Gumby, Omran Shafique, Khalid Khan and others come together with the reclusive and legendary Aamir Zaki for a musical fiesta

July 3, 2009

All I want to do is rock!
Musicians par excellence Gumby, Omran Shafique, Khalid Khan and others come together with the reclusive and legendary Aamir Zaki for a musical fiesta

Sara Zia Khan

Sunday night, Karachi experienced something, which doesn’t happen a lot. A spontaneous, chilled out blues, rock jam session for a niche crowd at the Pakistan American Cultural Center (PACC). And that too with a man who can make guitars weep and dance, celebrate and mourn with explosive verve and nerve. When he plays live, its no ordinary day. The man is the guitar wizard Aamir Zaki. This night he was in the limelight and he proved why he needs to be there more often.

But Zaki was one side to this incredibly bluesy musical night. There were powerful, inimitable performers to boot: Gumby (drums), Omran “Momo” Shafique (guitars), Khalid Khan (bass), Sara Memon (vocalist) Saad Memon (guitars), Sheldon (vocalist) and Yasir Qureshi (darbuka).
Omran introduced Aamir Zaki onto the stage and when he came on, the crowd went wild. Some of them even gave Aamir a standing ovation.

He played ‘Slow Blue Jams’, and at the very end, Aamir had a solo, which got the audience almost dancing to the beat. Looking thin and like a true blue guitarist with a slick gelled back look, Aamir played his heart out. He plays how he feels and his facial expressions convey those emotions, taking the crowd with him.

When asked what goes through his mind when he’s playing, Aamir said to Instep, “I don’t think about anything. I am in that happy place and I only listen to the sound of music we are collectively playing. It is very hard to get to that ‘happy’ place which almost feels like nirvana when I am not playing.”

He played three songs in total, and the audience loved every minute of it.

While playing, Aamir kept looking at the crowd and smiling, perhaps pleased that the audience were glad to see him. “I’ve learned that in order to create something new, the older one needs to be destroyed, taken apart to pieces. I’ve come to a full circle and back to the blues.”481CEF

Where have you been?

Monotony gets to him, he explained, he hates it, literally hates it, when his days are planned. “I like surprise, and randomness. I hate it when my life becomes a routine, even when I am producing music, so much so, that I want to get away from everything.”

This is why Aamir had been AWOL from the spotlight for three years. He wanted to get away from everything and start afresh. When asked if he was self-destructive he said, “Look if you want to make something new, you have to destroy the previous pattern. I am not self-desctuctive as such but yes, when I feel that my life is becoming monotonous then I try to annihilate the pattern so that I make something which I haven’t done before.”

For those wondering if Aamir Zaki will actually come back with a record, Aamir says, “I never went away from playing and a commercial success of a video or two is not a comeback in my opinion. It’s the question if the audience is ready for the new style of music or not. Having a successful video on television does not mean a comeback to me. I don’t think it’s the musician who makes a comeback. I feel the audience’s focus changes and comes back.”4805CE~1

Go all the way

This concert was also iconic for many other reasons. It was the union of the lethal combination of Gumby and Aamir Zaki who have a history that goes back decades.

When asked about playing with Gumby and Omran, he said, “It was a pleasure. I am very happy to do this with them.”

The crowd was swaying to the jazzy beat. The genres were mixed and ranged from rock, punk, blue and it was a delightful change even if they mostly did cover songs from artists like Duffy, Stevie Wonder and Pink Floyd. The coming together of such professional players to do a random ‘feel good’ gig did wonders to the souls who wanted to get away from the chaos of everyday lives.

The first song, sung by Sara Memon, had the crowd cheering for her, and it was evident that they wanted more. Sara Memon, who has recently joined the music scene in Karachi, was pleased with the response.

48095F~1Talking to Instep, she said, “I am not a professional musician. Yasir Qureshi (of Aunty Disco Project) got me into the whole scene when he heard me sing for the first time. He was adamant that I should do this on a larger scale, so I ended up singing at the open mic night at Saad Haroon’s show”. From there on, she met Gumby and Omran who persuaded her to do a gig with them. At the gig, Sara sang ‘Mercy’ by Duffy, ‘Alone by Heart’, Teardrop’ by Massive Attack, among others. After the gig she said “I feel ecstatic, it’s all going to my head right now. The audience seems to love me” and they did, indeed. When she came back to do her fifth song, the audience clapped their hands, and were shouting her name endlessly.

Another singer who had the crowd mesmerized was Sheldon, not a newbie to the music scene either. He did his first gig 10 years ago with Aamir Zaki and Gumby, after which he left for Dubai and performed with his band there. Returning to Pakistan he decided to sing again with his dear friends, and it ended up as a huge success for them. His voice has a very blue feeling to it, and when he sang ‘Feeling Alright’, his raw talent was obvious. ‘Fire’, ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Master Blaster’, ‘Superstition’ and ‘Redemption’ are some of the songs he covered, and the crowd cheered him throughout.

Omran Shafique the lead vocalist and guitarist of Mauj and a guitarist with Coven, meanwhile, was grooving with his guitar. His performance was lively and his music blended well with the singer’s voice. Speaking with Instep, he said, “This thing was not planned, one day we just thought to do what we love to do the most which is playing, so we did it. Otherwise we would have been sitting idle instead. Because of the current situation of the country, politically or economically, all of us were yearning for something of this sort.”

Khalid Khan of Aaroh was the bassist quietly strummed magic with his bass guitar while Gumby had overwhelmed everyone with his playing. One of the most seasoned musicians of Pakistan, Gumby can stun people through his mighty drums.
“These feel good gigs do wonders for my soul, I hope we do this more often,” said Gumby. Before he went on stage he was tentative, but after he settled in, he was in his element. He brought the house down when he played ‘Redemption’ with Sheldon.

Gumby may be a musician but with Coke Studio running on airwaves nationwide, his star graph has risen further. And this gig was nothing like Coke Studio.

“Coke Studio is a very big thing. It reaches out to the masses, that’s the point.”

The last song they did – ‘We Don’t Need No Education’ by Pink Floyd, literally had everyone on their feet. The crowd was swaying to the beat and it was apparent that they didn’t want the night to end. Fans were screaming for one more performance but the players were tired. Omran laughing told the crowd that this was as much as he could play and no more.

It’s safe to say that the night was a success with good music and even better musicians. But PACC was an inappropriate venue for something so good. The auditorium was packed with too many people and some of them were sitting on the floor. People need to get way from everything and that’s why such gigs are important. But with the security situation in the country, artists who want to play for the people are reluctant as it remains a risky trick. Perhaps that is exactly why such gigs are rare and consequently a real treat for music aficionados. One wishes that they could be taken out of basic auditoriums int a space where people could stand and groove and listen to this music in the way it’s supposed to be heard.

Celebrities like Adnan Malik, Shallum Xavier, Anisa Shaikh and Syed Naad-e-Ali and others were obviously enjoying the show. The crowd was very selective and niche and the whole night was a blast. Live music gets your blood flowing faster as the music flows through your veins. Here’s to the Summer Jam and all gigs that give us that rush!

– Photos by Bilal Khan

Source: Instep Today