The first episode of Nescafe Basement 4 (NB4) was released in February featuring the cover of Jadoo Ka Charagh (JKC), it has received over 9 million views to date and we are still counting.
The song was originally released in the 90’s by the then popular band Awaz, sung by Haroon Rashid, with band mates Asad Ahmed as lead guitars and Faakhir Mehmood on the vocals and keyboard.
The song formerly was based on a desperate guy trying to find the love of his life, travelling through the seas and the forests just for her. The music was fast paced but not entirely rock, with the keyboard and guitar giving it the Middle Eastern feel.
Come 2016, other than the lyrics, the feel and the music has been changed entirely by Shahmir Quidwai, the lead vocalist and Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan (Xulfi) the producer of NB4
“JKC is a ray of hope that since its release in 1995 was waiting to be found,” Shahmir dramatically tells Pakistan Today over a cup of tea.
When Xulfi asked Shahmir to sing this particular song, the former said to the lateral that he wanted to see Shahmir’s soul in the song.
Shahmir was chosen for his aggressive vocals, being the lead vocalist of Islamabad’s renowned band ‘Dissbelief’.
Shahmir wanted to reinvent the song, not only into a rock song but into something that everyone could relate to, “I think as a country we are going through so much that running after a girl is the least of our worries.” He also says, “I heard the song a zillion more times (not that I hadn’t heard of it before).I wanted to put a purpose into the lyrics.”
He feels that there are many layers to an artists’ work, it reaches each individual at a different level. Nothing an artist does is limited to a single perspective and to him,, the lyrics of JKC were a solution to the society’s frustration.
“The person I represent in the song is a frustrated being who is in the ‘Justuju’(pursuit) for finding a solution,” he says, “This person is wondering what to do with life and all that’s happening around him.”
Shahmir thinks that in today’s age no one is truly satisfied, “We have a problem with everything. The youth is frustrated, values are dying, we believe what we are being told, even though deep down we know it isn’t true.”
All of this builds up inside of people and JKC is the release of that frustrated being, who is striving high and low in search of a clear path.
“We are the problem and we have to be the solution to everything too, but alas, we are used to playing the blame game”.
The original v/s the cover
Shamir was the last one to be recruited by Xulfi for NB4 and his song was the first to be jammed during the season. Xulfi’s needed someone who would be up to the task of singing this challenging song, “With the fast-paced verses and the melodic yet aggressive chorus, I felt Shahmir was the only one who could do it,” Xulfi shares with Pakistan Today.
He feels that Shahmir covers a unique genre of vocalists in the country, who have a forceful voice but can be heard clearly too, the words aren’t lost by the music or the energy.
“When I sang it I didn’t think of a girl. Hence, the aggressive screams, the rap, the highs and lows are all frustrated and are calling out to something larger,” Shahmir emphasises.
Xulfi gave him all the creative freedom which one could ask for from a producer, helping each other through the sessions, the song was finally produced, “During the creative process, I loved how I could take my parts and do everything as I willed while Xulfi guided me. Some of the parts I can own.”
As the song’s melody is iconic, they were sure they didn’t want to change it but they claim that the musical arrangement is pretty different from the original. “It is now a more aggressive rock arrangement which has a fearsome guitar solo with pure rock vocals and then the flute, dhol interlude that leads up to a signature NB ending.”
“Some of the ideas were entirely mine. I own them, like the beat drops and where we go to chorus to mellow the song and sherry came up with this amazing rifle” Shahmir prides upon.
The original singer Haroon Rashid was all praise for Shahmir too, “He did a great job. I could recall my youth in his vocals,” he said while talking to Pakistan Today.
Who is this Shahmir and what is he up to now?
An electrical engineering degree holder, Shahmir’s passion has been singing since he started from scratch in 2008. He joined the band Disbelief which is a Pakistani rock band based in Islamabad.
He has been working on English rock music ever since and promises to continue, “My degree isn’t my backup plan, I have burnt all my boats and I’m doing what I love now,” he smiles.
After his degree, Shahmir did work for an engineering firm but the greed for more music in his life took him places, “I wanted to work harder with music. My parents were very supportive once they found out that am serious,” he told Pakistan Today.
Shahmir along with the band Dissbeilef will be releasing a set of Urdu singles this year which is somewhat commercial. The songs are written by him and one of them by his mother, “My mom sketches and writes poetry. My dad is a writer too, it runs in the family,” he laughs. There will be a special dedication to the Zarb – e- Azab operation also.
Other than that Shahmir is ready to storm into the showbiz industry, be it modelling, acting whatever comes his way, “I am open to options. But don’t get me wrong I m not attracted to the glamour of the industry, but I would like to spread my wings,” he said.
He feels that artists are bigger opinion makers than politicians, “The more famous you are the more responsibilities you have,” he reflects.