"I make music with an intelligent attitude..."
  By Fareeha Rafique

Khalaa may not have been an instant shot to stardom, but not many can lay claim to fame with their second single released. Manwa re's instant appeal made Ali Noor something of a household name. Tum Hans Diyay, the third single recently released shows diversity is definitely part of Noor's style. Having worked in the music industry for some years now, Noor with his band noori is all set to release his first album. With Muhammad Ali Jafri on bass and Gumby on drums, Noor says his band is now complete. Here, Noor together with the rest of the band talks to TNS about his music and why it has taken so long to put together their first album.

The News on Sunday: Which was the first song released by noori?

AN: Khalaa was the first song. It was released around three years ago. It was the first serious step as noori, it was also our first serious try at producing an Urdu song. My brother, Ali Hamza worked on it with me. He is now studying in LUMS and is not working with noori at present.

TNS: And after that Manwa Re was the next...

AN: Manwa Re was released about two years back.

TNS: Your next release, Tum Hans Diyay has come after a long gap...

AN: There's no point taking out a single until you have an album coming out. Over here we don't normally have singles released like they do abroad. Actually Manwa Re was never really meant for TV. It was meant for a film that never materialized, so I released it for TV. And it became a hit! It's not my style of music, left to me I would rather not put it in my album.

TNS: What is 'your style of music' then?

AN: noori is a rock band -- our music is fairly intense.

TNS: How did you get into music?

AN: My mother is into classical music. My grandfather designed a musical instrument, the saagar beena which my mother plays. My mother is more of an academician in music, she's not into performing.

TNS: What was the concept behind releasing the Polo album - Horsin' around?

AN: It was an album made in four days! I didn't know a thing about Polo. Condor sports asked me to make the album. For me it was like doing a legal case, I had to come up with a completely customized job. It was not an advertisement for Polo, it was proper music. I was doing a lot of commercial work at that time, so I was asked to do that. Plus the fact that I can do english music well and not sound as if I'm trying really hard like other people.

TNS: How did noori come into being?

AN: noori came into being when my brother and I sat down and thought we can do urdu music. After that we wrote a lot of urdu songs (this was around '93/94), and we decided to do something about it. We decided to call the band noori not because of my name but because of a concept. After my brother got busy with LUMS I continued noori on my own. The songs on the upcoming noori album are all written by me. Now that we've got our band together we'll be writing songs together

TNS: So would you say that this is more of an Ali Noor album and not so much a noori album?

AN: You could say it was until two days ago! Now that we have Gumby with us, things are different. The song writing aspect has always been mine. The album will now have more input from Gumby as well, compositionally, so you can say it's a band album

TNS: Why has the first noori album taken so long to take shape? Musically, you have received recognition ever since Manwa Re came along...

AN: I wanted to do my own work so it's taken two years. I knew that pop music in this country is very short-term, so I did my homework and put together songs that would be lasting. Plus I had to put together a core group to work together. Prior to Gumby coming in I was playing separately and telling the other guys what to do. Until now I had session artists. Gumby was playing with Junoon before this, he's the most senior artist among us.

TNS: What is the new album going to be like? What sort of music will it feature?

AN: It's called Suno Ke Mein Hoon Jawan. It's fairly diverse, it has heavy as well as soft music. I don't think there are any 'filler' songs on it, unlike most other Pakistani albums. I've got the best musicians working with me now. Gumby is the most experienced artist among us. He's done lots and lots of tours. He's done about fifteen hundred shows the world over. He's been performing professionally since he was thirteen when he started playing for Aamir Zaki and Junaid Jamshed.

TNS: Gumby, how did you decide to switch from Junoon to noori?

Gumby: I was a session player with Junoon. There has to be more to music than just getting paid. I have a lot of ideas, and Junoon has its own sound of music. For example, the tune of the Junoon song Zamane Ke Andaaz came out of a latin tune I play when I'm warming up on drums. The closest I ever got to playing with Salman was on that song. I had also been working with Ali on his solo project which never came into being. The new album they've released has some of the tracks meant for Ali's solo project. I just thought I wasn't working very creatively with Junoon. I thought Ali Noor's music which I heard was very creative and versatile. Every song is different from the other. With Ali and myself, besides the fact that we also get along very well, what we have in common is that music is the priority with us. I want to do every different kind of sound under the sun. I think an album should be versatile the way Ali's is. When you have to stick together in a band you have to have something to keep you together besides the money -- and that is the music.

