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Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Exclusive Interview with Parvaaz - 'India's Most Exciting Rock Band Right Now'

The interview was scheduled to be conducted at 4. I had been waiting almost for an entire week for this slot, I was superbly excited, I hadn’t even slept well the night before and I wanted to do this before everything else that day. I had interviewed people before – including Noam Chomsky (of course not a telephonic one, though) and I had interviewed George Murphy (which was telephonic) and ‘Ships Have Sailed’ among others. I have done live interviews in the past. But the music created by these magicians were driving me so ecstatic that I was confused if I’d be able to do this at all.

I have been fanatically addicted to their music ever since (only like I’ve been to Pink Floyd prior to this) and I swear by, I would put them above Led Zeppelin on my top 10-ers list from the progressive perspective any day – Like, who would imagine a progressive rock “prog” band working this brilliantly in an industry and world like ours were people prefer ‘beats’ over indulgence, ‘beats’ over lyrics, ‘beats’ over tune and ‘beats’ above anything else in their lives? Beats, for sure are rhythm and Nikola Tesla once remarked that if you have to gain an understanding or two about this universe, you have to first try and feel it in terms of frequency. I have not been so flabbergastingly terrorised of beauty in music many times in life and for all the intuitive-natured music lovers waiting out there, get ready to get assured that Parvaaz is definitely the one ultimatum for your eccentric search towards a kind of distinct satiety that quenches your thirst in music like nothing else ever has previously (and I am not exaggerating a bit).

After a few minutes of breathless waiting, the band members were all finally there, connected to the call.

Kashif, Khalid, Sachin and Fidel - Hi, Hey, All of us here? Hello…

Me - Good afternoon. So, all the members are here. Is that right?

Parvaaz - Yes, we are.

Me - So, let us begin on a very positive note and I would be indeed very obliged if I’m allowed a chance to actually blabber about how flabbergasted I am at the moment and how brilliant your performances actually are. The lyrics reek elegance, you can literally smell it from a distance and the visuals created are just out of the world. How you could, really jeopardise a poet’s life is a matter of concern, you know?

Parvaaz – (Kashif chuckles in the background) Thank You…

Me – Alright, let us begin with the questions now and some of them are going to be asked specifically to the lyricists. I hope nobody will be offended in that case?

Khalid – Yeah, sure…go ahead.

Me – Yeah. So, the first question is who came up with the very idea of a “prog” band ; like you don’t get to see a lot of progressive rock bands if you dive into the history of rock music in India. How was this done at the first place?

Kashif – Well, I think there was no plan as such to become a prog band. That was not something we had specifically made up our mind about. We have just been playing music that we all connect with. And as for the genre, we’ve left it out for the audience to decide. We play what suits our time, way of playing…Yeah…that’s what I think (Chuckles)

Me – How was the band formed? Did you belong to the same university or was everyone an existent musician back in the time you connected with each other?

Sachin – Well, I think Kashif and Khalid were childhood friends and when they came here to Bangalore to study in the same university and that’s how it actually started. And me and Fidel, we used to play in a band, yeah? That was basically how we got together!

Me – That’s intriguing, even if it’s brief. Would you guys be able to name your favourite bands if I ask you to come up with the names one by one? Each one of you will have to tell me your names for reference because I will not understand otherwise.

Sachin – Yeah sure. Should we begin?

Khalid – Go ahead.

Sachin – Hey, I’m Sachin here and I think there would be a lot of favourites but Foo Fighters and Radiohead, yeah – these are the two favourite bands I guess…that come to mind. Fidel?

Fidel – Yeah, I think it’s like so many oldies, but if you’re talking favourite, Led Zeppelin is what comes to mind. And of course, Radiohead is doing immense amount of pathbreaking work,so…going on

Khalid – Kashif?

Kashif – I would mostly mention the same things as they mentioned. Floyd is a big influence, so that’s one that comes to mind right now…

Me – Yeah, your music seems to reflect that, you know?

Kashif – Yeah…

Khalid – I would mostly mention the same things as well…

Me – Where are the band members initially from? Like, say from the geographical orientation perspective?

