The musicians behind The Karachi Files performing in Berlin - Photo by Khaula Jamil
The musicians behind The Karachi Files performing in Berlin - Photo by Khaula Jamil

It all started in 2013 when Berlin-based DJ duo Gebrueder Teichmann visited Karachi and attended one of Forever South’s shows.

For those unfamiliar with the Karachi indie music scene, Forever South is an indie electronic collective of 13 producers and DJs who have been playing shows off and on since 2012.

The collective's founders Haamid Rahim (Dynoman) and Bilal Nasir Khan (Rudoh) had been in talks with the German duo since 2013 to host a two-week music residency ‘Soundcamp’ in Karachi. In the summer of 2015, the residency materialised as a collaboration between Forever South, Teichmann brothers Andi and Hannes and the Goethe Institut.

Now its musicians are in Berlin to release the music they produced during ‘Soundcamp’ as a compilation album, Karachi Files. They played at a concert in Berlin last weekend, and performed in Hamburg yesterday night.

Natasha Humera Ejaz with the rest of the Soundcamp crew performing in Berlin last weekend -  Photo by Dorothea Tuch
Natasha Humera Ejaz with the rest of the Soundcamp crew performing in Berlin last weekend - Photo by Dorothea Tuch

This may sound like an ordinary collaboration, but Forever South’s DIY approach sets the initiative apart.

Making Karachi Files happen

Karachi Files took some logistical doing. Bilal and Haamid first went house hunting, in search of a venue for Soundcamp where the participants could jam, record, eat and sleep during the two-week residency.

“With the help of the Goethe Institut, Bilal and I fully fitted a studio, jam room, beds for foreign participants and [found] a cook and house help,” shares Haamid.

Meanwhile, Gebrueder Teichmann was curating participants for Soundcamp from Europe. They chose rRoxymore, Taprikk Sweeze, Arttu and themselves.

Bilal and Haamid curated the South Asian participants and selected Manal (Menimal) from Maldives and four of Forever South’s versatile musicians, namely, Tollcrane (Talha Asim Wynne), Alien Panda Jury (Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey) and themselves.

“We also chose Natasha Humera Ejaz and Ramsha Shakeel due to their musicianship,” Haamid added.

The Karachi Files line-up
The Karachi Files line-up

The line-up made for memorable collaboration, but the music production process had its share of hitches, primarily due to the lack of resources in Pakistan.

“Luckily Hannes knew how to solder and was able to craft plugs and fix speakers in case something went wrong,” Haamid said. “We had a main control room equipped with many synths drum machines, guitars, basses, a mixer, studio monitors and a jam room equipped with a PA system.”

Moreover, Haamid and Bilal had to juggle their roles as hosts and musicians on the in-production album. “So if the electricity went, everyone looked as us…for lunch, dinner/outings, everyone looked at us but we managed to split our time between it all to the best of our abilities and we were lucky to have such talented musicians who would churn out tracks around the clock.”

“This is how Soundcamp came to being and we worked on the residency for two weeks to produce the album The Karachi Files’, which is being released by Gebrueder Teichmann's new music label called Noland.

"Fast forward a year later, we are now going to perform a live set in Germany and attend the release for the much awaited album.”

The crew also had two shows planned for Karachi following the residency, one of which was slated to take place at the Aga Khan University, but was cancelled due to the Safoora Goth massacre last year.

What Karachi Files is really about

In essence, this project was about using music as a means of transcending borders. Too often, music in Pakistan is sidelined and this project proved to be a means of bringing together different cultures while also putting Pakistani music on the global map.

“The project was [an amalgamation] of two cultures in music as well as lifestyle,” Haamid explained. “Every track [in the album] is a moment in time during the residency and we were a giant family/unit that did everything together and only saw each other for those two weeks.”

Berlin-based Soundcamp resident Taprikk Sweezee performed tracks from The Karachi Files at the concert in the city last weekend - Photo by Dorothea Tuch
Berlin-based Soundcamp resident Taprikk Sweezee performed tracks from The Karachi Files at the concert in the city last weekend - Photo by Dorothea Tuch

This album launch marks the first time Forever South played as a unit abroad and the event has been organised by Berlin's HAU Theatre. The crew is part of a three-day festival by the HAU called ‘Andar say Bohat Bahir’ (From Inside to Way Out) which shows the perspective of a “contemporary Pakistan” and it includes other Pakistani artists and filmmakers who have worked in Karachi as well as Berlin, namely Khaula Jamil, Pablo Lauf, Shahana Rajani, Mahenaz Mahmud, Begum Nawazish Ali, Salmaan Peerzada, Omar Kasmani and many more.

Some musicians from the Forever South roster also have mini tours planned after the album release.

Haamid is also set to have a showcase at the Alchemy festival in London. "Raania [Azam Durrani] approached me for the Alchemy Festival in London to perform as well as showcase original music. Due to prior commitments, I was unable to perform, so she booked someone else. They curated my work and paired me with [Lahore-based illustrator] Shehzil Malik, who gave a video submission, and my song 'Lana' was used as the music to the visual."

In addition, there's a Forever South Showcase gig with Tollcrane in Prague, Czech Republic (which is yet to be announced) and Rudoh’s tour in London where he will play at the Alchemy Festival on May 27 and a show called Infusion on June 2. He will also play a show in Amsterdam on May 30. It seems that 2016 is the year that Pakistani music creeps into Europe and makes its mark!

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