Karachi band E Sharp released their second album 600 Saal, the follow-up to 2015’s Bahadur Yaar Jung, last Friday 21st April. So we thought it would be a good idea to ask the band, made up of Ahmed Zawar, Anwaar Ahmed and Qumber Kazmi, exactly what their thoughts were regarding the album, and what we should expect when we dive in.
Mosiki: Can you give us a brief background about E Sharp and the backstory on the latest album?
Ahmed Zawar: E Sharp started one hot afternoon at a house in the busy neighborhood of Nazimabad in Karachi in June 2005. But it was not before 2010 that we started taking things seriously. From 2010 we started getting known around in music circles of Karachi for our covers of 60s/70s classic rock music and tribute gigs. Finally in 2014, after a couple of years of brainstorming and rejections we installed a setup at Qumber’s (drummer) house and recorded Bahadur Yaar Jung.
600 Saal came about as a reaction or a possible antidote to Bahadur. We wanted to pursue a different sound and show we had plenty more to offer than progressive rock (our influences allow us to vary around with different genres). In September 2015 I had been working on a composition with a chorus that read “600 Saal guzray par na badla insan”. It had come to me out of nowhere and hit me so hard that I decided to write a whole fantasy concept around it and then base our next album on it. I’m a sucker for heavy titles and grand concepts. 600 Saal follows the story of 3 men (Mehtab, Dara and Behroze) who time travel to modern day Karachi to find lost love. They were musicians in the 15th century and therefore must make music here to find the girl, hence they make this album. Qumber, Anwaar and I play these 3 alter egos. The album includes songs we had been working on since BYJ and then some songs we made after the concept was finalized.
M: This album will be your sophomore effort after Bahadur Yaar Jung – any major challenges you faced while making this album? The sound is very different from that of BYJ, any reasons behind the change?
AZ: The first challenge was to make a more refined sound since BYJ was done on a very average home studio setup and also let Anwaar off from recording duties to have him concentrate more on song arrangements. After a lot of meetings with different producers including some big names of the industry we managed to get hold of a pretty sick setup at R.H. Studios in Karachi and partnered with Aurangzeb Haroon, who’s a very talented producer, to create and produce the album sound with us. Later however due to a few unfortunate differences (which is a must to happen with everyone you work in the industry lol) we had to take the album out from there and Anwaar mixed it himself but recording on quality equipment and techniques made us achieve the sound we wanted.
Apart from us wanting to produce a different sound than BYJ due to monotony concerns. As a songwriter my compositions are a reflection of the changes I go through with life and the kind of music I’m mostly listening to. So with BYJ we were angry fresh graduates struggling to cope up with corporate life while 600 Saal reflects a more calm period in our lives, reflected weirdly in the sound of the album. That’s how music works, you get to translate phases of life and emotions into it.
That’s how music works, you get to translate phases of life and emotions into it.
M: The lead single from the album has been ‘Superman’, which also had a pretty hilarious low budget music video. Superman is quite a departure, not only from your normal sound, but also within the album itself. Could you tell us a bit about it?
Superman was never part of the original lineup for the album, specifically because of the reasons you just mentioned, it’s a departure from anything we’ve ever made. But we had arranged the song and made a demo and Anwaar had the chance to experiment his newfound love for computer generated sounds and synths. For a few years we’ve now seen the music scene take a backseat and the social media get dominated by anything that is short and funny. We wanted to make something social media friendly to gain attention, it is as simple as that. So we wanted to have this video out, get the usual social media love/hate people receive when they dance or swear on camera and then release the album and tell everyone that, now that you’ve got our attention, please listen to the music that we really make. I don’t know if it served the purpose or not; ‘Superman’ did make it to primetime Geo News (600 Saal the album would never get a mention on national TV), people enjoyed it, shared it, some were really disappointed. This is exactly what we had set out to achieve.
M: How about E Sharp’s trajectory generally? Where do you see the band going – how does this album fit in terms of that? I know it’s just your second album, but generally speaking.
We just want to keep making new music. Music is all about evolution, you keep evolving and make new original content, that’s the only way you improve. My biggest problem with the mainstream Pakistani music scene is that it banks too much on covering old songs, make fusions out of everything, it’s getting so ridiculous. The fact that we have great songs to cover today is because great musicians made great music all these years ago, what will we be covering after 20 years? A cover of a rendition of an original song? Bottom line is that we need NEW MUSIC. That’s why I’m here, that’s what the band is here for. We’re here to make the whole scene better so we’ll infuse it with more and more new original content. We have 2 albums and 32 songs out now in 2 years, I don’t think anyone can match that and we have only plans to release more new music in the near future.
My biggest problem with the mainstream Pakistani music scene is that it banks too much on covering old songs, make fusions out of everything, it’s getting so ridiculous.
M: What can listeners expect from the album when it drops?
Definitely a big departure from BYJ. But more melodious and happy. Also experiment in pure eastern sounds in the song Saj Raha Hai. But both BYJ and 600 Saal are our styles and there are many more to come.
M: Any plans to tour the album?
Most definitely! In the last year or two our majority fan mail has been from outside Karachi and we can’t wait to tour now! We’ve planned a trip to Lahore and Islamabad to do shows right after Eid and play the album. Super excited about that!
You can listen to 600 Saal on Patari or on SoundCloud. This interview has been edited for length, just btw.