Blurring Borders

Mekaal Hasan, founder of one of Pakistan's primary Sufi-rock acts, believes the future of their music lies in India.

India is the best live audience we have. In Pakistan, there are no live shows. Live music is dead there and musicians who perform are an endangered species. Since the Pervez Musharraf government's ouster in 2008, there is heavy censorship on art and culture in our country," says Mekaal Hasan, founder of the Mekaal Hasan band.

The band's name explains his role in the group, with Hasan being the binding force right from its inception 12 years ago. This guitarist with his jazz-rock influences complements the group's eastern sensibilities. "The other members are more attuned to traditional Indian melodies and Sufi, whereas I am more into rock and jazz-based textures. This combination makes our sounds fresh and less typical," he says, minutes after their first show at Natraj Gardens in Mumbai on Sunday. Like most of his compatriots, he too has found India to be a rebound ground for their music. As part of its current tour, the band will perform at Blue Frog in Mumbai on Tuesday and in Delhi on January 13 and 14.

They have been at the forefront of Pakistan's Sufi-rock brand of music, and have earned a formidable following in India. And to their credit, much of their original sound remains undiluted, unlike that of their peers such as Aatif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Shafqat Amanat Ali, all of whom have left Pakistan to make India their base and whose music has now been affected by conventional trappings.

Hasan takes much pride in this fact but he also laments about opportunities that went by. "We never went commercial, and kept ourselves out of categorisations. This is why we have never been on the same page as the other Pakistani musicians. We have also missed out on a lot," he says.

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