Kashmiri/Urdu rock band Parvaaz reflects on their new album ‘Kun’

Each song is about figuring out various landscapes, says frontman Khalid of the Bengaluru-based band

The evening after performing to a sold-out crowd at Bengaluru’s B-Flat in late September, members of the city-based Kashmiri/Urdu rock band, Parvaaz , gather at an apartment for an informal listening session of the studio versions of their new album, Kun.

As the nine-track album plays to a small audience, lead vocalist Khalid Ahamed, paces up and down the hall; drummer Sachin Banandur takes a corner seat; while guitarist Mir Kashif Iqbal sits against a wall.

It was the moment to soak in a stop-start journey since the release of their first album Baran (2014). Parvaaz had been juggling expectations from their increasing fan base with their own. It was the restless energy to put out fresh material that pushed the quartet to set targets for Kun.

“Five years have passed,” says frontman and co-lyricist Khalid. “We set a deadline and also were tired of playing the same songs.”

Work on Kun gathered pace only in the second half of 2017, but in the preceding months, Parvaaz kept its fans engaged with the release of two singles, ‘Shaad’ and ‘Colour White’ with the accompanying music videos, a feature-length concert film Transitions, which was staged in Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield and a host of gigs.

Bass guitarist Fidel D’Souza says this was a period of experimentation, especially, with their live performances to see how the audiences react.

The quartet, however, are not shy of admitting their shortcomings.

“We have been procrastinating,” admits Kashif. “In the Western model, you follow a linear method where you go for rehearsals, knock out the whole album and then go on tours. Over here, you make new songs and perform them live. You have to do that to make a living.”

“The fragmented music festival season in India also poses a challenge. You cannot be on the road for six months and take the rest of the time to work on new material. Here you have to keep playing gigs.”

The band adopted a more structured approach to Kun, which was crafted over several trips to Yash Raj Studios, with the band often recording just two songs at a time. Drums, vocals were recorded separately and they engaged Auckland-based sound engineer Zorran Mendosa to mix the tracks.

“It turned out well for us as it allowed us more focus on each song,” says Sachin.

Khalid and Kashif, childhood friends from Srinagar,drive the lyrics. While writing material for Kun (meaning existence/being), Khalid, who coined the name, says it helped that the duo were on the same headspace.

In Kun, the slowest, ‘Katyi Rov’ contrasts with the peppy ‘Soye Ja’, ‘Shabaan’ and ‘Zindaano’ flow into each other, following the same formula listeners would relate to with ‘Roz Roz’ and the title track ‘Baran’. Khalid says they allowed the mood to dictate the nature and flow of the album. “It is more melancholic than Baran,” he says.

One explanation for their successful group dynamics, say Sachin and Fidel, the two non-Kashmiris in the band, is that they did not let the language create a divide within the group.

“We understand nothing at all,” says Sachin with a laugh. “I have actually stopped asking what the song is about.”

“I agree with Sachin,” echoes Fidel. “It is the love of the music that binds us all together.”

Kashif adds that the band remains cohesive because of respect for each other’s strengths. “There are no virtuosos in the band.”

“Ten years of being together means a lot,” says Khalid. “We have formed a bond, like a family. It translates in our music.”

With two albums and an EP and a handful of singles, do Parvaaz feel they have established a unique sound in the Indian music space? Fidel feels “it is an entirely subjective call”, while Sachin senses that listeners are starting to identify with a sound that’s more "distinctly Parvaaz".

“The instinct, for an Indian listener, is to compare a local band to an international band. People are feeling the Parvaaz resonance more now and not many people are comparing us with someone else,” Sachin says.

Kashif believes the band’s USP will continue to be their live sets, and he believes there is plenty of scope for innovation. “We would like to convey the emotions in the songs through visuals, mood lighting, change the way we construct the set list.”

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