[On 16th-19th January, 2019, Homegrown is throwing a first-of-its-kind music festival in Mumbai designed to celebrate the city’s vast and diverse music culture. Dive deep into a wide variety of dynamic workshops, exhibitions, curated tours, panels, pop-ups, performances and parties that promise to be inclusive of all kinds of tastes and people.
There’s something for everyone, click here to find what’s perfect for you.]
India’s music space has gained momentum over the past ten years in a way that was probably hard to predict at the outset. Our neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan have similarly been evolving fast, with pioneering producers, independent instrumentalists and songrwiters, and everyone in between folk stepping up to take the helm and drive it decisively forward.
Where OML, Krunk and Bhavishyavani Foundation laid down solid foundations with their pop-up gigs, festivals like NH7 and Sunburn picked up, kickstarting the revolution on a much larger scale. A slew of labels, promoters and artist collectives have kept the momentum going strong since, with venues adapting fast and opening up to an array of sub-genres.
‘Cultural catalysts’ like Border Movement have been vital in binding the South Asian music movement together through their initiatives to help movers and shakers from the subcontinent collaborate, experiment and create quality underground music. Just as we’ve tirelessly documented India’s electronic music space, we move our sights to similar revolutions taking place in our surrounding nations, who are hot on our heels with their own adventures.
Our neighbour out west has some serious sessions taking place; despite security issues and bureaucratic obstacles making it tough to organise concerts on a large scale, the forward-thinking musical faction is going strong and relentless. The Pakistani music movement owes a lot to Dalt Wisney or Sheryar Hyatt, who is really godfather to the electronic music space there; not just because he pioneered the scene with his 2007 debut Lifetime Psychedelic Lessons or created the indie internet label Mooshy Moo, but also because of the number of younger artists he has mentored following his RBMA residency in Melbourne, where he worked with the likes of Madlib and Flying Lotus.
While he lives and spins in Istanbul currently, he’s paved the way for a lot of other electronic figures who are more than happy to carry the baton forward. Forever South — brainchild of Haamid Rahim (aka Dynoman) and Bilal Nasir Khan (aka Rudoh) and comprising of Dreadnaught, Run Circles, Alien Panda Jury, EMPEROR LEPHANT, and Toll Crane — is a direct descendent, with a roster that’s chock full of experimental artists raring to take the movement on to the next level. Besides their hair-raising collaboration with Consolidate at the Magnetic Fields Festival, their latest compilation album ‘Forever South Collections Vol. 4’ just launched on FADER magazine and we just can’t get enough.
Read on for more independent Pakistani artists carving their own paths:
Experimental indie folk rock band Sikandar Ka Mandar have become veterans in their own right in the Pakistani independent music scene, having been representing it since 2010.
In 2013, they released their first self-titled album of original songs with some glorious cover art on Bandcamp, featuring cult hits like ‘Hum Tum’, ‘Jo Bhi’ and ‘Badshah’. The collaborative 8-song effort in whole is an earnest look at society and contentment, with multi-instrumentalist Ali Suhail back-up vocals and Danial Hyatt’s percussion complementing the range of Nadir Shahzad Khan’s vocals, complete with soulful lyrics that make this a thought-provoking listening.
II. Alien Panda Jury
Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey, with his experimental electronic solo project Alien Panda Jury, has been spearheading the Pakistani independent music movement in Karachi over the past decade, and is truly a force to reckon with.
From the heavy metal of Messiah, to the dreamy ‘feedback-drenched’ sounds of shoegaze and noise as the bassist for indie outfit //orangenoise, to his resonating Alien Panda Jury electronic singles — crafted along with his unique manner of programming beats and coupled with a rare kind of restraint — that always pack a punch; Panjwaneey’s musicianship has as much range as it does depth.
“Being a musician and songwriter there’s times where you feel an urge to get your individuality out onto something,” he said. “To me throwing on a housey beat with ambient pads, eastern classical vocals and percussions sampled and manipulated with a grinding bassline mashed up with occasional over-saturated acoustic guitars... is normal. It’s also just so much fun to be able to throw everything in and go nuts to a point where it all makes sense in a way!”
