An Essential Guide To Pakistan’s Most Exciting Independent Musicians - Homegrown

An Essential Guide To Pakistan’s Most Exciting Independent Musicians

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 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 take the baton. Forever South — brainchild of Haamid Rahim (aka Dynoman) and Bilal Nasir Khan (aka Rudoh) & comprising 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 our first volume here and scroll on for more independent Pakistani artists carving their own paths:

I. Janoobi Khargosh

A Pakistani indie rock band formed by Waleed Ahmed, Janoobi Khargosh started out as a bit of an escapist alter-ego, bursting with tight percussive arrangements and seasoned guitar riffs. Waleed was a part of metal outfit Dionysus and progressive rock band Waterford at the time — with music by both bands having been received well-received by listeners. His own enthusiasm for that kind of music had waned, however, making him crave ‘an identity where he didn’t have to follow the cerebral requirements of metal and progressive rock’.

He started posting music online under the moniker, which eventually went on to gain so much popularity that imposters claiming to be the ‘real’ artist behind the music started cropping up; this is when the real Janoobi Khargosh decided to stand up.

He has some interesting thoughts on art, and its circulation.

“Art is something one makes in one context but can be related to in a completely different context by someone else,” he said. “I don’t like giving everyone that control, because I am quite possessive about what I learnt in order to make this music… getting to this point where I am making this music involved going through a very difficult period in my life.”

Landmarks along the way: His last release has been touted as ‘one of the best (albums) to come out this century’ by Dawn.

II. NAWKSH

Karachi-based video game developer and experimental producer has no qualms about getting weird. Flecked with otherworldly beats, ambient music, and various elements of techno, lo-fi and psychedelic and electronic music, his debut physical album ‘Mythic Tales of Tomorrow II’ was recorded over two months in his home, and released by independent Tokyo label Guruguru Brain.

Starting off in a grunge band when he was 12, Danial Hyatt enjoys listening to a lot of radio, ‘especially late at night when they play the older Pakistani and Indian music’, and is not afraid to come out with his love for mainstream music.

His work in video game development and music production are connected in helping him detangle and express internal processes, and he hopes to use the mediums to complement each other; he describes the first as a ‘logical process’ which is ‘coherent and follows its own rules’, while the latter as ‘emotional’, ‘symbolic and poetic’.

“My music is a deep-dive into the most difficult, darkest parts of my psyche,” says Hyatt. “There I attempt to befriend the monsters that lurk, and convince them to follow me back out, knowing they’ll dissolve in the light of the Sun. Nawksh isn’t an anonymous identity, but is a way to create a degree of separation from myself, in order to be able to perform this ‘dive’.”

Latest Release: ‘Mythic Tales of Tomorrow II’ is described as ‘a labyrinthine series of stories I’ve been collecting and finding ways to connect since I was fifteen’. Set in the fantasy world of Ceratyl, the album follows his alter-ego Nawksh — ‘some parallel of what I do out here’ — who is a character in the universe.

Landmarks along the way: His performance at the Guruguru Brain-curated line-up at Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia was a definite landmark, but it was his debut release that really cemented his place as a cultural pioneer in the country.

III. Abdullah Siddiqui

Singer-songwriter, producer and composer from Lahore, Pakistan, Abdullah Siddiqui is all feels. Kaleidoscopic soundscapes meet R&B vocals in his soulful music, and this 17-year-old producer is going to go far.

Landmarks along the way: While not too much is known about him, we’re happy to report that he made his Forever South debut just last month, leading up to his debut release via the label.

IV. Ali Suhail

Karachi-based Ali Suhail has been a part of the underground music space for almost a decade. The frontman of Karachi band Jumbo Jutt has released two solo albums, ‘Words From Boxes’ (2013) and ‘Journal Entries’ (2014), and also has two EPs to his name — ‘Desolve’ and ‘Defragment’.

“These albums that I’ve written are an amalgamation of my experiences and perception of the world, and life. I hope they make people happy,” says Ali Suhail

Citing influences like The Beatles, The Foo Fighters, Death Cab For Cutie, Freelance Whales, and Pomplamoose, to name a few, Ali’s music has evolved from a cutesy indie pop/rock to a darker alternative rock over the years, with a style that draws from various strains of progressive and psychedelic music, while retaining a dream rock feel at its essence.

Landmarks along the way: His last two EPs, released just a few days apart in 2015, make for essential listening when it comes to music from the region, and the releases have dedicated to prominent Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud, who was shot dead after an event she organised for Balochistan’s ‘missing people’.

V. Nomad

Karachi-based producer Rija Yousuf’s sound has a distinctly otherworldly quality, tinkling with bells and lilting vocals. Nomad is a voyager through the soundscape it delicately explores, a moniker that embraces blissful sounds ‘swaddled in reverb’.

Starting off steadfastly ‘lower than lo-fi’, Yousuf’s music has grown and sprawled within the same ambit to a territory that’s more baroque rock/dreamwave; a natural selection for space cadets everywhere.

Latest release: Womb, as a part of which the artist looks back at a pre-natal state as she ponders the question we hear repeatedly in the track, ‘Where do I begin again?’.

VI. Anaasir

A collaboration between Rajan Shrestha (aka Phatcowlee of Nepal) and Daniel Panjwaneey (Alien Panda Jury of Pakistan), this has got be one of our personal favourite artists in this volume.

Presenting ‘the ambiance of everyday Patan, its people and stories’, Anaasir seeks to share these experiences through texts, photography and an experimental EP they released towards the end of last year.

