• 02 Sep - 08 Sep, 2017
  • Mariam Khan
  • Interview

The first time he performed was with his sister in front of 500 people. “My first song was Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum which I sung as a duet when I was seven or eight years old,” Farooq Ahmed, the lead vocalist of Aaroh, reveals while he breaks into song.

It was soon after that he would kick-start evenings at family get-togethers. “My family and I were pretty much involved in it like we used to have mehfils and Ustad Nizamuddin Khan Sahib would come to our place to teach us,” Farooq talks about how he picked up music early on. He points out that it was because of his paternal uncle that he started listening to rock music. “It was my chacha’s routine that after he returned from office he would play Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd ” he shares from memory how his late uncle introduced him to western music. At home too, Farooq had unyielding support. “My dad was a huge fan of films so I was into desi music too,” shares the musician who had a taste of eastern and western music from a young age.

Another of his inspirations was his cousin. “We call him Sallu bhai. He had a band called Overdrive back in the early 90s,” says the Guns N’ Roses fan. “He would take me to his jams where they would play covers of Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Sting,” the singer talks about his guiding light.

Farooq thinks he is extremely fortunate to have received endless support from his family and friends. “My dad always encouraged me and has always been my driving force, my best buddy,” he talks about how supportive his family has been. “My wife constantly pushes me, so I consider myself very lucky,” says the father of two daughters who feels God has blessed him unconditionally.

Farooq outlines himself as “a simple, but principled man who wouldn’t compromise on certain things in life.” He is one for whom music is fun. “If I’m not having fun, I won’t do music because you ‘play’ it and playing is khelna. This is what I tell people too,” he talks about other musicians whose life revolves around chords and notes, but who miss enjoying the art. “Music becomes a part of life and all those who forget playing it, aren’t doing justice to it.”

The lifeline to this very line of work according to this entertainer are live musical performances. “Concerts are the heart of music. You need to have live concerts,” Farooq states, adding, “not doing live music will make musicians restricted to their rooms and studios. With software and tuners now, anyone can play music but when you are playing in front of people, you can’t fake it.”

If not a musician, “Farooq would not be himself.” He is one whose heart and soul is into music jams. “Musician is one who can sing anywhere. Like recently in an interview I played Na Kaho on a collar mic in this room only after setting up my processor,” the passionate soul puts it across. “Even if there is a mistake in a live session, so what, it’s live, right? We are humans too who can make mistakes,” he vocalises.

Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Farooq calls himself ‘a very inquisitive soul’ who wants to experience life in the garbs of other professions. “In the US I worked at Dunkin Donuts as I wanted to experience how employees are bashed,” shares the son of a pilot. After moving to the US in 2010, I experienced life. “I was always fond of guns. I go on a range with my gun and not simply fire shots but I go with marks too,” says the individual who is also into trout fishing.

A guest judge on the ongoing Battle of the Bands (BOB), Farooq has fond memories from the platform after all it was Aaroh that won the first season of the music battle. “It is a platform for upcoming artistes who need an avenue. In Pakistan, 99 per cent of the parents are discouraging their kids who play music by telling them they are wasting their lives,” he expresses, marking out that he is “not indifferent like others”. “I’m there for the bands and I want to help them as much as I can. At times I am way too straightforward and people do mind that,” reveals the hardcore entertainer who points out that if one needs professional help, they “should be ready for criticism”. Here, Farooq clears out a notion – “People have this misconception that in our country music can’t be live but in BOB the bands have performed live!”

The voice of Aaroh, Farooq points out that band members should not be jealous of their leading faces. “Every brand (read: band) has a pehchan. And the fellow band members should appreciate that. I’m extremely fortunate that Aaroh has always been closely-knit,” Farooq shares how each day spent in Karachi, he is with his band members, Khalid Khan and Jason Anthony. “I want my friends, Khalid and Jason to be around me,” and he shares a recent memory. “We were watching the best of M. Asif, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis’ bowling and Khalid shared a guitar riff he had made. Soon after we recorded a whole song with melody, and lyrics,” expresses the musician whose band “is always ready and prepared when it comes to music”.

Currently, our music industry is struggling, as Farooq asserts. “Everyone calls it an industry, but an industry is one that is in motion. I don’t think we have an industry yet because nothing is channelised, and there is no concert culture. Who are (we) dependent on? An organiser or a promoter. We need to have venues, small spots that can accommodate 300 people or so. For example if a band wants to perform live, like us, there is no venue and the venues that are available would demand such an amount that it isn’t feasible,” laments the vocalist, adding, “you can’t simply perform free every time, as money is an integral part and artistes too need something in return, for they need to feed themselves as well.”

He is one who marks out concerts to be a culture of their own. “Concert is a culture; it’s not just going and watching Journey or Maroon 5; it’s all the friends getting together, doing BBQ in the parking lot, and enjoying themselves and for this to revive here, it will take time,” he shares.

Farooq voices that music buffs can uplift the music scene. “For people, eating out is the only entertainment here. They would be willing to spend Rs. 2,000 on a meal but when it comes to buying a ticket for a concert they wouldn’t.” For you, who are reading, next time there is a band performing here and there, Farooq wants you “to make it a point and attend the show and encourage and support performing artistes.”

Farooq recalls an incident where again, he was experiencing life, his style. “I was driving Uber once in Philadelphia, when a group of hardcore, young musicians were enroute to a performance. I engaged in a conversation with them and told them about Aaroh. They saw Pyaar ka Jaal’s video and went crazy and were surprised why I’m not playing music in Pakistan.”

As for all those wondering when the music maestros will be back, Farooq reveals, “we are very choosy right now and are not compromising on 90 per cent of the stuff coming our way.” However, Aaroh “have done a song for Pakistan, Jeet Banjaye Apna Nishan which is about peace, love and victory. Along with that we have also made a solid song on a politically controversial poem.”

Farooq has a piece of news for you, the real fan. “Aaroh is back! But it all depends on our fans how desperately they want us; if they really want us, then we’re back!”