Kashmir determined to release sophomore album

December 04, 2022

Singer-songwriter Bilal Ali reveals details about the group’s upcoming album, Zindagi, and plans for a solo album.

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Kashmir, a music group featuring Bilal Ali, Vais Khan, Usman Siddiqui, Shane J. Anthony, Zair Zaki, and Ali Raza are friends first, and that musical chemistry shows in their studio work as well as live shows.

Universal shift, I’m in a groove,

And celebrity do not mean integrity, you fool.“ – ‘Rich Spirit’ by Kendrick Lamar

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laying before an audience that included Meesha Shafi, Atif Aslam, Fawad Khan and Shahi Hasan as judges during the resurrected Pepsi Battle of the Bands series in 2017, Kashmir saved the best song, consciously or unconsciously, for the last. With ‘Kaghaz Ka Jahaz’, the band had the audience in the palm of their hands as well as the music jury. Khan, Aslam, Shafi and Hasan (with the latter appearing as guest judge) gave them a standing ovation. Afterwards, Khan acknowledged that based on this song alone, he would’ve sent them to the finals and wondered where and why the band was hiding this gem. Shafi observed how she was proud of the band because the track was “super creative”. Both of them were right because Kashmir went on to win the competitive Pepsi Battle of the Bands. It came with certain perks from Pepsi, the sponsor of the short-lived music series (2017-2019).

When I met the group members later, Bilal Ali, Vais Khan, Usman Siddiqui, Shane J. Anthony, Zair Zaki, and Ali Raza as a unit, the one thing that emerged instantly was that these were six friends first, who preferred hanging out together, which set the base for them to come together as a music act.

Between 2017 and 2022, Kashmir went on to drop their debut music album, Khwab in 2020 and followed it up with live shows whenever the opportunity presented itself. They also share great chemistry, which translates on the stage, which drapes each concert in a kind of purity of music that’s not always the case in Pakistan.

Khwab was always going to be a success because it contained a number of songs the band had performed at Pepsi Battle of the Bands, which was a national platform. They also backed it up with a number of music videos, rolling out the album with the music video for ‘Dhoop’ that had masterful storytelling while being somewhat evasive, making fans guessing the larger context each time.

The torrential rains in Karachi and a global pandemic made it difficult for Kashmir to perform the way they used to but that was then.

Now Kashmir is getting ready to roll out their second album titled Zindagi. Understanding the mixture of music videos, live concerts in order to promote an album are kind of a necessity for younger band. Kashmir, however, is much more aware of industry dynamics. But they refuse to let the present rules dictate their plans.

“Post-Corona, it was difficult to get shows in the beginning but now its all back to normal. We just had a concert last week and two days before that. So, it’s been gathering pace.” – Bilal Ali on the resurgence of music concerts in the country after the global pandemic (SARS-CoV-2) coronavirus numbers slowed down and public events returned.

One clue lies in the fact that they have released multiple music and audio videos of songs that we never heard on their debut album Khwab. Since releasing Khwab, Kashmir has gone through everything from torrential rain flooding their studio to diligently releasing several tracks. After releasing ‘Chal Hutt’, Zindagi‘, ‘Ehsaas’, ‘Saaya’, and just days ago, ‘Shaam’, the album marketing plan has started rolling out.

Bilal Ali will continue as one of Kashmir’s biggest tools in its musical arsenal even as he releases a solo album or collaborates with another artist without the rest of the band.

Between 2017 and 2022, we have seen singer-songwriter Bilal Ali participating in other projects as well. What does this mean for the band? Is it going to be another sad story of a vocalist becoming famous and leaving the music group or will both thrive side-by-side? These were just some of the queries presented to the alternative act and Bilal Ali answered with utmost grace.

“Hello, new world, all the boys and girls
I got some true stories to tell
You’re back outside.”
– ‘N95’ by Kendrick Lamar

As Bilal Ali sees it, Kashmir as a group is not going anywhere, irrespective of his involvement with various projects such as ‘Nazaray’ with Uzair Ahmed, ‘Be Nishan’ (with Kashan Admani) for a feature film called Carma, ‘Aazma Le’ with Young Stunners, ‘Pyaar Banto’ (presented by KDSP) with Ali Hamza and many more other upcoming songs.

But our conversation begins first with Kashmir. “We’ve got four more songs,” begins Bilal Ali about the group’s upcoming LP. As for what the album is going for in terms of sound, Bilal observed that they won’t create the same sonic landscape.

“It’s a very different soundscape from our last album,” he confirmed, adding that while it is still a Kashmir album, the evolution will be recognizable. “We’ve always wanted to modernize our sound. We didn’t want to go completely electronic but have some elements and that was and has been Kashmir’ sound since we started. Even if you look at ‘Sab Saath Chalain’, which was released in 2013, it was more electronic than the songs we made later.”

The producer for this album, says Bilal Ali, are Sinan Fazwani, Zahid Qureshi, Grey Audio and Adeel Tahir. “We’ve finally found producers who understand us and our music. As a result, the process of making the music has been quicker than our last album.”

Without a national platform like Pepsi Battle of the Bands available to boost their songs, how will the new record be marketed? Kashmir is unfazed. Said Bilal Ali, “Our process of making music has never been reliant on a brand. It’s always been Kashmir’s unique sound. Obviously, television exposure makes some things easier. It creates more acceptability, but brands will come [and go]. We’re here to stay. We’re already in talks for our third album.”

With a slew of songs by Bilal Ali released sans Kashmir, is the vocalist looking to go solo? The singer-songwriter is clear about his musical priorities. “I am working on a solo album and a few collaborations, but the band is not going anywhere: it’s the first priority.”

The album release is often backed by a few music videos, which was the case with Kashmir’s last album. Will they follow a similar route? “Once we’re done with the audio releases, we will be releasing music videos of some songs but not as many as the last album.”

They’re finding their feet again after a global pandemic made it difficult to get out of the house, much less go to a concert.

“Post-Corona, it was difficult to get shows in the beginning but now it’s all back to normal. We just had a concert last week and two days before that. So, it’s been catching pace.”

It looks like while pioneering bands may be calling it a day, bands such as Kashmir are more than happy to fill that space. Whether they keep up the consistency is a test of time but it seems that Kashmir want to achieve landmarks that only come with releasing good LPs and not relying on past glory.



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