Umair Jaswal - The celebrated singer

  • 14 Jul - 20 Jul, 2018
  • Ambreen Asim
  • Interview

Young, energetic and ambitious, he is a sight to behold whenever performing. Amalgamation of good upbeat music, deep hypnotic voice, right expressions, loads of energy, and strong body language, he is Umair Jaswal, whose singing potential is persuasive to say the least.

From Qayaas to him flying solo, it’s been a journey that spans nearly 10 years. It was Sammi that brought Umair into limelight and since then there has been no looking back for him. Having multiple awards in his kitty, including Rolling Stone Jack Daniels Rock Award for The Best Rock Band for Qayaas, the celebrated singer has his goals and priorities set for the betterment of Pakistan music industry.

Sitting in a quite corner of Café Mews, munching on his lunch in between our conversation, Umair is all talks whenever he is posed with a query, not leaving out even the minutest details. He likes to talk and makes sure that he does so with aplomb, not dragging the conversation with unnecessary specifics. Get to know Umair Jaswal as a person, a singer, his future plans and much more in the following lines. Read on…

When did you realise that your actual interest lies in music?

It’s been almost 12 years since I realised and it’s [been] 10 years of me making music.

It all started with my elder brother Yasir Jaswal (now a film maker) who had a music band Erta’ash, it was probably one of the best underground bands of that time. I would go everywhere with him as a cameraman, carrying a handicam and making videos of them performing and the crowds going crazy during the concerts and shows. And when I would see the crowd though the viewfinder in the handicam, it showed me the things with another angle. Thats’s where I was like, “Yaar it looks really cool. I wanna do something like this.”

So, it was an easy ride after that?

I was a very shy person back then and initially, I wanted to be a drummer. In those times, I remember that buying a drum kit was such a huge splurge for a college going kid. So I could never afford to buy myself a drum kit and ended up borrowing someone’s guitar to take guitar lessons. My teacher Farooq Shah (who was also the guitarist for Erta’ash) gave me the confidence for singing. He used to say, “You’re a vocalist, you have a rock voice. You should sing.”

Tell us about Qayaas. How did it form?

I was in university when we (I along with Kamran Farooque, Khurram Waqar and Shehzad Hameed) made this band. Qayaas was a very serious business for all of us band members. It went on for a couple of years and in the meantime, won some international awards including Rolling Stone Jack Daniels Rock Award for The Best Rock Band from Pakistan in 2010.

Was it after winning this award that you performed on Coke Studio?

One fine day, I received a call from Rohail Hayat, who I respect a lot. He was doing Coke Studio and got to know about Qayaas as we were in the news thanks to the Rolling Stone award. Hayat asked me to join the Studio for season 5 and that’s when I performed Charkha Nolakha.

How did your life as a musician change post Sammi?

I think it’s all about what He wants for you. I had been making music way before Sammi went on air but it sky rocketed somehow. No one, including me and the producer, expected that the song would get [such a] crazy response.The way it worked for me was phenomenal and that gave me a lot of confidence and exposure.

The other thing that also happened post Sammi is that the musicians who were my heroes became my friends. Even Rohail is a dear friend of mine. It feels really good when people who you take inspiration from become your friends along the way only because of your good and hard work and they start appreciating and respecting it. It means a lot. It’s a good validation.

It was only after Sammi that people started asking, Who is Umair Jaswal? Beyond that the fame kept on growing, making considerable changes in my life. But I believe that as a person, I am still the same. I still feel the same. I still feel this is just the tip of an iceberg and there is a lot to be accomplished. I want to leave behind a legacy. I want to revive Pakistan’s music industry, and it’s a very long journey.

Let’s talk about your body language, especially when you were performing Sammi. Does it come naturally to you?

It’s a part of me. I am inspired by people who’re energetic and expressive on stage. Rock music is about being expressive and the expression is not just the voice; it’s the amalgamation of aggression, energy and body language.

Which genre of music do you enjoy the most?

