THE RETURN OF NOORI

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Why did you go underground for a while?

Ali Noor: It’s not a question of being underground, as we have been performing for the last seven years. It’s basically that we are dealing with a very, very complicated scene where artists have simply stopped believing in pushing out their own personal music. I would like to define personal music as that which is not “commissioned” music, such as songs made for brands, films, OSTs or even non-commercial songs made with NGO’s for social causes. A “personal song” is one that you write whenever you experience something noteworthy in life like if something pissed you off or if you got seriously heartbroken or something like that. When you say underground you are basically asking why we suddenly stopped putting out our personal music like everyone. We’ve been pretty busy :)

Ali Hamza: I think the biggest reason was that we were focused on our live performances because I guess that’s where, for a professional musician, the real income lies. I guess it was on our conscious that you can do a shoddy job at that. And with thecircumstances in Pakistan, the kind of technical infrastructure we have, it is quite problematic if you’re serious and want to be slightly conscious about it and if you want to feel good that you’re making money through hard work. So that’s why we focused on our live performances for a good 8-10 years. We did not have creative blocks. In fact, inthe last 10 years, we have made about 15-20 songs. I guess there’s a right moment for everything.

What led you to go with a new drummer?

Ali Noor: I think it has a lot to do with our approach towards music. Our music is not driven by just playing instruments; it’s about the ideas and the thoughts that go into creative process. It’s about believing in a certain deep ideology. It’s nothing against themusicians we work with, but it’s hard for me to get somebody for any musician to get outof that comfort zone and get into the uncomfortable philosophical stage. You’re not just making music for the music; you’re changing lives or changing societies. You have to be much more than an artist. That’s why we write songs about Pakistan. It’s a huge driver for us. From that perspective, it’s very difficult for other musicians to deal with theexcess baggage that comes along with being in Noori. Ali Hamza and I have always shared the same ideology because we come from the same family and we belong to thebackground where we have been raised with a kind of a mindset that it’s important for us to believe in a space, in a country and in the people that live around us. It’s very important to prioritize this, and to bring everyone onto a similar perspective.

What’s the story behind the band name Noori?

Ali Noor: noori means something that is made out of light, and as much as people want to believe that it was named after me – my Mom’s also called Noor – it’s not that. Essentially, we wanted to use the word noori as something that sheds light on certain things. I think, as Pakistani’s, we need a new perspective. We need to get out of our current approach where we think everything we want to do and achieve is dependent on an outside force. We need to start looking inside ourselves. Individual change comes first and then collective change.

What led to the return of Noori?

Ali Noor: We have always felt that noori has always represented it’s own story, it’s own idea, and its own concept, and we simply haven’t been doing that for quite a while. Every time we go to concerts, we end up playing the songs we are famous for, that represent us, our concept, our thoughts, and that process went to a standstill for a bit. An album is a great way to depict our state of mind and is a milestone in our lives. It’s like writing a novel for a collection of short stories as opposed to an article in a newspaper. theultimate journey for any musician is having many small milestones comprising of such collections of their ideas at a given point in their lives.

Ali Hamza: We never went out of the music scene. We have been performing very prolifically within Pakistan, especially in the university and college scene. We also did Coke Studio and a bunch of other commercial activities. Now it’s time to put out our own baby.

What’s the story behind the Aik Tha Badsha video?

Ali Noor: the video was supposed to be for another song, but when they put it all together it didn’t work out so we had to write a new song and I literally called it Aik Tha Badsha because it was Badsha. We are crazy people like that.

How have things changed in the music industry since your last album?

Ali Noor: It’s been 10 years! I think since then it’s gone through like 22 summersaults if not more. What we have over here is like a formatted hard drive; someone needs to write some more software. We need to figure out that what the role of music and musicians have in people’s lives. I think we have to start being slightly more intelligent about it. We need good quality music, we need music that makes our hearts and minds change and evolve and go through whatever the next logical step of mankind is, because music is probably one of the most important things for people. So I think the industry needs to wake up to that fact.

Ali Hamza: It’s a mixed bag. We have seen the development of technology, which has made everything very hands-on and cost effective. It’s easier to produce music on one level. On another, it’s become very difficult because now everyone has the same tools, so then how do become creative about it? There is great talent, and the new kids that are coming up are very, very good, but they lack direction. They are technically and skillfully sound. Not having solid ideas and having something to say and making a pursuit out of what you want to communicate, that’s where the issue lies now. That was not a problem earlier and it has to do with the rat race that’s happening. Everyone wants to compete, everyone wants to be a part of Coke Studio and everyone wants to find a platform. People have forgotten expression. People are more focused on making it big and getting the success and getting the likes and doing their PR, and are focusing less on what they want to communicate with their heart.