Muhammad Ali Jafri: We keep an open mind, one thing leads to another.

AN: noori is actually a concept, an ideology that I believe in. We're not just entertainers.

TNS: So what is the ideology?

AN: noori means 'full of light'. I try to take this light as a new way of looking at things in terms of ideas, lyrics, shows, everything. I don't want to get too philosophical about this. I think with the passage of time people will be able to understand the concept.

TNS: Which is your personal favourite song on the forthcoming album?

AN: Every song is like a baby. I like every song, how can I have favourites. I can say with guarantee that none of the songs have any flaws. We do not compromise on quality and aesthetics. In terms of variety as well it has a lot to offer, there is a Punjabi song as well.

MAJ: I feel the same, no favourites.

Gumby: I have some favourites as melodies, I'm very excited at the prospect of adding my input.

TNS: Do you feel every album being released nowadays has to have a Punjabi song on it, is that why a Punjabi song is there?

AN: No, no, not at all. There's just one Punjabi song. And that is one of a kind. We haven't heard a Punjabi song like it. It's punk-rock. I write music for the masses. It's inspiring music. This album will definitely make some waves. It's simple, lyrically naive with simple ideas. The next one will be very complicated. We'll take the listeners with us, we'll make them evolve with us.

TNS: Do you create fusion music as well?

AN: No, I'm not into fusion at all. I'm a song writer, I'm not into fusion. We write songs to ensure ideas get communicated. Let's put it this way, ours is music with an intelligent attitude, but with appeal to a wide variety of listeners.

TNS: What do you mean when you say wide variety of listeners?

AN: Not as in listeners of different genres of music. We try to come up with some ideas that at least try to resonate with the idea of music that people have. Generally speaking Pakistani music revolves around two or three emotions, if not just around one - and that is love. It's very restricted, by and large. We're about ideas. We're trying to find better and more effective ways of exploring the scope of music, involving the listeners along the way.

TNS: What do you feel about the current Pakistani rock and pop music scenario?

AN: I think I've said enough about that already!

Gumby: First of all, you can't justify good or bad music. I personally do not find much substance in a lot of music being created here. It's all formulated, it's about a certain kind of trend; you either go with it or you create your own. As a musician I feel this is an issue. I think a really balanced musician in the modern age is Sting. He is accepted by all categories -- musicians as well as masses.

TNS: Is Sting your inspiration?

Gumby: He's definitely my inspiration.

AN: Mine too!

TNS: How many live performances have you had this far?

AN: Haven't had that many. The initial songs we wrote were not very performable. The recent Food Street show we had was an experience, it was just a bad day for us. Live performance is something you learn along the way. We have seven shows lined up for Lahore, and some for Karachi as well. People are asking for shows now. It's a great feeling to know people like us for our music, it's an affirmation for us. We're not desperate any more, like we were when we started out, thank God. Now if we get fame we'll feel like we earned it. We have been the most jinxed band in the history of Pakistan.

TNS: How do you rate the importance of good videos and live performances to the success of a band, besides albums?

AN: Both are very important. The type of videos that come out now are very stereotyped. We might make one such video, for sponsors, but not more.

Live performances are the way to make money as well as interact with people. Videos are used for getting people to come to concerts. We are very clear that our videos are what we feel is interesting, an extension of the song. Album sales are very important to familiarize people with your music - you don't make money from album sales. The Internet has been the most powerful factor as far as contributing to our popularity is concerned. I think we're going to be very popular abroad, initially at least. We are already working on the videos for the upcoming album.

TNS: Do you work under sponsorship deals?

AN: Yes, we do. We are doing our work with sponsorship even now. But nobody is allowed to interfere in our music. We will continue to work on our terms, nobody will be allowed to put up banners at any concert of ours

TNS: What do you think are the ingredients that go into making a good album?

AN: First of all a good idea, an objectively worked out idea. Secondly, an immense amount of intelligent hard work. And third, a good aesthetic sense.

TNS: What's next after the album?

AN: Next album! Concerts, tours, videos...fame, girls ...the whole scene! (laughs).

MAJ: We will try to make good music, not just make money.

Gumby: I just want to be famous. I take my music very seriously.


Courtesy Intep, The NEWS International