Quest for Kashmir | Pakistan Today

Quest for Kashmir

The Pepsi Showcase event at Avari Pavilion on Monday intended to showcase some of the latest designer wear and the summer collections that the topmost brands had to offer. But what it also put on display were two rock bands in contrasting stages of the career spectrum.

Around the fashion excellence that was paraded on the ramp by the most illustrious of names – the likes of Reema Khan, Iman Ali, Mehreen Syed, Mikaal Zulfiqar and Gohar Aftab – were Strings and Kashmir. Both of them have new albums lined up, and both of them would be a part of the storylines written in the upcoming season of the Pepsi Battle of the Bands, which Kashmir won last year, and which Strings would be judging this season.

Strings have already released two of the eight new tracks – which have been thoroughly discussed in this space as well – that they’ve promised as part of their upcoming album that would mark their 30 years in the music industry. Kashmir, meanwhile, are gearing up for their debut offering, after becoming a household name following the Battle of the Bands last year.

While Strings closed the Pepsi Showcase event with a string of some of their most famous tracks, with Reema also joining in with vocals on Chhaaye Chaaye – which Faisal Kapaddia revealed was the original plan for the song a decade and a half ago but shooting clashes didn’t allow it to happen – Kashmir too were given a two song slot in the show to give us a taste of what they might be cooking up these days.

One of the two was Kaaghaz Ka Jahaz, which the band performed last season in the Battle of the Bands, and which arguably is their most famous original track. The second was the yet to be formally released Pareshaaniyan.

It is always a great idea – especially for an up and coming band – to float a new track with one that is the most commonly known, and in the first and only listen Pareshaaniyan did appear to be one of the better original tracks by Kashmir. But unfortunately that doesn’t say much.

For, while Kashmir absolutely nailed most of the covers they did in the Battle of the Bands last season, their original tracks left a lot to be desired. Furthermore, another major problem with Kashmir’s covers and the original tracks was the sheer disparity in the sound, which didn’t quite give the band their identity as an alternative rock band as they’re billed.

Kashmir’s covers of the two EP tracks Hamesha and Waqt – and to a lesser degree Amir Zaki’s Mera Pyar – the tracks that rose them to fame, are not just heavy they’re (attempts at) slightly heavier renditions of the original songs themselves. What they aren’t is from the same gauge as anything original that the band have produced.

The likes of Faislay and Soch are both on the softer side, and don’t quite have the melody to carry them as such. Budha Baba is a crossover between Metallica’s Enter Sandman and Noori’s Mujhay Ruko – two completely antipodal tracks that leave what could’ve been a decent song in a bit of a fix.

Kaaghaz Ka Jahaz incorporates traditional rock and roll with sprinkling of the blues sound and wraps it up in 21st century rock, giving us a pretty decent track indeed – but is that the signature Kashmir sound?

The only track that comes close to the Kashmir brand that the band have created for themselves, and the alternative rock genre that they self-identify with, is Parwana Hun. And while it’s heavier, and darker, incorporating elements of progressive metal, it is neither Kashmir’s best offering, nor bearing any semblance to the other original tracks that they’ve released.

And now Kashmir have put Pareshaaniyan on the table, which could easily be the title track for the next Bollywood romantic comedy. Is that where the band is headed, for that’s where all the commercial success in the world is.

If Kashmir want to compromise the alternative for the mainstream, that’s completely the band’s decision. But what they need to do is quickly make up their mind on the band’s identity.

Else, they’ll be left with a collection of songs that would be so disjointed that they’d neither muster a cult following among the hard rock/metal aficionados nor get Kashmir a contract in a Yash Raj production.