“There was a time I thought I’d never leave Pakistan,” says musician, music producer and video director Zeeshan Parwez. “But as life would have it, I found myself going to Canada.” He would remain there for six years.
The director, who has the music videos of his own band Sajid and Zeeshan, along with those of Ali Azmat, Mekaal Hasan Band, the two season-long Uth Records and several seasons of Coke Studio to his credit, kept busy. He enrolled and graduated in a film programme at the Vancouver Film School and, after graduating, worked for a film company.
Zeeshan doesn’t think he did much at all. “I wasn’t very productive in the literal sense, but I used all that time to reflect, to question myself, my previous work and what I intend to do for the future. I had time to think about things that mattered and some that should matter,” he added.
Being on the outside looking in, Zeeshan kept track of what was happening in the local entertainment industry — including the development of television dramas and film. “I would make it a point to go and see almost every Pakistani film that hit our local screens there,” he laughs. “I missed Pakistan a lot.”
His first project upon his return has been Atif Aslam’s 12 Bajay. The song has a whole new sound compared to what Atif has been doing these past few years — very typical Bollywood-style soundtracks. It’s more soft rock, a bit moody and sounds like what one imagines Atif’s music would’ve developed into had he not switched to playback singing.
Filmed in Los Angeles and Vancouver, the video is like a tour diary. There are clips from his tours, recordings and performances interspersed with a bit of animation and footage that shows a lot of travelling and exhaustion as well as quiet moments of bliss in between. “Atif wanted to revisit his rock roots which was largely how he started out,” relates Zeeshan. “This was a song he was very passionate about it and he spoke to me about documenting the whole process in a studio in Los Angeles.”
“I wanted to carve an experience — to construct a visual diary that would show a bit of that process and what a rockstar has to go through on a daily basis,” he continued. “This was a tricky process because the only version of the song I had heard before was through a phone recording. I actually got to hear the song in its proper shape as it was being recorded.”
It’s been a little over six years. How does it feel being back? “Weird, but in a wonderful way, I suppose,” he responds. “You can see nothing has changed, yet everything has. I felt like an outsider in my own city when I came here but it gets better with every passing day. On the plus side, I’m looking forward to new challenges in creating something exciting for people here.”
Zeeshan Parwez announces that 2019 will also be the year Sajid and Zeeshan will make a comeback: “We vowed that whenever we returned to Pakistan, we would jump right into our third album."
Now that he’s back, and that too as a film graduate, the general assumption is that he’s now probably going to make a film. The director responds that although he is open to making one but right now, he’s not quite ready yet.
“Everything we do goes on to define us as an artist, so I’ve decided to do small but important and fun projects,” he says. “I’ve started off my new journey here through something I’m very passionate about — music videos. Atif’s 12 Bajay was the perfect kickstart for me and I’m glad people really liked it.”
It’s not just music videos, however. Zeeshan is currently working on creating animated content regarding “everything I grew up with and also what I’m witnessing around me.” This includes creating a series of clips on promoting traffic laws, awareness about air pollution and other issues related to the environment.
On the music front, being in Canada paid off. The break enabled him to focus on developing his own sound. “The worst part about it is that it’s a never-ending process,” he says. “Everyone who knows me can testify that I like to dig deep into the construction of sounds.” He’s hoping to release his debut album next year.
The director announces that 2019 will also be the year Sajid and Zeeshan will make a comeback. “Sajid was based in Toronto and I was in Vancouver — almost three time zones apart,” says Zeeshan. “We vowed that whenever we came back, we would jump right into our third album. Moving back here brought out memories of the time we recorded King of Self etc. I am excited to share all this new stuff with you soon.”
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, December 23rd, 2018