Every time I hear Raat Jaagi it makes me think of how influential Junoon really was.
Disclaimer: All the conclusions of this post may be completely coincidental, or totally untrue. But we’ll give it a shot.
The main riff is really reminiscent of many non-Sufi Junoon songs which employed similar riffs such as Khooey Aankhein and Heeray. Ali Alam’s (I think that’s him singing there) vocals have this great quality of being upbeat all the time, and yet being able to extract various emotions without changing tone drastically. From the upbeat, comforting, happy vibes of Ham Naa Rahay, he switches to a sort of unsettling, teasing broken vocal here. Ali Alam is no Ali Azmat, but I think both the band and the fans have taken to the energy in the music, evidenced by this life performance, and go with the flow. And rather uncannily, Ali Azmat too has the skill to evoke raw, unsettling emotion.
But if you’re still looking for more Junoon references, the song even quotes “ye waade jhoote, ye kasmein jhooti hain“, from Khooey Aankhein.
I often feel that Junoon has been the most defining of bands for post 2000 acts. The Vital Signs and Nazia Hasan were of course present, but no one has managed to mimic the Signs’ Floydian sound or Nazia Hasan’s true funky pop vibe. Unfortunately commercial music has shifted from pop that pushed boundaries to cheap rock that is often meaningless, loud, noisy and quite frankly an insult to audiences’ intelligence. Interestingly, the only band which openly cites The Signs and Nazia Hasan as important influences has gone on to define a completely unique sound itself, which has also remained largely unimitated. The Strings sound that’s composed of broken guitar riffs, unusual rhythms generated from vocal harmonies, guitars or eastern percussion that take center stage ahead of the drums, with keyboards often accentuating the melody along with melodious guitar solos and a huge vocal range. Perhaps that is hard to imitate.
Recently wrote a piece for Koolmuzone, on upcoming act Bumbu Sauce. Originally published online (original => here) January 8, 2011.
Today’s big acts have got their music out in the early 2000s in various ways, many made it big through Pepsi’s Battle of the Bands, and others rode the P2P sharing wave to become common names. However, the TV explosion and the presence of many average acts over airwaves and the internet often makes it difficult for quality acts to shine through the crowd. Recent exceptions have been the Cheapmunks, with their unique brand of East meets West music, and from the comedy world, Naked Tyrant Productions, whose unabashed take on Lahori life has taken the internet by storm.
Rock musicians have a harder job though, one might argue. As musicians and bands develop, they of course begin to create fan followings that will track releases and concerts, but it is breaking through an existent crowd of old timers, emerging rockers and new acts that makes it incredibly hard to try and reach audiences to begin with.
This has put Bumbu Sauce‘s entry into a class of its own really, and the release of their EP, Bistee Proof, has been quite the rage. Both the music and the way it has been released has been smart, very smart.
The Sauce’s first single didn’t make a lot waves in the local scene, but the American accent and mentions of the Taliban got the New York Times’ Lede Blog listening. The song was also featured in a Declan Walsh article in the Guardian. Alternatively referred to as ‘The Taliban Song’, Jiggernaut shows the first signs of the band’s signature wordplay. Of course the NYT pick up also lent them the opportunity to resurface as the band ‘as featured in the New York Times’. That was going to get people’s attention, smartly done sirs.
Mojambo is really what defines the band for me. It’s collection of seemingly random urban phrases got me smiling straight away, and many that have heard the song have thought this way too. Make no mistake though, this is not meant for easy listening, per se. The song structure is simple, but it is really Mr Mojambo himself, that makes this song great. As the band said in a radio appearance, Mojambo is all of us. That’s perhaps as good as answer as we’re going to get so might as well leave it at that.
The lyrics make this a great potential viral video, and the tight Twitter community has embraced Mojambo’s ‘Punkjabi’ aesthetic as the band puts it.
Are they a one hit wonder? Question had to pop up some time. What a time then for the band to release an adaptation of a poem by Anwar Masood. Adapting old urdu and Punjabi poetry has been a good way for Sufi rockers to gain some recognition if done well, an art mastered by Junoon and followed by many that they inspired. But this is perhaps one of the first times that a Punk band has adapted old poetry. They of course add their own twist with the Bunnayn(za) chorus (if I can call it a chorus). And that bass line, will that get on your head.
My Punjabi Love (For You)
The fourth and last track of the EP is an interesting hummable song, perhaps the easiest to listen to of the lot for those that prefer softer rock, but it only begins to make sense in terms of the band’s aesthetic once you hear the rest of the album out. The catchy riff gets you going, but had it been the first release, it just wouldn’t have helped create the image the band seems to want to have. The video isn’t out yet, but it should make its way to some playlists on its own time.
The Wrap Up
The band has used the EP concept well. 2010 was the first year that band’s chose to release not singles but collections of songs, and many found it better to do so as an EP rather than a full album, which makes sense. Many new acts have put up their music on Soundcloud, and with the resentment surrounding Music channels on TV, bands may choose to leave videos till later.
Bumbu Sauce to classify themselves as Punk rock, and while many might consider them not really punk rockers per se, perhaps there’s little need to argue. Their DIY approach and intelligent marketing plan have already got them going. Small concerts are already underway in Lahore and Islamabad and one hopes they have some new music out soon. If they’re interested they could possible be great in an advertising agency, but I hope they choose to stick with guitars over billboards.