Fusion has become something of a buzzword in the underground music scene, where the average aspiring musician is constantly seeking to innovate existing sound. Often, this ambitious experimentation leads to interesting results. Or does it?
Perhaps some answers can be found in a basement jam session of musicians rehearsing for an upcoming performance that they have labelled “Musical Fusion Confusion in Islamabad” scheduled to take place at Kuch Khaas on Friday.
Bass player and song-writer Sneaky Pete
“Usually, when people talk about fusion, let’s say that of Nusrat Fateh Ali with Peter Gabriel, they have very set roles in mind. But you will see how this sound is different — it has the east-meets-west element as well as some soft melodies and bass that sets it apart,” said rap artist Waleed Ahmed.
He has performed with mainstream musicians like Abbas Ali Khan, Mahmood Khan, Jazzy B, RDB, Annie Khalid, Noori, Ali Zafar, Ali Azmat and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He has also bagged an award for his song with Abbas Ali Khan Teri Yaad at the Indus Music Video Awards 2006 for the best Rap Ballad. Teri Yaad topped the charts on Indus Music for seven consecutive weeks.
This time, he has joined forces with Sneaky Pete, a bass player and songwriter from Australia’s eight-piece band PlanB, along with Macedonian singer Anna Simonovska for his upcoming performance. The supporting instrument players comprise the brothers Shairi and Yawar Bakshi on tabla and harmonium, and Mushi Habibi on guitar, who are performing together as the “Khaas Collaboration.”
Rapper Waleed Ahmed
Pete is currently spending three months in the country in order to absorb the local culture and experiment with traditional sound and instruments. He does this with the intention of fusing new elements into the second PlanB album, due for release at the end of this year.
Between sound checks and some improvisation at the jam session, they played Meri Jaan, which is composed on the eclectic rhythms of traditional instruments, with soul influences and bits of Urdu and Punjabi rap thrown in for good measure.
While there is some semblance to qawwali, the overall feel remains casual and laidback. The song has been composed by Pete, with English lyrics by PlanB keyboard player Adrian Miller and Urdu and Punjabi rap verses by Ahmed.
“This is a variation on the structure and sound of what were essentially rock and pop influenced songs, fusing rap with Eastern music influences,” said Pete.
While they seem enthusiastic, the ensemble has not considered venturing into commercial music making. “We are doing this because we love music, and we have the time to work together,” said Ahmed.
Singer Anna Simonovska
Some of the other tracks that they will be performing include Mere loge, a song that talks about the current social situation and serves as an interlude to Meri Jaan. Then, there is a cover song, Milky Way which has tabla, harmonium and back vocals interspersed with rap verses.
This hybrid sound brings an unlikely orchestra of instrumentalists and vocalists into the elusive fusion genre, connecting diverse cultures under one roof. Perhaps, that was the idea all along.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2014.
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