Profile: Mizraab

The dawn of the new age, a new era in music has begun. A lot of young talented artists are making waves and surging forward in the music scene of today. Mizraab is one of them. Having formed in 1999 the band have put together a stinger of an album which in their view is not meant for the masses but a certain segment, a segment of music listeners who have a feel for music.

Mizraab has been around for sometime now. Initially the band formed with Faraz on guitars and vocals, Khalid on bass and Akhtar Qayyum on percussions and lyrics in 1997. The band managed to record an album but the album, in Faraz's view, wasn't exactly the sort he wanted to put out. "The album was good but I felt strongly about re-doing it. Not revamping but re-doing it. I had no idea that Akthar would go out and release it, which he did. The album was called 'Panchi.' It had about nine songs on it. It did well but I wasn't expecting the album to hit the market," said Faraz. Faraz and Akhtar parted ways from there because of musical differences. "Akhtar had his own ideas and wanted to branch out so we decided to disband," Faraz explains the reasons of their split.

From there Faraz began working on a solo project. He put together a couple of songs and in the summer of 1999 he went to Lahore to record his project at Digital Fidelity Studios. For one reason or another studio sessions were not possible so Faraz decided to head back to Karachi. Six months later he went back to Lahore but this time the intention was to start afresh. That shocked everyone at the studio because they felt the material was good. But after Faraz unleashed his new work, all notions of keeping the old one were silenced. "It totally blew me away," says Jamie who was working at Mekaal Hassan's Studio at that time. It was sometime around the year 2000 when Faraz recorded and released "An Abstract Point of View" on Gnarly Geezer - an American based record label owned by well-known guitar player Alan Holdsworth. The album got rave reviews from musicians all over the world hailing Faraz as a great guitar find from Asia.

Along with Jamie, Bass player Khalid Mustafa and Irfan Ahmed on drums, Mizraab the band came into being. "My friendship with Khalid and Irfan go way back. I used to play guitars in a band called Live Sketches. Immu (Fuzon) was also involved in that project and Khalid, believe it or not, was the singer at the time! It was around the year 1995 that Khalid decided to switch to bass and he picked up from there. Irfan and I go back like 11 years. The entire time he's been with me and we've been working together on one project or another," said Faraz. Irfan has played sessions for Junaid Jamshed, Hadiqa and Strings while Khalid has played for Najam and Circle to name a few.

Faraz's fascination with music began from a very young age. "I picked up guitar very early in life. As a kid I always knew I had it in me. Adnan Afaq was my teacher then. He taught me all about chords and scales. From there I picked up on instruction videos of Steve Moarse, Paul Gilbert, not to mention my biggest influence Alan Holdsworth." It's been a long tread since then. Broadening his range of work, Faraz has featured alongside a lot of artists every now and then including Baber Sheikh. "It was sometimes in 1995 when we were chilling at Tariq Road. Baber made me check out the demo of Dusk. He asked me for help so I told him why don't we get together and do this right," said Faraz. Ever since, Dusk has made four albums, the latest of which was released last year called "Hearts of Darkness."

Faraz's compositions may be new for those who get their dose of music from Various FM radio channels within Pakistan. Deep, dark, intricately interlaced guitar work is fuelled by ear shattering drums and a pulsating bass-line. The album has a very dark feel to it. It's a very heavy album with a lot of vocal experimentation. There are some tracks that have you on the edge of your seat. Tracks like "Janay Main" and "Aag" show the depth and variety of Mizraab. The entire album has been composed by Faraz. Adnan Ahmed has penned the lyrics with credits for "Panchi" and "Mayusi" going to Akhtar Qayyum. The album taps into the destructive bleeding that lies within. Mizraab paints a very dark and gloomy picture indeed. This album will definitely be hard to digest for some but for others it will be an album that sticks like glue with guitar riffs and solos ringing in their heads long after the stereo system has cooled down. Vocal experimentation is another highlight of this album. The album has shades of everything from industrial metal, doom, and groove so delicately interlaced and beautifully crafted that it becomes very hard to put this album into any one category. "Progressive Metal" to me sounds appropriate.

When asked about what Mizraab has put out so far, Faraz describes, "We have made three video's that are doing rounds on the television: 'Insaan', 'Meri Tarhan' and 'Izhar'. 'Izhar' was written for the World Cup. Other than that we have a concert coming up this month in Karachi. It will be our first concert as Mizraab. We are also working on a new song for the album. So far we have nine tracks. As far as bringing out the album is concerned, we have spent a lot of money bringing you the videos. We have been shopping around for a good deal with a record label. Hopefully we will finalize a deal this month."

The band has quite an opinion about sponsors, and like many singers, do admit that sponsors are not always a blessing in disguise. "Unlike the West we don't have record labels to deal with. But instead we have to deal with sponsors," says Jamie. "The problem with that is that sponsors usually want you to star in a jingle or make a song for them and that doesn't work for us. Michael Jackson is sponsored by Pepsi but do you see him writing a song for them and having it on the album? It is a fact, nonetheless that if we'd had a culture of record labels in our country the competition would have been far more cut-throat. But there would have been some creative freedom at least." said Jamie.

Starting from Nazia-Zoheb to Music Channel Charts (MCC) to Noori and Fuzon, music has come a long way in our country. But one attitude that none of the three generations could change is people considering musicians as children of a lesser god. This is a mindset, which like many other things in our system, may take forever to change. Faraz agrees. "The problem we face as musicians is that we are social outcasts. What we need to do is open up institutions that teach music. That in my view would help a lot and we need to educate people that this is an art form and musicians work just as hard."

Having been around for some time Mizraab hopes to, in their words, "inflict maximum damage" with the release of their debut album "Maazi, Haal, Mustaqbil." All of the musicians involved have a wealth of experience with them, which, one expects, will help in bringing out an album with musical brilliance.

At the moment, local pop music, which is going through a transitional phase, is extending a "Welcome" note to anyone coming up with "something different." Mizraab has competition with Noori, Fuzon, Aaroh, and EP: bands, which are making a healthy contribution to the buzzing local music scene. How Mizraab makes its presence felt and the dimension that its music brings to the changing scenario of Pakistani music will determine the duration of the band's stay in the music scene.

Zubair Haider
June, 2003
The News International, Pakistan