Landmarks: Panjwaneey is on the roster of Karachi-based label Forever South, which has slowly and steadily growing into an underground institution in itself, in the subcontinent. His latest EP ‘Mandal’, released in October, was produced at the Photo Kathmandu Residency 2016 in collaboration with Rajan Shrestha (Phatcowlee), Chandresha Pandey (vocals), Kiran Nepali (sarangi) and Rubin K Shrestha (flute). An exquisite feat in collaboration and production, it’s bound to hold the discerning listener rapt with its universe of sounds.
III. Natasha Humera Ejaz
Islamabad-based singer-songwriter Natasha Humera Ejaz has been inspired by the likes of Bjork, Jeff Buckley, and Esperanza Spalding. Having picked up the guitar at 15, she began to write songs at 17, while she released her first single, ‘Today is a Place’, produced by Sarmad Ghafoorat, at 22.
With influences ranging from the golden era of Pakistani and India cinema to American folk to grunge and rock ‘n’ roll, Natasha’s vocals are rich with tinges of jazz and Broadway-style soul.
With her debut EP ‘Till The End of Time’, she showcases not only her talent but also her inherent musicality with the ‘Khwab’ video, which she’s choreographed and performed in as a dancer, having been trained in dance forms from kathak to hip-hop. Besides singing, writing songs and performing, Natasha has also been trained in audio production at ICOM in Malaysia and records ambient soundscapes under the moniker Stupid Happiness Theory.
She also teaches music to people of all ages. “I am a very involved instructor,” she said. “often forming bonds and relationships with my students that last years. And I will continue to do this because I can’t think of a better way of giving back to society.”
Landmarks: In 2011, she became one of the first 6 upcoming artists to be featured in Uth Records, Pakistan. Her single off her latest EP, ‘Raqeeb’, also got featured on an international radio show for world music in London in 2015. Last year also saw the artist’s debut performance in India at Ziro Festival, Arunachal Pradesh.
Adeel Tahir is a musician/sound designer and bass music producer from Pakistan based in Vancouver, Canada, producing and releasing music under the moniker ‘Eridu’. Describing himself as someone who likes ‘melodies and grooves with big twisty, turny, wobbly sounds’, his music is tight; thick with glitch, dub elements and driven by some delicious beats. Check out his latest release — let the track do all the talking.
Landmarks: While the release of Forever South’s Collections Vol 4 on Fader magazine is still hot off the press, looks like we’ve got more to look forward to from Eridu, whose new album ‘Art As Reason’ is nearing its mixing phase. The album is slated to be released alongside a Surround Sound version, with album artwork done by the multitalented Natasha Humera Ejaz.
JOFU is a trap/bass music producer; a part of the Forever South artist collective whose fourth compilation volume featured his latest track. ‘Tilting’ showcases an evolved version of the bangers he’s been crafting, all of which are peppered with quaint samples and beats, while more recent releases see him taking a somewhat more melody-inclined direction.
There are few artists as dedicated to the noble cause of left-of-field electronic music perhaps as Karachi-based Tollcrane aka Talha Asim Wynne. Wynne learnt a lot of his skills online, through music production tutorials, with the Youtube ban in Pakistan coming as a real blow. He’s persevered with a mix of intuition and an inherent calling to walk on the margins, influenced by a range of musicians from John Coltrane to Actress.
He played guitar for //orangenoise in his early days, and started out solo as ‘Tollcrane’ experimenting with ambient jazzy electronica, building his own atmospheric universe with his 2011 debut album Bébo. He went on to apply to and get selected for the Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo, 2014.
“A lot of us applied this year and to be chosen from my peers who are so talented was just overwhelming,” he said. “The entire experience was overwhelming.” Tollcrane has been consistently propelling forward with his productions, arriving today at an experimental, relentless kind of techno vibe that starts pummelling you from the minute you hit play.
Landmarks: Another founding member of the Forever South crew, Tollcrane’s RBMA residency marked a turning point for the producer himself, but also the movement that he returned to help shape.
