By Insya Syed
Instep, The News on Sunday
October 6th, 2003

The newly opened Cafe M Live is where the entertainment savvy crown of Karachi is heading towards. The Cafe, ever since it opened around month ago, has been hosting a series of unplugged concerts with top bands and singers of the country The Cafe is bringing a unique acoustic in-the-round format to audiences across the city by this series that is being recorded for ARY Digital. They plan to bring in some of the known and not-so-known bands, musicians, and singers to their cafe for unplugged performances.

The first performer on the series of the unplugged concerts being organized by Cafe M-Live was Ali Haider as I did not attend that performance: no comments.

For those of you who might not be too aware of what unplugged music is; here’s a little info. Apart from the usual electric guitars, keyboards and different instruments, music lovers experience pure acoustic music. And take my word: it’s a thrilling ride! The best thing about the series is a 45 minutes documentary that will have fans, celebrities, and people talk about their favorite band or musician.

On the 6th, 7th and 8th of this month a band that seems to be the biggest up-coming musical act of the country performed to an audience that went wild on all the three days! So extraordinary was the response that the management is planning to fly the band in again later this month on “popular demand”.

The guest list on the first night included Ahmed Jahanzaib, Adnan Siddiqui with his wife, Shakila Khurasani, Ali Tim, Hammad & Aiman from AKS. Nida Kazmi and Shahzad Mughal. On the second night it was once again Adnan whom I’ve heard has become good friends with Ali Noor. Where as the third show was attended by Nini - VJ on Indus Music, Junaid Jamshed, Tanseer and Asad Ahmed from Karavan.

As soon as Noori appeared on stage, the crowd was hypnotized. Lots of light, lots of shinny stuff hanging from the ceiling, only added to the excitement that had been building up almost before the music. The songs kept coming and the crowd of around 80 kept screaming. The intensifying performance began with Tum Hans Diyay. The video has been creating waves on all the private channels since its release. It was only after this song that Ali Noor realized that it was a really spontaneous audience that they were playing for he kept turning towards Ali Hamza (his younger brother who’s the lead guitarist of the band) to show his amazement by saying things like “Is this really happening?”
Then they moved on to the title song of their un-released album, Suno Kay Main Hoon Jawan. After the mind-boggling performance Ali Noor made the crowd all happy with the news that the album will be out in December-January. Let’s just wait and see if it holds any truth. As the band has been making and breaking a lot of promises since quiet some time now. Jana Tha Hum Ne, was up next. The video of this song is in the pipeline - going through some final touches I guess. In fact a sneak preview of the video is being offered on the much visited Noori website. The song has been shot at the Lahore’s Minto Park amidst a “flock” of surprised onlookers. The video has already made its premier on local music channels.

The songs of the un-released record just kept coming. All the biggies - Neend Aye Na, a punk rock Punjabi song, Dil Ki Qasom, Gana #1, Bolay,(this song has been penned down by Ali Hamza) followed. The Crowd loved it – there were enough cheers to keep the band happy and there was all the enthusiasm of an all-ages gig. But the hugest response came when Ali Noor started playing the first few bars ofMamva Re. I guess most of the crowd could relate to it. And as Ali Noor puts it, “I didn’t even have to sing Mantva Re and Turn Hans Diyay as the crowd was louder than me!” On the first night Ali Hamza was having some serious trouble adjusting himself on the high stools they were supposed to sit on. When he had enough he didn’t think twice and came all the way down to sit on the much comfortable floor But it wasn’t long when he was asked to go back up because the show was being recorded! The following nights Hamza’s chair was changed to make him feel a lot more relaxed.

Ali Noor chatted to the audience after almost every song, and even through some of them. But he wasn’t about to do all the work. Before long the audience was waving their heads on demand, singing when they were told to and screaming when they weren’t asked to! To sum it all up: the crowd was as hyper as possible! The show went on. The crowd was a throng of bodies, legs and arms suddenly appearing out of everywhere. Every band member played his part to perfection. Ali Noor, the sweet front man in a Levi s shirt kept the conversation going with the audience; Jafri the quiet but smiling guy was concentrating hard on bass; Ali Hamza, the gravelly funnyman passing shy smiles and working hard on the strings; and of course Gumby, the gruff, kept the lights flickering by his mind blowing and awesome drum solos!

After a short break to catch the breath the band came on again. But only to be welcomed by earsplitting rowdy shouts for the man - Gumby His drum solo could be best described as a thrilling roller-coaster ride. The way he rolled on the first night was mind-blowing! Going really loud and then bringing the sound to a minimum. Then going really fast and all of a sudden breaking into a slow rhythm! The crowd went ballistic!

The second night wasn’t any different from the first gig. But the crowd was in for a surprise. On the second show we had thunderous shouts for the extremely friendly chap, Ali Hamza. His two song performance of Gwaalmandi and Behen di Kakki were loved by the energized crowd. Although people were keener on listening to his much controversial song BC, he didn’t do it. This is pretty understandable if one takes into consideration the lyrics and plus the people who might not have liked it- Thirdly, that song was not supposed to be for the masses, Ali Hamza must have done it amongst close friends at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) and somehow the song leaked out on the internet becoming the most favorite downloaded song! He did handle the request pretty well though, with the help of witty comments like, “Mairee ammi mana kartee hain!” (My mother tells me not to do this song!)

It was almost over. But everybody knows that when a band goes off they’re going to come back on again. So they went, and then came back. They played two more songs and then it was over. But not just yet! We were called for the buffet dinner then which was totally appetizing and delicious courtesy M-Iive! A must mention is the chocolate moose that made a lot of people lose control over themselves.

All the three nights were jam packed from the entrance to the stage. From its outset, the series was aimed at ‘unplugging’ music from certain stereotypes: that it was staid, formal and hard to understand. The series, through its casual concert atmosphere, after-concert party (with free food and beverages), has achieved that goal. Each Unplugged concert is essentially an experiment, with different themes and a mixture of familiar and not-so-familiar music. It is an opportunity to hear the acoustic versions of music pieces not heard at other venues. It was a unique, fun classical gig experience. Hope to see more such events in the city.

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