We’re used to being so cranky in Karachi, be it the traffic on our way home from work or just K-electric grinding our gears.
So when the event ‘Cranked Up’ was sponsored by Chop Chop Wok to take place at the Arts Council, it sounded like just the night Karachiites needed – a night of loud music (that doesn’t involve mehndi dances) to chase away our blues.
The weather worked in the concert’s favour as seats at the open-air stage area slowly started filling in during the first performance. Ironically it’s probably the best venue for concerts in Karachi, but has the least amount of shows. Local voice-actor and singer Isnain Khan and her band opened the show with a few covers; some of the audience sang along with her to ‘Moves like Jagger’ and her charming rendition of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’.
After Isnain, Alien Panda Jury (Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey) took the stage and played an eclectic set of electronic beats and ambient soundscape music. Meanwhile, graffiti artist Neil Uchong started working on his live-graffiti piece on a panaflex which didn’t seem like it was meant for graffiti; still it had the audience enthralled for a while as they watched him paint till the very end of the show.
Alien Panda Jury was followed by Ashar Kazi & The Mausikars - a Canada-based musician but a Karachiite at heart - who performed with a local line up consisting of Umair Dar, Zain Jafar and Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey (who was on bass this time). Kazi, who is the front man of a band in Canada known as Mausiki – a mix between world rock and grunge rock – was the driving force behind putting this show together along with Zain Jafar.
“People here need to be doing this more often,” Ashar Kazi said in a conversation with Images. “This gap needs to be filled to get the young people that play.” He added that while some of these musicians do play with some mainstream acts like Umair Jaswal for instance, they rarely get the opportunity to have shows where they can play their own music. "I’d definitely like to see more of that," he said.
The band played a couple of Mausiki’s original songs with some of the best guitar solos of the night; and the performance was a refreshing change for Karachi’s regular concert goers to experience since it added something new to the usual indie gigs in Karachi.
Up next was Sikandar Ka Mandar, arguably Karachi’s most prominent indie bands because they continue to play live shows every now and then. This time the band had two back-up singers on board: Mariam Saleem and Natasha Noorani, giving the band a chance to perfect the harmonies. This was their chance of getting one step closer to becoming a mainstream band, said bassist Rahail on stage.
During their song ‘Bemisal’ Mariam and Natasha took the front of the stage and started singing while frontman Nadir chimed in later after guitarist Ali Suhail and drummer Aarad unraveled during the meaty solo cranking it up.
The closing act of the show consisted of a nameless band with Islamabad based Iman Shahid on the vocals accompanied by Umair Dar on the guitar, Bilal Brohi on drums, Samad Saleem on guitar and Adeel Paul on bass, the perfect end to ‘Cranked Up’ with some of the best covers of bands like Audioslave and Velvet Revolver, to name a few.
The performance was slightly marred when designer Rizwanullah accompanied by a model walked on stage in white, flowy outfits to be spray painted by Neil Uchong which seemed completely random and out of place, given the rocking performance that was under way.
All said and done, will smaller shows like this help give young musicians a leg up?
Kazi, who moved out of Karachi ten years ago and is back on a short visit, says: “The underground scene was very active [back then] and I really wanted to put something together.” He adds that he was told the ‘noncommercial’ music scene in Karachi is not very active which is why as a musician he felt the need to put a show together and it was a different experience for him.
“Different in the sense that it’s a bigger venue and we play smaller, tightly packed shows [in Canada].”
Despite sponsors, promoting the show and getting permissions and NoCs was also a hassle. When asked how people in Karachi can keep this going, he said “we need fire starters and people who can get sh*t done."
People like to avoid the legalities of putting shows together and he added that Karachi needs more initiatives like Salt Arts for example, who help musicians by organizing shows among other things.