Kashif – It was like Sachin said…

*Khalid laughs in the background.*

Khalid – Hey, Yeah I’m sorry, go ahead

Kashif – Sachin?

(Photograph : Shahid Nissar)

Sachin – Yeah, as I said – Kashif and Khalid are childhood friends. They’re from Kashmir and came down to Bangalore to study. Fidel is from Mangalore (not to be confused with Bangalore – say, Mangalore with the ‘M’) and I am from Bangalore.

Kashif – So, yeah…we all met up in Bangalore.

Me – Okay…Yeah. So, the lyrics part of your songs is really interesting. As in, who would dare to combine Urdu, Persian and Kashmiri – as in Kashmiri signifies a lot of Persian words, so how did you get the confidence to do it at the first place? And now people are listening, you’re getting better everyday.

Khalid – Kashif, yeah?

Kashif – Khalid, yeah go ahead…

Khalid – In our releases so far most of the lyrics have been written by Kashif and me and some additional songs have been written by a friend of ours named Umar Alaie.
The idea to write in these languages came naturally to us, as in – it came with a lot of poetry that we had to study in our schooldays and we wanted to include the influence somewhere in our work.

Me – Yeah, a lot of poetry is indeed visible… 

Khalid – Yeah...It’s a poetic land, so that’s where it comes from

Me – Are there any Kashmiri or Urdu poets that you draw inspiration from? Would you like to name a few of them?

Kashif – Yeah, there are many…there’s Mahjoor, there’s Allama Iqbal, and many others…

Me – Ah,so there’s, alright, so what I was talking about was that in the history of Indian music, there have hardly been bands that understand the concept of rock, so…what is the key ingredient on which this genre survives?

Kashif – Ah. Ow, good question, guys. How does rock survive?

Fidel – Good healthy expression, excellent guitar playing and a massive drum sound.

Me – And…what about the lyrics?

*Khalid chuckles in the background.*

Kashif – Yeah, it depends on the people playing the music, depending on each other’s abilities or rather lack of abilities sometimes. That is what most rock bands go through. They try to write songs, they try to achieve their ambitions through music and writing and…err…it’s a whole feeling of playing together as a band, I’d say for any kind of rock band, so that it keeps bringing it back…it’s not, it’s not…it’s just a very organic kind of evolution that the rock band goes through. 

Me – That’s interesting. Uh, at the moment I’m literally obsessed about the track ‘Ghaib’ from ‘Baran’. How was that written? Did you guys co-write it? Like how did it come? How did you see it coming?

Kashif – ‘Ghaib’ was one song that came out of Khalid’s guitar melody. It was probably one song in the album that was written and finished in the studio itself. I mean, that is how most our songs are made. Khalid comes up with a guitar melody, or I come up with a riff or an idea.’Ghaib’ was finished very close to the recording. The lyrics were finished probably just a week before getting into the studio

Khalid – Yeah, ‘Ghaib’ is also a little slow, mellower, on the different side of the songs featured so far in the album.

Me – So, you guys probably changed the order of the song ‘Roz Roz’, I had been browsing an interview of yours somewhere when I came across the fact. That was brilliant, adds an extra oomph to it.

Kashif – Yeah, ‘Roz Roz’ is an existing poem. So, when we started creating a song out of it, we ended up choosing lines that would bring out the best flavour.

Me – Who wrote the exceptionally genuine ‘Colour White’? And who, again was in charge of the amazingly coordinated videography?

*Both Kashif and Khalid chuckle in the background*

Kashif – Coordinated video…? Khalid, you wanna take that? How coordinated it was?
Khalid -  Well, it was a concept I had in mind for a long time. To shoot in the snow. We gathered a small crew including 3 videographers and some of our close friends. Me and Kashif sat down to jot down the ideas/script before heading out. Kashif and I were in Kashmir for the holidays that time and as soon as the song was done, we decided in bits and pieces how we wanted the entire video to look like. After we came back with raw footage it was Sachin who put his brilliant editing skills into the making of the final video.

