Blending Cultures: Parvaaz
As music lovers, I would like to believe that we all have one defining moment. That instance where we decide to head out for a gig, with no background knowledge of the artist playing, only to be blown away – blown away by the music, the performers, the vibe, the energy, and the band’s stage presence. For me that band was Parvaaz.
Formed in 2010, this Bangalore-based 4-piece act, comprising of Khalid Ahamed (vocals), Kashif Iqbal (guitar and vocals), Fidel D’souza (bass) and Sachin Banandur (drums and percussions), has been taking the indie music scene in the country by storm. 2012 saw the release of their debut EP, ‘Behosh’, that was extremely well-received. This 5-track EP takes every conventional stereotype associated with an Alternative Rock/Psychedelic band and breaks it into a million symphonic pieces.
What would strike you first about Parvaaz are the extremely powerful vocals of Khalid Ahamed. Proof of which can be found in their first studio release (2013) – a single titled ‘Khufiya Dastaan’. This track became a quick favourite amongst Parvaaz fans, with requests for it being thrown out at almost every gig. Parvaaz’s music has a very strong Kashmiri influence that can be heard in their mainly Urdu lyrics. This medley of cultures is, in my opinion, one of the most attractive features of the band. Lastly, what can’t be denied are the band dynamics – each member is so in tune with the other that every sound bite wafts out like a tightly wound coil. No gaps, no friction.
Now, in 2014, Parvaaz is set to release their debut album, which is being crowd funded through Wishberry. The name of the album is ‘Baran’, which is a Persian word meaning ‘rain’. When asked why they chose this name, this is what they had to say – “Rain has been associated with us for the better half of the last two years. A lot of washed out shows, a lot of instances where rain played spoilt sport. But in hindsight, it wasn’t too bad after all. There was always a balance.”
So is there any positive aspect as well to the name? “’Rain’ finds its way into our writing as well. The basic theme of the album is materialism; how it is the bane of our society, and hence needs to be washed away.”
I pulled Parvaaz out of their jam room one morning and decided to sit down with them to find out how they started, what it takes to crowd fund an album, and what their plans for the future are. This is what they had to say.
Noopur: What’s the story behind Parvaaz and how did you guys start?
Khalid: Story behind Parvaaz… Kashif and I studied in the same school together. And we met in Bangalore after a gap of one year. That’s when our interest in music started, and we started the band with an acoustic gig. Sachin wasn’t a part of the band then, neither was Fidel. It was me, Kashif and Neil (Simon) who started the band together – Neil on bass, Kashif on guitar and me on vocals. Then we went through a line-up change. We found Sachin through a common friend, and she told us that Sachin was a kick-ass drummer. It was then that Neil had to leave the band due to personal problems. And then we found Fidel.
Sachin: Me and Fidel used to play for some bands.
Fidel: Yeah, we used to play on and off. Some random gigs here and there. We caught up again after some time and then it all just came together.
Noopur: So when you guys joined the band was it an instant sync between you guys?
Sachin: Let’s see… We were definitely tight. I don’t really know if the ideas were… *laughs*
Khalid: You know, basically, it just happened. It wasn’t like we came into the room together, we knew what we had to do… It didn’t happen that way.
Sachin: Yeah, basically it didn’t just take off straight away. It took time, and it’s still taking time.
Noopur: Okay, what would you guys describe your genre as?
Fidel & Sachin: Whatever you feel like calling it!
Khalid: We have influences like the Blues, little bit Psychedelic, pure classical rock, and my way of singing – Ustad Fateh Ali Khan type. There’s no fusion as such. We want to keep it pure. Tomorrow, our next set might sound totally different.
Kashif: I can’t define it properly. But yeah, I would say Blues rock, Psychedelic rock. Mostly. And we’re playing more acoustic stuff as well, off late.
Noopur: Your biggest influences – do they reflect in your music in any way?
Fidel: It’s the classics! The great classics, if you must. Floyd, Zeppelin, who hasn’t heard any of them?
Kashif: Yeah, classic rock. Definitely a lot of Floyd influences. I think personally, a lot of guitar-driven influences bands that were there in the 70’s.
