Instep Today

Shamoon Ismail drops Brown Sugar EP

Instep Today
By Maheen Sabeeh
Mon, 09, 19

After Magic, as Shamoon Ismail releases his second EP of the year, Instep talks to the singer-songwriter/producer from Islamabad about his latest work and the response to it.

There are artists who take years before releasing an album or prefer to simply stay with the single-by-single trend that has increased exponentially with time. Others rely on corporate platforms to get their music out because the marketing capability of some of these shows is enormous and runs across billboards, multiple radio channels and several TV channels for a number of weeks.

But some artists releasing music independently show great consistency by putting out new albums or EPs – irrespective of the returns.

One such aforementioned artist is Islamabad-based Shamoon Ismail, who brought his own style of Punjabi blues to Diplo’s Mad Decent Block Party (2018) where names like Adil Omar and Talal Qureshi performed as the duo SNKM and the international artist brought his other act, Major Lazer to the stage. Playing in the late afternoon, Shamoon had the crowd, which goes to show how strong a following he has.

Since then, Shamoon Ismail has only upped his game by first releasing an EP called Cookie. From Cookie, the song ‘Marijuana’ fetched him a Lux Style Awards 2019 nomination in the Singer of the Year category.

Making an appearance at the LSA 2019 as a nominee, Shamoon may not have won but his spirit remains undeterred; he has released not one but two EPs this year. He first released Magic – consisting of three songs – and followed it up by releasing Brown Sugar, made up of four songs. Singing in Punjabi/English, if anything his latest offering shows a mature growth.

Speaking to Instep, he notes why there is a shift in the frequency with which he releases music. “The frequency has risen as before I was doing my masters in leadership and management. So, I couldn’t really give time to music as much as I wanted to. I was still making music but I wasn’t putting it out.”

As Shamoon Ismail tells Instep, with the exams behind him, his focus on music became an even bigger priority than it was in the past.

Magic and Brown Sugar collectively make up a full-length album while Cookie from which ‘Marijuana’ became a hit, was released last year, says Shamoon.

Brown Sugar, his latest EP featuring songs such as ‘Scheming’, ‘Late Night’, ‘Chal’ and ‘Back up Plan’, seems to have a different texture; almost atmospheric an environment sonically than his previous releases done deliberately.

Speaking about his latest release, from which songs were unveiled one by one with ‘Back up Plan’ released just one week ago, Shamoon says, “This is different from Cookie and Magic in ways that it was perhaps more about the music. Brown Sugar is lyrically different; this album tells a different story than previous releases. It’s about the other side of things, I would say than Magic and Cookie. Cookie was also different than Magic.”

As for production, says Shamoon, “I produced two songs (‘Back up Plan, ‘Late Night’) on the EP while Chal’ was produced by Rovalio and ‘Back up Plan’ was produced by Ghauri.”

Addressing a question about how he plans to publicise the EP and how he handles marketing of his music in a music world dominated by corporate platforms, Shamoon tells Instep, “Since I’m an independent artist, my music has a following and I have distribution; I give it to radios and platforms like Patari. Apart from that, it is mainly just YouTube and digital platforms like Spotify where I have an active fan-base. I give it to platforms in India, streaming sites like Gaana, Saavn and Hungama and all those.”

As for the response by listeners to his music, that is a combination of Punjabi lyrics primarily jazzed up with ambient, blues and electro sounds, notes Shamoon, “The response has been great,” he says with reference to Brown Sugar and carries on, “With all my music, it has received a great response. Some songs go ahead than others like ‘Marijuana’ from Cookie (2018) for example. From every EP, there is one song but overall I’d say, the response has been good. But it varies from song to song. My listeners understand it and take it well.”

As for playing at festivals that have sprung in Pakistan in the last couple of years, “When it comes to shows, I play shows. Two weeks ago I played in Lahore. Before that I played a show in Bahawalpur, another in Lahore, so shows keep happening. Until now, it’s the Punjab and Islamabad side. I haven’t played any shows in other parts but I’m planning to. For me, it’s not a city-thing; I would love to come to Karachi, there are a lot of queries.

So far, I haven’t played in Karachi but I will, I get a lot of love from Karachi.”