What does one expect from the mash-up of sophisticated jazz music and the intensity of Punjabi beats? The concept seems about as crazy as pouring chocolate on parathas. But if Nutella parathas can become all the rage in Pakistan, Islamabad-based musician Shamoon Ismail may just have struck gold with exploring Punjabi Blues.
For those seeking eclecticism, Shamoon makes this new genre of music palatable, adding his unique talent and experience to the mix and creating something the world has never heard before. Having a fierce streak of creative independence, Shamoon chose to stray from the generic romantic ballads sung by most Pakistani musicians and combined his mother-tongue Punjabi with jazz and blues from the West. The resulting melody was a pleasant surprise.
Shamoon’s story is much like that of the quintessential rockstars around the world, who saw fame after years of struggle and sacrifice. For him, the journey began at age seven when he performed a song on PTV. “According to my parents, I started singing before I could even talk properly,” Shamoon tells The Express Tribune. “My mid-teens were spent trying different genres, including rock, hard rock and eastern classical. I played plenty of free gigs. There was some banding and disbanding with other musicians as well,” he adds.
Perhaps his greatest challenge came when he had to accept a three-year sabbatical from university so that he could focus on his music and learn the tricks of the trade. Over a span of just three years, the 24-year-old musical genius has already released five songs with seven music videos, and garnered a considerable fan-following for himself on social media. Although his debut offering was a love song titled Sapne, it was Jutt Blues that propelled him to fame, perhaps on account of the central theme of the song. Shamoon croons about a disagreement with his parents regarding his decision to pursue a career in music — something many youngsters can relate to. With a quirky, complementing video and Punjabi vernacular, such as littar (getting whipped with slippers), being used liberally, Shamoon seems set to become the next youth icon.
Now, Shamoon has moulded himself into a one-member music band, handling everything from pre-production, featuring writing and composing, to post-production, which involves playing instruments, recording, sequencing, and mixing vocals. His roster of expertise also includes promoting the music, which he has never been very fond of. “Promoting in Pakistan is a great hassle as there are no record labels or agencies that will do it for you,” he explained. “Also, scoring gigs in the country is even harder due to the security concerns.”
Under such circumstances, Pakistani musicians are left with little choice other than making do with positive comments on social media, fan art and the occasional song cover. Arguably, Shamoon’s greatest achievement has been some attractive deals from across the border, although he’s yet to make a decision about them. In the meantime, he’s content with the work he’s doing on his upcoming singles, hoping to release them in the fall, before his Masters programme commences. “I have chosen to pursue leadership and management, a safe and practical bet for a musician in a country where the music industry is ephemeral,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2015.