Taimoor Salahuddin better known by his stage name Mooroo (Urdu: مورو) is an artist hailing from Lahore, who has a finger in every pie, creatively speaking. Producer, singer-songwriter, composer, editor, cinematographer, director, actor, colourist, comedian, and vlogger, he is also co-founder and managing director of Karachi-based production house Aflatoon Studios.
Mooroo kicked off his career in 2011, but had been dabbling in music from a very young age. After completing his education from institution in Pakistan and North America, and armed with a degree in Film Production, he began making indie rock music with a touch of Sufism.
“I am not a Sufi, but I really connect with the philosophy of Sufism as presented in Urdu and Punjabi poems,” he said. “I’ve absorbed it over the years, and perhaps that’s why elements of it comes out in my songs. I listen to all types of music and my influences are eclectic. The truth is, I rarely think of genre’s when I am making music, I think of emotions and ideas.”
Landmarks: Mooroo’s songs or music videos has been nominated for Lux Style Awards five times, with him cinching the award in 2016. His stop-motion music video for his song ‘Mariam’ was also a real treat, directed by SZABIST graduate Salman Noorani, with art director, Eruj Hadi.
SNKM or Sonic Nocturnal Kinetic Movement featured the combined forces of rapper Adil Omar and electronic dance music producer Talal Qureshi, best known for their individual music projects and also for bringing Diplo and Elliphant to Pakistan.
As a duo, the two share production and songwriting duties, and have performed at SXSW 2015 and 2016 consecutively, with material steeped in influences of electronic, hip hop, psychedelic and pop. While they just have the one track out so far, we believe we can look forward to a lot more releases in the coming year.
Landmarks: 2016 had the duo performing at the Diplo’s Mad Decent Block Party in their smashing US debut, where audiences also got a sneak peek of much unreleased material. They have collaborated and performed with the likes of Diplo, Elliphant and Skrillex, to name a few, with 2017 looking ripe with promise.
IX. Poor Rich Boys
This cheeky sextet has been pumping out subversive indie-rock since day one, with their Beatles meet The Smiths compositions, lush with Goldspot-like lyrical imagery. While the Poor Rich Boys’ first single ‘Alice’ came out back in 2011, a nostalgic ballad with folk instruments such as the ukulele, and sung by vocalist Omer Khan, their live performances have become something of a legend, known to pulsate with energy and frenzied live jams.
These boys get extra points for their on-point sense of humour and their recognition of the ‘urban poor’ phenomenon that exists in the millennial generation everywhere, with their name satirising the trials and tribulations of the privileged.
Landmarks: 2015 had the band debut in the US at Center Stage, travelling from Washington, DC, to Rhode Island, North Carolina and New York from June 1-24 on a tour that included appearances and collaborations with Plume Giant, The Mast, the Bob Kendall Band, and DakhaBrakha. The band was also one of the six Pakistani acts to play at SXSW 2015.
Run a quick search on this band and after sifting through a few articles on bloody cat poop, you will find their flippant Soundcloud intro, “Take a cat. Now imagine it’s red. Blood red. Now instead of being blood red, make it red blood. but it’s still a cat. that’s how we feel,” which — while gloriously graphic — truly belies the band’s raging talent.
Think nu-jazz/progressive rock; Red Blood Cat’s compositions are engrossing and layered with a devil-may-care attitude that makes them as likable and their music is enjoyable.
With Zain Ali on guitar/synths, Hasham Cheema on vocals/synths, Varqa Faraid on keyboards, Khawaja, Ibrahim Akram on drums (whose sole intention seems to be to drive a listener up the wall), and Parham Faraid on bass, all the members also play as sessions musicians, and while they have released a few singles, there isn’t half as much material up online as we’d like — not to mention all the new material we’re sure they’re holding out on us.
Landmarks: The band really burst into the scene with a gig at Storm In a Teacup, Lahore’s first indie festival in 2014, that left audiences raving, following which their Centrestage audition treated listeners to some unreleased material that we would love to check out on their upcoming EP.