Written by: Asif Akhtar
Some of the freshest sounds to come out of Pakistan recently, have been churned out by the promising new band, Malang Party, from Islamabad. As one of the harbingers of what might be considered a new wave of music in Pakistan alongside acts like rock ’n roll band Bumbu Suace and the indie alternative band Poor Rich Boy, Malang Party have played their part in smashing the worn out mold of Sufi rock and classical fusion. “Our music is a mixture of traditional and progressive sounds,” says Zeeshan Mansoor, Malang Party’s 35-year-old dreadlocked guitarist and singer, who was in the U.S. recently to play sessions for touring folk musician Arieb Azhar from Islamabad. We caught up with Mansoor, who was on his way to the 30th Street Guitar Store in NYC to check out some analog effects pedals. “We try to experiment musically by trying these traditional desi grooves with different arrangements,” adds Mansoor.
The name Malang, not to be confused with the Indonesian city but refers to a traveling dervish, fits perfectly. All three members of the band traveled the world before bringing their diverse musical experiences together in Islamabad in 2011. “I was in Newcastle studying music performance for the last two years, so I was in three different bands at a time,” 26-year-old drummer Ibrahim Akram tells us. The band’s 22-year-old bassist Zain Ali, who has lived in the U.K. and Australia also credits his sound to the shows he’s been to. “All the live shows I have seen have created this sonic mess in my head,” says Ali.
The band is vehement about being neither genre-specific nor political, even though their songs carry strong political messages. “We don’t fit in a single genre, so you can’t really call us a funk band, a rock band, a reggae band or anything like that,” says Mansoor. The result is an energetic stage presence with their vibrant mix of funk, rock, reggae and traditional folk. “If you really want to know what we sound like, you have to hear us live,” says Akram.
Highly charged songs such as “Barah Meel” and “G.P.O.,” with blunt and often acerbic Urdu lyrics tend to remain open to interpretation. While “Barah Meel” is about leading a reclusive life away from civilization, “G.P.O” is based around clever wordplay implying “Jee Piyo,” an anthem for barflies that also alludes to the General Post Office riots in Lahore. Most songs hint at grudging backlashes and mass frustrations, both political and economic. “We’re not trying to be a political band, we’re just trying to say it how it is – our politics is the politics of reality. That’s why our album is called Load Shedding”, says Mansoor referring to their first studio album that has been named after the common term for regular power outages in Pakistan. The band released their breakthrough track “Dil Jalay” in March with a music video that went viral and have just finished recording Load Shedding, which is currently being mastered for release in August.