What will be your breakout event?

Ali Noor: This time around, it’s become all about our belief that it is not about noori at all. This time the album is all about the people. I mean I don’t even know if we will be successful. I hope we will be successful in even just executing the release of the album. It’s becoming a very difficult thing and I feel that someone needs to set a new precedent.the breakout part will only be if we can successfully get enough people to believe in this country’s music and believe in original music. If people can still choose to buy a CD to prove their allegiance or belief in the system and in Pakistani music, that would be fantastic. Today, deciding to buy a CD is a very active decision, it’s not something one needs to do anymore, because you can always hear the music online, but it’s something that one wants to do to support their favourite band. You are choosing to be part of themusic industry when you invest in a CD. the responsibility of breathing new life into theindustry hence lies as much with the listener as with the artist that’s what we are trying to attempt.

The Pakistani fashion industry and Lollywood both seem to be booming. Do you thinkthe Pakistani music industry is as well?

Ali Noor: Not at all. Musicians are disturbed about what’s going on. I think we are very lucky to have survive this far, and that we financially could make our ends meet by remaining musicians and not having to go into acting and other various different things and that our passion is still intact. Everybody else wants to do it but they are feeling very suffocated and are not finding ways to put their music out. Not everybody is suicidal like us. And I don’t think music will ever become an industry like fashion and all because music is not meant to be for the, money its only its performance and other ancillary things that help us generate income. There is itunes here !!! If you start writing songs to make money, you will never be able to create art.

Ali Hamza: No, I don’t think that its booming like that, but it was never a industry, because industry’s have systems some kind of groups that come together to do a coordinated effort towards developing the industry. That has not happened in Pakistan in the music scene and at the same time, the greatest talent that there are lies in themusic scene. So, there might be something very unique that will come out of it. Because music is, after cricket, the thing Pakistan is known for and the talent very unique kind oftalent. It’s kind of a liberated talent, and not having that system has given people thespace to be a little liberated.

How do you think Coke Studios has affected the music scene in Pakistan?

Ali Hamza: It has been very effective in creating a great platform for musicians and giving them the opportunity to showcase their talent. But I hope the Coke Studio people give a space to artists to create new content and exhibit creativity. It should not only be about giving already existing work a fresh sound.

How do you think we can get young musicians into the music scene in Pakistan?

Ali Hamza: Passion and consistent work. Without it nothing happens.

What’s the Wake Up movement you’re conducting on social media?

Ali Noor: We want to say, “Wake up before someone puts you to sleep forever.” themessage is for both the musicians and the audience. I’m going to force you to buy my CD! I’m going to force myself to buy my CD.

Ali Hamza: Basically, we are addressing all the questions being asked across the music society, with the upcoming talent and the existing talent. Did you know that CD manufacturers are planning to shut down? So, yes, people do want an industry at theend of the day and they want some kind of system where there is some platform and some infrastructure available for the artist. So who’s going to take that initiative? theresponsibility of the musicians has to be to create good music now and I think that’s where the real work has to be done now.

How do you plan to do your launch?

Ali Noor: We are trying to do it across the country. On September 18th, we will have small sneak preview and we will put out some t-shirts, which will say something alongthe lines of I Believe in Pakistani Music. We will also perform in malls across the country.

Ali Hamza: Lahore is our home ground, so I think we’ll start here and then probably Islamabad and then Karachi. Karachi is a much bigger city and it’s where we started out. Once we launched initially, we were living in Karachi for 2 years and there’s a very dedicated fan following there, so I think we’ll need to spend more time there. Lahore’s a different kind of city. Everyone is a rock star her. We are planning to visit India for theNS7, which is the biggest rock festival there. Our album will release on September 30th.

What does the new album name (Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh) signify?

Ali Noor: It’s a story of a woman named Begum Gul Bakaoli Sarfarosh. Gul Bakaoli is a flower and there’s a myth that if you put that in front of a blind man’s eye, they can see. And Sarfaroshi means you can do anything. So this woman wants to make people see again, and it’s very interesting that noori means light and in eyes there’s light (Noor). If there is no light in your eyes then you can’t see, so that’s the connection between BGBS and Noori; that the Begum believes people have lost the Noor of their eyes and now we have make them “un blind”. We Pakistani’s are an apt example of that. I believe in Pakistan a lot. More than Pakistan, I believe in the potential of our people. I feel that Pakistan has inspired me enough to stay here, not out of compulsion or fear, but because I truly feel that that whenever I travel the whole world, the people I meet are caught up in the complexities of the more “civilized societies.” g

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