Noopur: So you released your first EP, Behosh, in 2012. Did you guys feel it was well-received?
Khalid: When we went into studio, I remember Kashif called Jason (Zachariah), who plays for Allegro Fudge. He has a studio. So Kashif called him and asked him if we could check out the place. And he told us to come in the next day, and start recording. And we asked how to do that, we weren’t ready. Because we still had to think about what we wanted to record. So we just went to the studio, and honestly, we didn’t have any money. No money at all. But despite that, it just happened. As soon as the three of us came out of the studio, we thought we’d finalize the dates but we don’t have any money.
Sachin: Yeah, Fidel had joined just a few months before.
Fidel: *laughs* I remember that I had just bought a new bass guitar, and I think 3 weeks after that we started recording.
Khalid: And you know, we didn’t have any idea of how the response was going to be. Like, we understood the music we were making obviously but would they appreciate it? But we got an overwhelming response. We even got nominated for awards amongst some big names.
Fidel: To answer your question on how it was received, it’s been nominated in GIMA, it has been shortlisted at Toto – all that has happened but besides that, I think the bigger accomplishment is that it’s gone out there as the band’s first impression.
Noopur: When you guys perform songs from the EP, do you notice the crowd, your fans singing along with you guys?
Khalid: Yes! That happens.
Sachin: I think those 5 songs were the ones that we regularly played, and they’ve stayed with us. And that’s why we wanted to put it out in the EP. So yeah, I think people know the songs very well.
Khalid: We had some 7-8 hours at that point but what happened was that we wanted the mood to be similar. So whoever listens to that album doesn’t feel like one song is totally different from the other. So the feel of the album doesn’t get lost. So we put the 5 songs that were basically rooted from Blues.
Sachin: And I think not only our band, but every band, I think the song structure and everything changes as you keep playing it. Until you record it… we never structure our songs.
Fidel: I think nowadays we are learning to structure our songs.
Sachin: Yeah, but I think that’s the reason we didn’t try to put more songs (on the EP). We knew that it’ll take a different shape. Compared to our first single, we play totally different now. It’s nowhere close. So I think that’s one of the reasons why we don’t just go into the studio and record. But once we know that this is what we want to go on the record, that’s when we head into the studio.
Noopur: Okay, so now you guys are in studio, recording your first album. And that is pretty big. What’s more, you guys are crowd-funding it. Why crowd-funding?
Khalid: Why crowd-funding?
Sachin & Fidel: We don’t have money. *dead-pan expressions*
Khalid: *laughs* See that’s not the primary reason. Basically, Wishberry came up to us and told us that this is the funda, this is what we want; we can get the money for your album before you hit the studios. We didn’t really have any hope for it. I just said that we’ll fund it ourselves. Even if we get some 10-20 thousand, it’s more than enough for us. At least some cost we could take up. But Wishberry has worked for us.
Sachin: Yeah, in just the first 10 days, somebody contributed 20,000/-. And that was anonymous. We don’t even know who that guy was. He just heard our songs, and he contributed. So that’s when we saw hope that people would actually contribute.
Khalid: A lot of people contributed in just a matter of 20 days.
Fidel: But we still have a few more days left for the campaign and if you want to be a part of it, please do not stop yourself. (You can find the Wishberry link at the end of the article.)
Noopur: Are you facing any challenges recording this album?
Khalid: I think compromising on certain things – you know, this is what he wants, this is what I want, and coming to a common point that everybody is comfortable with.
Kashif: I think also the basic transition of the songs that we’ve been playing live for over the past few years. The transition to the studio – that’s been a kind of challenge. And apart from that, I think individually, everybody has found that they need to get better at what they’re doing. We’ve had to practice more. Biggest challenge is getting the sound that you imagine in your head. Probably, all four of us imagine different things, and then to get everything down onto a record is you know, a challenge in itself.
Khalid: You know what the biggest challenge is in the band? Being together.
Noopur: So basically the biggest challenge lands up being in one spot at the same time.
