Pakistan’s truest rock star Farhad Humayun, the lead of the loudest band of Pakistan ‘Overload’ has come up with yet another amazing platform to grow the music scene of the country.
We sat with the hunk in his cosy Lahore studio to discuss Levi’s Live, him, and Pakistani music.
Pakistan Today (PT)- First of all, I’m sure our readers would like to know as to why are there so many gaps between your releases?
Farhad Humayun (FH) – I take gaps because any work that I put out needs to be perfect. I do not want to be apologetic about it.
I put out three to four songs a year because I want to associate them with good music videos, I want them to become events in people’s life, and hence, most songs have included social or political messages.
The catch 22 situation is if I make 100 songs a year what difference will it make? Nobody is buying it or sponsoring them.
When I play live it is only at corporate events because they are the only ones paying me and when we make that money we reinvest that into our music videos and equipment.
Every time we put a song out there, we are giving the audience a gift. People, who criticise, firstly shouldn’t as they aren’t in that position; they haven’t been urged, forced, or paid for it.
People, who criticise, firstly shouldn’t as they aren’t in that position; they haven’t been urged, forced or paid for it.
PT: You recently started Levis Live; tell us more about it?
FH: Levi’s has wanted to associate itself with music for a while now; their campaign is about individuality and authenticity. Levi’s itself is an attitude and rock music sits well with it.
I think Levi’s has been able to identify certain people with attitudes. They have worked with some people in the past, some haven’t worked out but those who have, are people with a certain confidence in the way they live their lives
We hope to develop a substantial culture of like-minded people who have an outlet. We are starting a once a month music club where people can come, enjoy music and relax.
PT: What exactly is your role for Levi’s Live?
FH: I head Levis Live. I am not the producer, I designed the venue, but basically I am a consultant.
My job is to select artists. I do that by going through the demos sent to me by various artists on social media platforms.
We help them collaborate with various artists if needed. Every artist is being paid.
We have also asked senior artists to subsidise their rates; because of the limited budget. We are also making videos along with the audio content. Levi’s is advertising and sponsoring so the performers get the most coverage.
I will mix and master the songs after the gigs for the final videos. All the songs that we actually put out on radio and video will be originals only.
PT: Levi’s Live is held once a month to a selected audience. Why not more of a commercialised approach to music?
FH: Levi’s like others is a multi-national company that wants to advertise through music. What artists do is that they give in entirely to the wishes of the company. Levi’s as a brand has a different mandate. It isn’t for people to come in and sing covers or jingles; we want only new and original pieces.
I feel everything in Pakistan is being done on the surface. With Levi’s Live we want to create a new trend, invite people actually interested in listening to music, invite bands that have the capacity to become something. We want the artist to engage with the audience, something every artist should do. Music isn’t something to be done at home, it is for the masses. Music is the theatre that always needs an audience.
Opening acts will be by newcomers with their own band and songs or promising talents or junior artists, also the ones who have been working for years and are in need of a break. The headlining acts, which will be people who have a following and are veterans of sorts.
But the intention is not to make it Desi – that’s not the image of Levi’s or my kind of work. We are encouraging pop, rock, and funk. If someone wants to do Sufiana Kalam they will have to pen it down themselves.
PT: Do you perceive yourself as a successful musician?
FH: What is the measure of success? Let’s decide that first. Is it being on TV on every morning show, on billboards, on all plays and events in the front row seats, being all over the place? Maybe to some but if you have got any benchmarks or standards set for ourselves there are certain things that you just won’t do.
For me, art and music are about being real. First put your music out there, your image is secondary. When people are very inquisitive about your work, that is being successful.
PT: Although there is a lot of new talent coming up, but they vanish rather easily from the scene too. Why is that?
FH: I know many people who are struggling, but have had a couple of major hits, they couldn’t become session players as they weren’t good enough, and they couldn’t become music producers as they didn’t have the technical knowledge.
People who have given a minimum on 10 years to a single music instrument can become sustainable musicians, sadly even in the biggest TV shows based on music at the moment; if these people are put in a live environment and told ‘acha gana suno’ 90% of them will fail.
If you can sing NFK or Zuhaib Hassan, it doesn’t mean that you are an artist. You may have a talent or a flair for it but needs to be polished. One needs to have a skill, as a composer, lyricist, and musician. You have to be able to write and compose your own songs to keep breathing.
Here artists record two songs, one would usually be a cover the other a mediocre self-written song. They think they’ll get overnight fame because ‘sirf dehknnae ka culture agaya hai’. Even the audience is confused about what they want and artists need to understand that to be one you have to become intellectually strong which would reflect on your work.