MAKING MUSIC WITH THE CHEAPMUNKS

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ANUSHA BAWANY REHEARSES WITH SUHANA BALOCH AND MEHAK TEHERANI OF THE CHEAPMUNKS AS THEY PREPARE FOR THEIR UPCOMING GIG.


Five years ago, while I was still at University (and had access to YouTube), Facebook was flooded with links to these two young girls from Karachi, Suhana Baloch and Mehak Teherani who were mashing up Indian and English music and catching everyone’s attention. The Cheapmunks, as they called themselves, became an overnight hit and were the talk of the town. Their duet of Hum Dum and Say My Name was catchy, creative, and most of all, very original. But sadly, after a couple of gigs and a few more innovative mashups, I never heard anything more from this dynamic duo…Till now!


On February 4th, Suhana Baloch and Mehak Teherani are coming back with a one-night only gig that has all of Karachi buzzing! I got in touch with event organizer Sarah Ajmal of INFUSION and shared in her excitement to see these two, no longer young girls but now two super talented women, come back for a night of some truly fun music. I hung out with the ladies while they rehearsed, and chatted with the budding stars about everything going on around them.

Baloch and Teherani have a clear passion for singing, and have been at it since childhood. When I asked them how this all came to be, both girls modestly admitted it came about out of the blue. “One night I was staying over at Mehak’s and we just decided to record a song and share it with our friends for a good laugh. It somehow ended up getting a lot of hits and apparently, we got famous!” admits Suhana, whereas Mehak openly stated “boredom got the best of us!”

As the girls rehearsed, I was captivated by their voices; Suhana’s voice was hunting and raspy, an almost chilling imperfection, while Mehak had a more pitch perfect tone that screamed precision. I sat down with Suhana as she took a break and asked where the original idea of the Cheapmunks,and the concept of synthesizing two genres of music came from. “I think it’s a bit of everything. Sometimes it’s just the lyrics that go, sometimes it’s the feel, sometimes the rhythm and a lot of times random songs that don’t fit too well together somehow go with the flow. It was Mehak’s idea. She was trying to be funny but in all honesty her mashup skills are pure genius. Even the name was her idea. If only we knew we were getting famous with that name, we would have thought it over more!”

But the long break between their first few videos and now has left audiences wondering what happened and where these talented girls have been hiding this whole time! Suhana explains “Our claim to fame was never intended, it just randomly happened for us. So nothing was planned. We didn’t know where this was going or where we should take it. Secondly, Mehak was studying in the UK so she was hardly ever around, and I got busy with theatre too. So I suppose at that point singing wasn’t really our first priority and it wasn’t something we thought of pursuing full time.” However, since Mehak has returned to Karachi, their family and friends have insisted they should do a come back, which certainly got the girls thinking about it. “When Sarah Ajmal shows up with the brilliant idea of a music gig night,  we just couldn’t refuse.” 
                        Then                                                                Now

Sarah Ajaml is a friend of mine, and so I was lucky enough that she opened up her home and their rehearsal time for me to come listen in and hang out. We talked a bit about her brainchild INFUSION, her eye for talent and what to expect this Wednesday night. “Infusion is my own creation” says Sarah “It’s going to be an events and a PR company, which will include everything from parties, music gigs, movie nights, choreography for weddings and much more.” She explained how her motivation behind starting something of her own was family. “I took this stand and I’m doing it for my father (late Mohammad Ajmal Afzal) who was my backbone and who I lost about four months ago. I will do anything to make my parents proud and now time has finally given me the strength to get up and become something.” Music is Sarah’s passion and she first heard these girls perform years ago when they had just become The Cheapmunks. “When I got to know Suhana and I heard her sing one random night I realized – Wow, this girl is legit talent!” That was when Sarah realized she had to merge her love for music with Suhana’s talent.

Watching them at rehearsal, you could tell the friendship between all three was the upside, as everyone was honest and simultaneously respective of each others opinions. “Suhana and Mehak both have amazing talent. Their voice touches your soul. But when I have to be, I’m brutally honest with them. If I don’t like something, its my job to let them know and help in any way I can” admits Sarah.

Both girls admit that the nerves and excitement are overwhelming, as they haven’t performed together live in a while. But that’s where weeks and weeks of rehearsals, trial and error and audience reactions come into play. “Since we don’t have any of our own music, the most difficult part of rehearsing is the initial stage of locking down good songs, because that’s what makes or breaks a performance” explains Suhana. Even Sarah admits, “I’m very nervous! There is too much to do and my stress levels keep increasing, but because I believe in them, the girls and the band,I have some peace of mind, and am expecting a good turnout! I genuinely hope people who come enjoy every minute of it. Fingers crossed!”

And of course, there are always expectations from fans, new and old. “We’re hoping for a good reaction, and to keep the audience entertained, which entirely depends on our performance. People are super excited to have the Cheapmunks perform after so long. Come backs are scary, it’s like performing for the first time all over again” the girls explain.

After spending some time with the girls and listening to them create music, I could see their passion for singing come through in their performance. Their talents are highlighted by the fact that they are having fun, and their spirits get you in the mood to sing along. I love the idea of a gig, an informal setting and live music, and cannot wait to cheer them on live! So what should we expect from this gig? Some old school, Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake? A new favorite, Happy by Pharrell? I guess you will have to come see for yourself. For all Karachiites who can appreciate the immense flair these girls are offering, check out their Facebook event and get tickets ASAP! I’ll be the loud one in the front, proudly singing along! g

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