Charged with the goal to change the image of Sindhi people across the country, two university students started producing music in 2003 in order to convey a message to the wider public. They eventually formed a band, The Sketches, which essentially focuses on Sufi-pop music.
The band rose to prominence through “Coke Studio 4” with their song “Mand Waai” which was well received — evident by the feedback they received from the Sindhi population. The song, which is a kalaam by legendary Sindhi scholar Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, has gone viral on social networking site Facebook.
“A number of people have commented on our songs and they sound happy, confused and astounded that the message of peace and harmony that we wanted to convey through Sufi poetry is finally being heard,” added Samejo.
Inspired by various Sufi poets and local bands like Junoon and Vital Signs, The Sketches comprise Saif Samejo and Naeem Shah as vocalist and guitarist respectively.
Their journey was a long and tedious one due to the initial resentment that The Sketches faced. “Our fellows in university had anti-state tendencies and they kept blaming the army and the state for our miserable position. It took us a lot of time to explain that if they really cared then they should start doing something concrete rather than just nagging,” Samejo told The Express Tribune.
Once the band decided to produce music solely for the purpose of recreating the Sindhi identity, they received a number of threats for doing something unorthodox. “Comrades threatened us but since we were from influential families, nothing really changed,” said Samejo.
They released their debut album in February 2010 by the name of Dastkari — meaning ‘one’s own creation’. The album — which contains songs in Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu — comprises of ballads, alternative rock, Sufi and folk music.
They even produced a video “Kaanton Ki Dewaar”, which showed individuals holding placards with messages that they wanted to broadcast. The video presented a child with a football saying “I want to be Zidane” and another person had a placard saying “I changed my religion and now I am a human”.
Music for a cause
Although Samejo and Shah come from different professions, with the former working in the marketing department of the Sindhi newspaper Kaavish and the latter being a sculptor by profession, what unites them is their passion for music.
However, despite having stable carriers, Samjeo believes that a lot is yet to be done in terms of educating the masses about their culture. “For instance, many associate the practice of karo kari with the Sindhi culture. You pick up any Sindhi folk tale and you’ll find that women have always been choosing there own spouses and the concept of karo kari has in fact been imported from the Arabian and Iranian cultures. People can only be educated about that through their own poetry and music,” explains Samejo.
Adding to that, Samejo also said that it is due to the dismal state of present day Sindhi music that the behavior of people is not changing towards society. “Rock music came to Europe as a reaction to wars and now it’s our turn to start making good music before all the Sindhi channels kill whatever remains of the original Sindhi culture.”
Currently, The Sketches are working on their second album which is still in its recording phase.
Apart from that, the band also plans to get the cultural ministry on board and create a platform through which talented youngsters can be paid for learning and mastering the art of traditional instruments.