Neighbourhood Music

Pakistani band Noori, which opened the South Asian Bands Festival last night, on how they want to make music and not a political statement

In the Pakistan of the early '90s, when gigs used to be a furious affair, Lahore-based rock band Noori was jamming in a basement located in a small plush locality on the Airport Road. They were creating music that did not deal with political turmoil or indulgent social philosophies with an aim to awaken the youth and create a revolution. Their songs such as Suna ki mai hoon jawan were about life, aspirations and what "was observed in everyday life".

But Ali Hamza and his bandmates did not know that they were pioneering a social revolution of sorts, which took Pakistani rock music to a new level. "We were a huge part of the brewing underground scene in Pakistan and people understood the importance of music, which is what we wanted. We don't sing about political issues," said Hamza, the bassist and vocalist of the band, who along with his brother Ali Noor on guitar, Fahad Khan on percussion and Saad Sultan on keyboards performed at the sixth South Asian Bands Festival at Purana Qila on Friday. Organised by Delhi-based organisation Seher and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the three-day festival is hosting 15 bands from India and neighbouring countries.

Noori has performed extensively in Pakistan and outside but this is the band's maiden India tour. "We have collaborated with many Indian artistes such as Anaida, Euphoria and very recently, with Hari and Sukhmani, but it has been a great response so far," said Hamza, who likes to experiment with a host of genres on stage.

While Afghanistan's first metal band, District Unknown, will growl today, Shillong-based Digital Suicide touted as a fresh progressive rock band will take the stage later. Another highlight of the festival is Blaze, a Myanmar-based all-girls pop quintet that has been in the news for their bold outfits and their attempt to probe the limits of censorship through explicit lyrics. This will be followed by Kathmandu-based band Jindabad, which produces a mishmash of pop, rock n roll, punk, jazz and psychedelic.

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