRC open mic nights and i believe this was the 5th one. We go there knowing full well that there are gonna be pro-level performances as well as beginner ones…As a member of the audience I immensely enjoy my time there and the writer is very unfair in stating that there were only 2 or 3 good performances. As far as I remember there were quite a few enjoyable ones. Maybe the writer should only cover professional concerts of Atif and Fakhir where the music is “upto his level”.Recommend

  • Anser Shaukat
    Sep 21, 2010 - 11:13PM

    I have seen Usman Riaz play, and let me just say, the guy is immensely talented and a musical genius. Watching him play the guitar is anything but watching him “play the guitar” since he appears to not be limited by the instrument’s strengths or weaknesses and its strange how he makes it seem so easy yet so difficult at the same time but all I can say is one cannot help but feel happy experiencing his performance.Recommend

    Sep 21, 2010 - 11:55PM

    oye oye! u missed out about our performance! the beatboxer and the rapper!Recommend

  • Fabian Pereira
    Sep 21, 2010 - 11:58PM

    Lovely article! very straight forward and to the point bringing to light the truth of what exactly happens at the open mic night. There are many performers there who still do not have a sense of music what so ever and have a long way to go and learn! Hoping to perform there next month and give them a taste of my vocals ;)Recommend

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