Fidel: … And making sure that your creative output at that point is cohesive. Otherwise I’ll want something, and he’ll want another, and we won’t end up doing anything.
Sachin: It’s like a small family. You need to listen to everyone. That’s more important because music is something that when you come to the jam room, it happens when you’re in sync. It’s very important to know each other.
Khalid: And be comfortable enough to communicate. I think a lot of bands fail at communication. It is the biggest challenge.
Sachin: Like, if you see a band, they’re tight but you know they don’t know each other.
Khalid: What I mean to say by communication levels is for example, when we’re on stage, I just look at him (Sachin) and he knows what he needs to do.
Noopur: And that’s how it should be. Is there any difference between the EP and the album in terms of composition and writing?
Khalid: Yes, a lot of difference.
Fidel: Big difference.
Khalid: Sound-wise, it has developed a lot. We have learned our instruments. We know them better now than when we started. Because when you start playing the guitar, for example, you don’t know what it could be. Music is something that evolves over time – it’s never ending. And that’s how we learned.
Sachin: And I think we all tried to individually incorporate out own influences.
Khalid: Yeah, like our kind of music. What we want to play.
Sachin: Like I got some critical feedback saying it didn’t sound the way it does when we play live. Like it was totally different from the EP. The reason for that is that we were still exploring how to record things. So this time it will sound exactly like how we’ll play it live.
Fidel: No, no, I disagree with that. There are some songs that we cannot play live.
Sachin: Yeah that’s true, but what I meant to say is that this difference is going to be far less on the album than it was on the EP.
Kashif: I think firstly, there’s a lot of material in the album, and then more experimentation. I think with the EP we just went straight, and we made the simplest songs we could. And we didn’t explore too much. With this one, we’ve had more time so that’s why we’ve added a lot of ideas.
Plus, the way we’ve been recording hasn’t been a continuous recording stint of say two weeks or a month. It’s been happening over the last three months, and so we’ve had time to take one song at a time and try to figure out as many possible tunes with that song – what we could add, and what we could take out from it.
The EP now seems simpler. At that time, even that was a fresh idea so we did the best we could. But now, compared to that, the compositions on the album are a little more complex. Not intentionally, but sometimes it just happens. You get into the jam room, have a lot of ideas for one song and then you have to get them structured.
Noopur: Okay, more importantly, can we expect any collaborations on this album?
Khalid: Yes, many collaborations. We’ve got Rama (Ramanan Chandramouli) on the album. Even a Saxophone collaboration. And a couple of other friends.
Noopur: Favorite venues to play in – in the city and out of the city?
Khalid: I think we had a fabulous gig at The Humming Tree when we did play there. Definitely one of the best venues, the ambience is very good.
Sachin: One place for me that stands out is CounterCulture. I think that is one of the best in terms of everything. I like it. It’s my personal favourite. After that, I like the way B Flat works. It’s very standard – you come, play and go back.
Kashif: Yeah, it’s CounterCulture. And I also think B Flat, off late, is the best venue sound-wise. But CountercCulture because of its feel. It’s a feel-good too – we launched our EP there so we have a bit of an emotional attachment to the venue as well. Plus, we like hanging out with the people who run that place.
Noopur: … And out of the city? Any venues?
Sachin: I like High Spirits, Blue Frog.
Fidel: Honestly, we haven’t really played in a lot of venues in India. But amongst the few places that we have, High Spirits is definitely on top.
Kashif: The gig in Hard Rock Café, Mumbai was good.
Noopur: Have you guys performed at festivals? Which festival was your best experience?
Fidel: There is only one – NH7 Weekender in Pune.
Khalid: And we recently played at the Zero Mile Festival. Not many people but it was really good.
Fidel: It was the first time something like that was happening in Nagpur for everyone so it was interesting for us.
Khalid: They loved us, we loved them.
Noopur: Lastly, any upcoming gigs to look forward to?
Fidel: You should really look forward to the launch tour. Right now we’re concentrating on that.
You can contribute to Parvaaz’s Wishberry campaign at the following link: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/parvaaz-debut-album/
Photo courtesy: Parvaaz Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/parvaazmusic