Can you teach an old song new tricks? This band shows you how

Can you teach an old song new tricks? This band shows you how

With Jamal Rehman as its frontman, the band Tonight, Us reworks a Jimmy Khan tune from Ho Mann Jahaan
Updated 23 Apr, 2016

New band Tonight, Us is the latest addition to the indie musical landscape by Jamal Rehman of True Brew records in Lahore.

The band consists of some of the finest musicians from the city, including Ibrahim Akram, Sameer Ahmed, Rufus Shahzad and Jamal Rehman himself, all of whom have had years of experience to their credit.

Ibrahim, for example, drums for Mekaal Hasan Band, and Sameer has played with Zeb & Haniya, Mekaal Hasan and Jamal in his 15-20 years in the industry.

This time, they’ve come together for an interesting new project – a new rendition of Jimmy Khan’s ‘Baarish’, off of the popular Ho Mann Jahaan soundtrack. In the new version, Jimmy re-did his vocals, around which Tonight, Us created a new structure for the song.

But when you hear this version, you’ll realize it’s a whole new song on its own.

While Jimmy Khan’s version sounded like a cutesy love ballad (which was inspired by a possessed cat, according to this video), Tonight, Us' is like a modern electropop song with an '80s vibe.

One can’t really compare the two songs anymore, even though their melody is essentially the same. The new version opens with a distinctly synthetic drum beat and a groovy, retro bass line that sets the tone for some major throwback vibes which continue throughout the whole tune.

This version was accompanied by the above stop-motion music video with a faux-vintage edit, which went well with the song but has been done to death and is becoming border-line corny. It’s 2016, distressed-effect videos are kind of passe… unless you’re shooting on actual film.

How it happened

We spoke to Jamal Rehman to discuss the song and why they decided to re-do a song instead of releasing new music. It started with a corporate show that the band was playing, and Jimmy was part of that line-up.

“Tonight, Us jammed the song and we were trying different ideas, grooves and rhythm structures. Iba (Ibrahim) came up with that beat and everything sort of flowed from there,” Jamal explained.

He added that Jimmy’s version was a two-chord song with a very country approach. The minimal chords and melody left a lot of room for Jamal and the band to play with because harmonically a lot could be added to it.

“I had a few ideas in terms of changing the voicing, the mode for the track and it was in a generally blues-y sort of place initially and I changed that to more jazz oriented voicing,” he added. “So yeah we played the show and the song was received really well and after the show we decided to record it.”

While structuring the song, the drums and bass were recorded first after which Jamal started to layer synths on the track. When Jimmy came in to re-do vocals for this track, they decided to add more harmonic layering on his vocals as well as vocal-doubling. “It is a very '80s technique. The drum beat, guitar tones and how vocals are processed as well as the sound effects borrow heavily from the '80s,” Jamal explained.

“The song should be considered entirely on its own merit,” Jamal says. “It doesn’t sound like anything Jimmy’s ever done or we have ever done, so this is a new direction entirely."

The idea came to Jamal when he started curating gigs for launch events. “As cheesy as that sounds, it basically means that I designed the music for the show and picked the artists and songs. Even though songs we play at these shows unfortunately include a lot of covers, we try to re-do them in newer ways and generally try to take it into a more jazz-oriented direction.”

“The song should be considered entirely on its own merit,” Jamal said. “It doesn’t sound like anything Jimmy’s ever done or we have ever done, so this is a new direction entirely… probably the best compliment we’ve had on it so far is that it makes one want to dance.”

Jamal added that when it comes to this rendition of ‘Baarish’, it is more about looking at how the track is laid and the tones and ideas that lie in it. “I think it’s new generally for the Pakistani sonic landscape – that’s a phrase we’ve been throwing around quite frequently – it’s new and it’s attempting to explore new territory, whether it’s successful or not remains to be seen.”

'Tonight, Us' hopes to work with more artists on newer renditions of their songs, but doesn’t want to limit themselves to that. As a musician, it is important to be able to perform live shows as well and while the band has been doing that for corporate shows, they hope to do more. “The idea is to make this a gigging band and not just a recording band."