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Pakistan-based Mekaal Hassan Band has been at the forefront of Sufi-rock brand of music in the country, and has earned a formidable following in India as well. Like most of his compatriots, the outfit has also found India to be a rebound ground for its music. As part of its current tour, the band will perform at Blue Frog in Delhi on January 14. "India has the best live audience. In Pakistan, live music is dead 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," says Mekaal Hasan (in the picture above), who founded the band in 1999.
To the band's credit, much of its original sound remains undiluted. Hasan takes much pride in this but also laments the opportunities that went by. "We never went commercial, and kept ourselves out of categorisations. That's why we've never been on the same page as other Pakistani musicians," he says.
Hasan also sees India as the best place for creative collaborations. "We speak the same language, sing the same ragas; it's not the same in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Moreover, India is the best place for indie music at the moment," says Hassan, whose song Chal Bulleya was a runaway hit. He names his Indian influences as RD Burman and Mumbai-based rock band Indus Creed, and reveals that he is in talks with Bollywood composer duo Vishal-Shekhar for a collaboration. "There are hardly any record labels in Pakistan that promote new music and we had to spend money to release our last single," he says.