Music producer Ziyad Habib, or Noahs Heark as he's popularly known to fans, will be the fourth electronic musician to represent Pakistan at Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA).
Each year, a limited number of artists from all over the world are selected to take part in this world-travelling workshop, which includes lectures, studio sessions and performances. The workshop takes place in a different city annually, and this year makes its stop in Paris in October-November. Sixty-one artists from 37 countries have made the cut.
The previous participants of RBMA have all been friends of Ziyad's. Sheryar Hyatt, known as Dalt Wisney in the music scene, was the first Pakistani to get selected for this noteworthy platform in 2006. Following Hyatt, in 2013 and 2014, two more Karachi boys from the indie-electronic scene, were selected; Smax (Amman Mushtaq) and Tollcrane (Talha Asim Wynne). So far, only one Pakistani has been able to make it at a time while some other countries have more than one musician representing them.
With one EP release Little Tree (2013) under his belt and a full-length album in the works (which he aims to complete before heading off to Paris), Ziyad is an artist whose music is described by RBMA as "techno-slanted ambient soundscapes — which veer from the loose and glitchy to the probing and layered — while retaining a keen sense of fun and experimentation."
After spending his childhood and teenage years in Karachi, Ziyad moved to the US for higher studies at Clark University. He graduated in 2012 with a degree in Audio Technology, and worked as a live sound technician for some time.
"I still work a part-time job just to pay bills, rent and student loans and I work on a farm two days a week because I love plants and food," Ziyad says about his life now. "I try to go back to Karachi as often as I can, and hope to move back very soon but I've definitely found the way of life here to be more conducive to my journey at the moment."
Dawn spoke to Ziyad about his recent milestone achievement.
Dawn: How does it feel to know that you'll be attending RBMA this year?
Ziyad: Surreal! It's great that it’s all staying in the family you know, all four of us hung out practically every day for years along with the rest of the Mooshy Moo crew (an indie label founded in Karachi in 2007), and though we've been sprawled across the globe for the past few years the universe manages in many ways to keep us close.
Dawn: Is there something in particular you're looking forward to at RBMA?
Ziyad: The entirety of the experience!
Dawn: Do you think platforms such as RBMA help Pakistani musicians grow and get recognition even after the workshops are over?
Ziyad: “Yes! I feel like making music your livelihood is a struggle, especially in Pakistan, and even more especially with electronic music — we don't really have avenues or platforms to express ourselves on aside from the ones that we create, and to receive any form of validation from somewhere outside of our scene feels absolutely huge. To have the experiences that the RBMA — or even other such initiatives like Sound Camp and Dosti Music — provide is obviously going to help us grow. Our scene exists within a bubble, and to receive any cross-pollination is invaluable. I obviously haven't gone yet, so I can't verily attest to anything, but in life you get out what you put in, so if you want to grow and get recognition, this seems like the perfect avenue for that.”
|- Photo courtesy: Jasper Muse|
The music journey
Ziyad’s formal journey as a musician started in Karachi around a decade ago when the band Mole came together. But even before Mole, Ziyad got recording experience at a very young age while working with his friend Danial Hyatt on his father Rohail Hyatt’s old recording equipment. “Danny would always get the scraps from Pa's [Rohail's] old recording gear, and since we were probably 12, we'd just make random stuff at Danial's house,” he says.
“Everything with Mole just happened — we never planned for any of it,” Ziyad added.
In 2008, the band’s first album We’re Always Home was written and produced at Rohail Hyatt's home studio. Apart from Ziyad, the main members of the band include Danial Hyatt, Faizan Riedinger and Amman Mushtaq, among several other collaborators.
“It was when Coke Studio season 1 happened and Pa had moved all of his gear to Studio 146,” he explains. “A few of our close friends and collaborators had gone on a trip to Lahore, and it was just Amman, Danial, Faizan and myself. We sneaked into the empty home studio for a few nights in a row, not even to use the gear since it was all in 146, just to use the big desk to put stuff on and have a work space that wasn't a bedroom.”
The boys later moved back into Danial’s bedroom where the album was completed. “This all took place in 10 days — we had 12-15 tracks and then the obvious question became, 'What do we do with these?'"
Eventually the album ended up on the Mooshy Moo label. “Stuff just sort of spiraled out from there,” Ziyad says.
Although the band hasn’t been able to get together since the past few years, their first album, an EP and their performance on Coke Studio still exists somewhere in the depths of the internet.
“There are three other albums that will probably never see light of day," Ziyad revealed. “We last worked together in 2012, and the results were astounding, I still listen back to that stuff every now and then and it blows my mind. We haven't all been together since then so we haven't been able to finish it up, but those guys are my brothers and there is nothing more special or worthwhile that I've done in my whole life than Mole”.
“Noahs Heark (Ziyad's moniker for his solo work) just happened too,” he says. When it comes to music, Ziyad feels he doesn’t have an option. “It's all release, if I didn’t do it I’d implode. It’s a space where I can shed everything from daily life, everything I’ve built up as ‘me’ and be totally free of thought. I don’t write songs, I literally just hit record, get lost in sounds and everything comes into existence.”
For Ziyad, human beings represent something larger than being human itself. “We share a direct connection with the creator – whatever your experience has led you to call it and are manifestations of that universal power,” he says.
Often our day-to-day lives lead us to forgetting that connection as we put our desires and internal dialogue to rest only once. “Once we are silent, God begins to speak,” he says. “Noahs Heark is my ticket back to that space. I think that God guides us on our personal journeys, and this is how I make sure I continue to check back in and keep the connection alive.”
For each individual, keeping that connection alive is different, be it prayer, meditation or other rituals. But for Ziyad, music is something he has always done only for himself. “And to see increasingly that other people can ride the waves of my experience as their own is truly fulfilling.”
Hear Now Records
Currently, apart from his new album, Ziyad has been working on a new label known as Hear Now Records, which he started with fellow music producer Matt Pike, also known as fannem // coop. Matt's idea was to provide an outlet for all the artists around them who don't get the chance to express themselves through their music.
"We have six cassettes officially released, and we have four more on their way so far. Our latest is VEKA, a duo that includes Faizan Riedinger of Mole and Andrea Burrelli who is originally from Venice, Italy," Ziyad says.
Karachi-based artists Samya Arif and Humayun M also worked with the label to design cassette covers. The cassettes can be bought for $5 and the music is also available for free downloads on the label's website.
|Not only does Hear Now Records release the music of underappreciated artists, but also packages it in beautiful cassette tapes — Photo courtesy Hear Now Record's Facebook page|
"As a label we represent around fifteen artists, and aside from handling all aspects of the releases (mastering, funding, organising, promotion, production of cassettes) we also organise shows on occasion," Ziyad elaborates. "I think the most important aspect of Hear Now isn't anything that we officially do, its that we're a community of artists who are really supportive and respectful of each other's creative endeavors - we want to see the people we love, doing the things they love, while feeling loved."