Me – Are you guys still pursuing any academic streams?

*Giggles in the background*

Kashif – Our school/college days are behind us…

Khalid – And a couple of us are married…

Kashif – Yeah, a couple of us are married. We were there to form the band when we had completed our studies. And a couple of us were doing jobs…so, as soon as the band kicked in, we gave everything else up and started working for the development of the band as a whole and it has been that way for eight years now. We’re so lucky that it has been that way for so long a while.

Me – Why did you name the LP ‘Baran’? ‘Baran’ in Urdu means some sort of a new moon or something, or even a name of a star. ‘Baran’ in Persian means rain. So, why ‘Baran’?

Kashif – Uh……*inaudible*

Khalid – He’s asking you about the cover art. What did you feel when you first had a look at it?

Me – Uh….I guess it looked like as if it was a blend of Paul Gauguin’s paintings and some Pink Floyd cover art.

Kashif – Yeah…exactly. It was more like when you’re already submerged in water, then you realise that there’s water above your head and you’re left without any choices….’Baran’ was chosen as the name of the LP after most of our songs were written. It is basically when we just got the idea of the cover art, to be specific. But it’s usually like this, when we  finish writing everything off, a certain event or even a person – something around us evolves into a story and that’s how the names get inferred, yeah – that’s how it happens I guess.

Me – Umm…so, is art meant to be exposed simply as art or are artists rebels and outcasts in disguise? Cause deep inside, your music screams non-conformism! I don’t know if that was intentional or that is how it came up…

Kashif – Non-conformity? Yeah, I guess non-conformity comes very naturally to us…we have not been able to conform to a particular stream…Everyone thinks differently, functions differently, we gather…

Khalid – Yeah, it has not been a very confusing decision either. It’s like we do not want to be a part of this stream or that stream or an alternative stream in general. We sit together, make the music and whatever turns out to be is what we have created…

Fidel– When all of us are sitting down together, we create whatever comes running to us…Putting it down in terms of a song, or an image or a lyric…If it’s in the mind of this artist, or that artist or something..that’s how we do it…
Sorry, uh you were saying?

Me – Yeah,have you done a show in Kolkata yet? Or eastern India in general?

Fidel – Yeah, I think we’ve done a couple of shows in Calcutta. We performed once at Park Street (Someplace Else) and the other time for NH7 Weekender…

Me – It has been extremely unfortunate that I wasn’t able to attend any. I look forward to attending one soon enough… After ‘Behosh’, ‘Colour White’ and ‘Baran’, should we expect something equally brilliant and spectacular somewhere in the near future?

Kashif – Yeah, we’re working on it…we’re working on our second album so that we’re able to get it released by the last quarter of the year. So, the work is still on…and we’re working hard so you may get to know further about this by the end of this month...

Me-Okay, that sounds really exciting!
Is there any other genre of music that you tried working upon or, did you even confirm to a particular genre at the first place or was it that you started playing music and that’s how it spontaneously turned out to be?

*Khalid and Kashif chuckle*

Kashif – We started doing a bit of blues because it was something everyone could associate with…but yeah, as we progressed and everything fell into place, things started working on their own and we started finding our own sound…

Me – So, you guys do not really consider yourself to perform on an alternative stream or the indie movement that is slowly rising parallely to the Bollywood Masala style, you know artists trying to do something meaningful about music?

Khalid – Yeah, like it was said, we play the music but it is not up to us where that ultimately leads to…

Me – Oh, okay. So, it’s more of a Haruki Murakami approach wherein you’re not bound to be answerable to the reader every time. Your job is to create and the presentation subsequently happens spontaneously?

Kashif – Exactly.

Me – Alright then, that was all that I had to ask and I was so ecstatic about your music, I was hardly even sure that I would be able to conduct this entire interview at all. Thank You so much…

Khalid and Kashif – Thank You...Thanks…Have a great day, Bah-Bye!

Disclaimer - Rolling Stone India has recently called 'Parvaaz' India's most exciting rock band!
The photographs used are not owned by me. 
This post is absolutely non-commercial, opinions expressed are of my own. 

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