Instep Today

Jamal Rahman on the question of original music

Instep Today
By Maheen Sabeeh
Thu, 12, 18

Jamal Rahman, founder of True Brew TV, talks to Instep about the landscape of music that is not branded and what it needs the most.

Jamal Rahman, like so many of Pakistan’s independent subculture leaders, is a polymath. Whatever genre of music is put before him, he can handle it. While Rahman is certainly making news for landing Saqib Malik’s debut feature length film, Baaji for which he is producing at least one song and the background score, he has a lot else brewing.

Since last year, True Brew TV, an initiative featuring two formats of music (Live at True Brew and Singles) has released dozens of songs. It is an inclusive platform open to artists, many of whom have nowhere else to showcase their music. It is also a regular feed of good music that tells you what kind of musical styles are being explored by home-grown artists and who those artists are while providing them with a professional support setup.

The benefits of True Brew TV’s mere existence are many in the age of branded content but perhaps its greatest asset is Jamal himself who has kept the door open for all kinds of artists and is himself an accomplished music producer. Therefore, the appearance of artists such as Wooly and the Uke, Ali Suhail, Shajie, Cheems, Janoobi Khargosh, Shorbanoor, Gentle Robot, Jimmy Khan, Haroon Shahid, Mehdi Maloof, Sikandar Ka Mandar, Zoe Viccaji, Saakin, Mughal-e-Funk, VIP and Abdullah Siddiqui over the past several months is not a surprise but more like musical wonder.

Having released a curious version of Zoe Viccaji’s ‘Jis Ne Bhi Aana Hai’ from her first album, Dareeche and Saakin’s ‘Kundian’ after the viral ‘Saki-e-Bewafa‘ in recent days, Jamal is also working with Ali Sethi and has Baaji in his back-pocket as well.

Speaking to Instep from Lahore about the overall process of True Brew TV at length, Jamal Rahman revealed, “Going back to the format we have, Live at True Brew is our gig series. That’s when we hold a show and invite an audience, there’s a sort of interactive vibe. It’s really on the spot. Singles is without an audience and is recorded with one or two camera(s). It’s more geared towards people with a smaller repertoire.”

Jamal added: “With Live with True Brew TV, we need an hour’s worth of original material and not all bands have that. A lot of the times, a lot of artists don’t have a band. For them, we decided to have a more stripped-down series and I’ll play an instrument sometimes or call someone like Kami (Paul). It’s an acoustic sort of performance but without an audience.”

Saakin, the Islamabad based band who went viral with their debut single ‘Saki-e-Bewafa’, which they first performed on True Brew TV, recorded at Jamal’s studio and followed up with a beautiful music video have been roped in by filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat to produce the original soundtrack for one of his two upcoming films. Not bad for an independent platform.

Nearly a year later, as the creator of True Brew TV, Jamal admitted that we have to somehow change the perception that good original music doesn’t exist in Pakistan.

With albums expected from Khumariyaan, Chand Tara Orchestra, Mughal-e-Funk, The Sketches, Poor Rich Boy and Jimmy Khan’s Tich Button, 30 by Strings, an upcoming Umair Jaswal record, it is true that original music is on the rise. So why is there then such a strong disconnect that people believe that original music is not being made.

“This is all a question of distribution,” Jamal responded. “Everything is on the Internet. Everyone, when releasing something, is on the Internet but how much exposure do they get? How much information is out there about the material that’s being released? You’re well in the know about how much material there is and yet people are saying there’s no new material being put out.”

Jamal noted further: “First and foremost, the biggest thing is how much of the press is covering in a wider format that is outside the ambit of corporate. How much are they covering people who are making their own efforts to release their music? The answer, frankly, is that most of them are not.”

According to Jamal, “None of the other publications seem to be doing it. There’s no dedicated music magazine that covers the entire spectrum of music. Everybody’s chipping at it and throwing their music out there and marketing it as best as they can. Also, the Internet is saturated with entertainment and news and so many other things that people are watching and reading. So how does your music come out? How many people are you able to reach? If you don’t sponsor something on your Facebook page, it won’t even get to your friends, so even if you have 10,000 people on your page, only 5 will see it. That’s how Facebook works.”

“But I think the biggest question I want to raise is not of exposure but just that how much of the music that is being released is being talked about. How wide is that coverage? It shouldn’t just be the established bands. It should be all bands, even the bedroom producers, indie producers. That conversation needs to come out in the open and the only way to do that is to have more people write about it and maybe magazines pick it up. We’re at 36 songs since last November, that’s like three or four albums and we try to have as much diverse music including electronic, pop, rock and pretty soon we’ll have folk music. We’re trying to make it as open as possible. People just need to tune in…”