I was a rock music fan when I was a kid. But over the years, as I grew up mentally and emotionally, I developed a liking for qawwali, dance music and now I listen to every kind of music from ghazal to qawwali, to EDM to electronic to industrial to pop to rock to experimental… I even listen to Bollywood songs as long as they are good.

I don’t prefer any specific genre of music. I don’t make music thinking that I won’t touch a certain genre because I am a rock musician. I don’t want to restrict myself. I want to experiment with every kind of music.

Did you get any training in music?

I have never taken music classes nor did I have any music teacher. I have learned music by listening to the music and songs of western singers and musicians. I used to practice a lot. I would play Ali Azmat and tried to sing like him because I really like him as a singer and I respect him because of his utmost singing talent.

You have a very different, deep voice. Is it difficult for you to sing love songs that demand a soft voice?

Not at all! That’s why I believe in albums. Because when you make an album, you make sure that it caters to every genre of music where you can offer different flavours.

How different are you from Uzair (Jaswal), musically?

Very different actually! Our musical preferences are poles apart. He’s got a very sweet voice whereas my voice is kind of deep. Uzair does a lot of experimental music, a mix of sweetness and emotions. Whereas, I do intense music. So, obviously there’s a difference and I believe it’s good. Other than that there is only a difference of ‘m’ and ‘z’ (Laughs).

Do you believe in competitions? If yes then who do you think is your competitor in this industry?

I always believe in competitions as far as they are contributing positively to your growth as an artiste. There is a famous saying, “Work hard till your idols become your competitors.” I’ve been nominated alongside the biggest names in the country. I’ve won against them but I have always made sure not to lose the element of respect. I believe your downfall starts when you stop respecting your seniors and their work. People who say that there is no competition, are wrong. There is always somebody out there who’s working harder than you, who is more focused than you, so there is always a competitor out there.

Many singers have eventually become actors and vice versa. Do you think that is the route you might also take at some point?

There is an old saying that every actor is a musician and every musician is an actor as well. So, I think it’s very comfortable for a musician to become an actor.

I am not speaking for myself but you cannot do music the whole year, you cannot be on international tours all the time and acting is a good medium to try your luck when you take a short break from music.

Your favourite actor or actress?

Right now, I cannot name one but one person who has taught me a lot is Shan Shahid. I would say he is the pride of Pakistan. No matter what people say about him, he is one of the best actors Pakistan has ever had.

You and Uzair are very vocal about the hindrances musicians and singers are facing in our country these days. Tell us about that?

I think that our music industry is the most divided. Take for instance our fashion industry; they get united on a platform and do fashion shows. Then there is our film industry that is again building itself. There is a need for our musicians to get united, too.

I want to organise music festivals in Pakistan on large scale where our legendary musicians can participate. I believe that if Pakistani youth thinks that I am doing good music-wise then it’s my responsibility to leave behind a legacy.

You are talking about something so big that has never happened in Pakistan.

Yes, because it is the need of the hour. I am trying a lot [for it to happen]. I am on very good terms with musicians and I have been trying very hard to kickstart it from Islamabad to showcase the talent of Pakistan. I think we will make it better with time.

Your favourite singer and song of all times?

It is very difficult to name one but I think Abida Perveen is a living legend. Bohat dervesh khatoon hain. The message of humanity and spirituality that she spreads through her music is just phenomenal. I call her maa ji.

Any crazy fan encounter you want to share with us?

There are many. There are fans who actually come to my house with marriage proposal. (Laughs)

Your Karachi trip, I believe, was heavily marketed. It was everywhere on social media. Is it a change in your marketing strategy? You have never done that before.

It has a reason. Earlier, I was a band member and could not take any decision alone. Now, I believe that marketing is the most important thing that you can do after producing and releasing something. Time has changed now as everything is digital, so you need to create a hype in digital world and for that you need a team, you cannot do that by yourself. I think all credit goes to my team. I have realised that jis ka kaam, us hi ko sajhay.

How different is the audience of Karachi from the one in Islamabad?

I love Karachi, to be very honest. I have my biggest fans in the city and I think the love that Karachi has shown me, I have never seen it anywhere else in the world.