Stitching together ‘samples of the mundane’ to a reinvent the idea of familiar sounds and weave them into music, the duo’s music is beat-driven, and as versatile as the youth that enjoys it.

Latest release: Mandal, culminating in the powerful ‘Disconnect’ that’s going to stay with you long after you’ve stopped replaying.

VII. Rudoh

Bilal Nasir Khan aka Rudoh is one of the founders we have to thank for creating the iconic Forever South label, based in Karachi, which started off as a collective for like-minded producers. Bilal used to be the drummer for Mole and happens to be one of the city’s first beatmakers, with influences ranging from hip hop, house, soul, jazz and LA beats. Having studied audio engineering at London’s SAE Institute, his deep-dive into electronic sub-genres have given his music a new direction, with his technical prowess making for exquisitely-produced tracks.

His sound is subtly produced and riddled with manic percussion, basslines and detailed, sweeping tunes; his foray into electronic music has pretty much laid the foundation for many of the forward-thinking producers in Pakistan today. On Pakistan’s political instability and how that influences his work, he says, “It fuels the creative surge. There’s not much to do otherwise.” Bilal runs music production studio Box in a Box as well, a platform catering to audio services across mediums.

Landmarks along the way: Karachi Detour Rampage was the first step towards Forever South, a collective Bilal had helmed showcasing experimental electronic music. More recently, Rudoh has just launched his new moniker BNK with Sonido on the Forever South Music Collections Vol 4.

VIII. Dynoman

The other co-founder of Forever South, Haamid Rahim has been pushing underground music tirelessly for years. As Dynoman, his tracks are as much craft as they are intuition, and the Karachi-based DJ and producer was also a part of Karachi Detour Rampage, which he felt was the only space where his ‘sound fit’ in the country.

“My music making process is kind of weird,” he shares his own process. “Melodies, sounds, and the instruments I use come to me at random times of the day. I’ll just be sitting somewhere and all of a sudden, I’ll realize that a certain instrument would go well with a track of mine. I’d add a note on my phone, get back to my production desk and test it out. I have a few samples I keep chopping up and tweaking around, to give me different tones and sounds to add to my current tracks.”

Dynoman is one of the producers putting Pakistan on the map, as far as experimental electronic dance music is concerned. With the creation of Forever South, he is one of the pioneers who has ushered in a new sound for the underground generation in Pakistan. He plans to continue with linking up more collaborations amongst like-minded musicians in Pakistan, as well as organising more Forever South shows to revive the nightlife there.

Landmarks along the way: On his return to Pakistan from studying abroad, he got in touch with founder of Karachi Detour Rampage Bilal Nasir Khan (aka Rudoh) to form the indie net-label Forever South ‘to push the envelope of Pakistan’s indie electro’ — a pivotal point in the Pakistani music space.

IX. TMPST

Karachi-based electronic producer TMPST (aka Asfandyar Khan) began making music in 2012. Starting off as an ambient music producer, his tracks have evolved over the years to blur the boundaries between genres, and create a soundscape generous with synths, drone, heart-tugging melodies and garage-inspired beats.

Having been at the forefront of the Pakistani music space for quite a while, he now produces downtempo ambient music under his own name, and a bass-heavy, post-dubstep sound under TMPST, which bears in mind the inclinations of his alter-ego.

“If we don’t get the love or sort of appreciation in Pakistan, at least we’re getting it in India,” he says. “Even though crossing the border can be cumbersome, it’s important (to have these events). People telling you that they’re looking forward to your set — that’s incredible.”

He has an interesting point to make about cross-border cultural exchanges between our countries (such as the Border Movement Lounge).

“India has a massive live scene; it has promoters and venues, Pakistan hasn’t had that,” he explains. “That’s why the music being made in Pakistan is bedroom-specific, so it’s weird, crazy and all over the place. It’s experimental. I feel like in India, there are producers making music for the dancefloor, whereas in Pakistan, there is no crowd (to play it to).”

Suffice to say — he has one here, and we can’t wait for the releases he has lined up for us next.

Latest Release: His latest ‘New Moons in New Cities’ is an undulating soundscape drenched in drone, peppered with basslines to remember.

Landmarks along the way: TMPST has performed at the Border Movement Lounge in Delhi and has been featured on Forever South Music Collections Vol III & IV.

X. Al Ak

When not teaching kids in a Karachi school, Danish Faruqi works on numerous projects and collaborations as producer Al Ak, releasing material through the Forever South collective. Skippy beats, deep dub wubs and Mount Kimbie-like vocals make his music a treat to listen to, and while there isn’t too much information on him, we’re definitely keen on knowing more.

Latest Release: ‘Close Enough’ off of FXS Collections Vol IV + Remixes and edits on Slowspin’s album

XI. Slowspin

Zeerak Ahmad aka Slowspin is a singer-songwriter and producer from Karachi, who has been making waves with her captivating take on world music, witch house and chillstep. There’s no denying that quality to her music that lives on the fence between ethereal and eerie, and her haunting vocals give her a distinct style that is inimitable. Definitely looking forward to more releases from this multi-talented artist.

Landmarks along the way: We really enjoyed her collaboration with NAWKSH, and her latest 8-track album dropped just last month, packed with collaborations with Al Ak and vocals to raise your hair.

If you enjoyed this article we suggest you read:

10 Emerging Pakistani Musicians You Should Be Listening To [Volume I]

6 Essential Global Indian Musicians You Need To Listen To

10 Activist Musicians From India Giving Voice To Important Social Issues


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