Peshawar based band Khumariyaan is the perfect example of traditional music meeting modern style. The band, which is formed by four musicians, has given Pashto folk music a new spin by playing it in an instrumental trance genre. This gives their music a universal appeal, which is why the band has become a popular favorite across Pakistan and are often seen performing live at various events and venues. Their freestyle performances where they engage the audience while playing, often end up becoming the highlight of the events they perform at. With an aim to make their music a symbol of defiance against the heart wrenching terrorism that plagues their own city Peshawar – as well as the rest of Pakistan – Khumariyaan hope to be able to portray a different side of the Pakhtoon culture internationally. The band made their US debut in Washington, DC, with their Center Stage tour and have performed at numerous international shows since then. The band comprises of Farhan Bogra on Rabab and Sehtar, Sparlay Rawail on Lead Spanish Guitar and Dhol, Shiraz Khan on Percussions and Aamer Shafiq on Rhythm Guitar. In the following exclusive interview with Ink, Khumariyaan speak about their music, lives, inspirations, band members’ backgrounds and much more. Enjoy!
First of all thank you for this interview. In this day and age, the job of a revolutionary resisting extremism and backward thought is to work for the revolution rather than wait for fruition. To be brutally honest, it is difficult to say that music will change anything in the world, but to technically view your question, you asked if the resistance is winning; it is certainly winning within us because we still love to play live music no matter what. So yes, the resistance within us is winning in that we are still together and making music, I don’t know if it’s going to bring about any change but even giving someone five minutes of relief with our music from the pains of the world is enough for us.
2. How did you guys come up with the band’s name? What does it mean?
The name of the band was given to it by our fans undoubtedly at a late night jam session in one university or the other; it means anything that takes you into a state of intoxication or alternatively, the intoxicators.
3. How long have you all known each other? How did you meet and decide to form a band together?
We have all known each other since we were in university, initially three members, Farhan, Shiraz and Aamer met at their university in Peshawar, later Sparlay joined the band after a year or two and we have now been together about 7-8 years.
4. How would you describe your music and how has it evolved since you first began playing together?
Our music can best be described as hyper folk rock/Peshawar Jam music, basically we are jamming on stage improvising around the spine of a track. With experience comes chemistry and I would say that there has not been much change and we are happy about that, we don’t feel like it’s a grind to go through our tracks yet like many pop stars and we still get excited when one of us plays something cool in the middle of a track, that purity and excitement that we had when we started, we still have and we are glad.
5. How important is representation of Peshawari culture through music to you and what about Peshawar’s culture speaks to you the most?
Peshawar and KP has a vibrant musical heritage that is slowly receding. To be a part of a small but spirited resurgence by the youth of the city is something we are proud of. The youth no longer conforms to stereotypes that the rest of the country tries to box them in, rather they are talented people with amazing focus and determination, just like the Pashtuns are known for. This culture of determination and focus, and the love that educated Pashtun has for music and a sense of his/her heritage is what inspires us.
6. What are your jam sessions generally like? How regularly do you guys jam?
Our jam sessions are fairly short and sweet, we pay a lot of heed to our intuition and once one of us plays something that touches a particular feeling, we simply build around it. We jam once to twice a week, often backstage while waiting to go onstage at a gig, often on stage as well sometimes if the occasion allows it, in which case we ask the audience to name the track that they just heard because it was the first time we played it.
7. Do you think that online presence is important for a band in this day and age and to what extent?
We all have day jobs, meaning it is hard to make a living through music alone, anything that can help artists earn is great and online presence is extremely important for that. But simply being present online is not enough. Once in the public sphere it is our job to educate the public that music is not free, musicians treat it as a job and if they love a musician’s work they should have no problem supporting him and doing what is right and not indulge in piracy. Everything else is online, why not artists?
8. What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why?
We do not give our music away for free as that spoils the market for other acts that simply cannot afford to give music away for free, and even besides that, would you give away that you put your heart and soul into for free simply because someone likes it? It’s a beautiful thought but not a sustainable one. We are anti -piracy and our music is available only one music apps like Patari, Taazi and Band Camp that pay the artists. After a certain time we upload a track on free streaming sites as they have run their financial streaming course but they are still not available for download.
9. Which musicians do you admire, who have also had an influence on the band’s music?
That is too long a list to make here. We all have major influences that range across different genres. To make it short, we listen to a lot of world music and identify ourselves as a world music act.
10. What has been the biggest challenge for the band and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge has been to try and bring back a culture of live music that we once had, we can’t say we have yet overcome it.
11. In Pakistan, corporate shows happen much more frequently than commercial shows. Can you please share your experience of performing at both? What was the difference?
We enjoy both, we have been lucky that at all kinds of show our music is well received and people almost always dance to it, sometimes at corporate shows people try to stay subtle in front of their bosses but that’s a different issue, we are confident that our music is enjoyed in both. If anything, commercial shows are more controlled chaos and we absolutely love doing shows that are open to public rather than behind closed doors.
12. Have you ever considered collaborating on a song with a vocalist or would that completely divert from the essence of your music and genre?
The essence of the band is to shine light on musicians that often go unnoticed during live shows, having said that we feel there is still a way to feature a vocalist for a track or two and not have the premise of the band be compromised, in fact, a track with such a collaboration is soon to come out and it’s with a power packed vocalist produced with an amazing/legendary neo-ethnic producer.
Follow Khumariyaan on Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/khumariyaan/