Soundcheck: Josie joy



Pakistani artists have arrived. Be they film-makers, writers, painters or musicians, they are on the world map, make no mistake.

The latest achievement in that context is song writer, composer, guitarist, poet and ex-Garaj band founder/member Imran Ahmed’s nomination for the American Independent Music Awards.

Imran has been nominated in two of the most important categories — Artist of the Year and Song of the Year. In the latter, he has been chosen for his track What Am I? He has also become the official artist for CBC Music Canada.

“Yes, it’s true. I have been nominated in The American Independent Music Awards aka The Josie Music Awards 2016 taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. I am nominated in two categories; Artist of the Year and Song of the Year (What Am I?). My second achievement is that I along with my band (Project X) have become an official artist of CBC Music Canada, where 1.3 million music fans around the globe log in every day.

Imran says he was first recognised as a song writer by Hollywood Artists Record Company USA at the age of 16. “I wrote a poem, Choose the Hard Way, which was selected from hundreds of entries and a song was composed and compiled in the album, Music of America.”

In 2004, Imran formed the classical/fusion band Garaj and released a self-titled debut album. The band soon established a name in the underground music fragment. “In 2005, I performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London to raise funds for the victims of the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. In 2009, I toured the US in collaboration with Live Vision USA and performed at prestigious venues.

“I don’t do music; I live it. It’s a lifestyle for me. I love Hard Rock/Metal and Garaj was just not me. Despite the fact that we (Imran Ahmed and fellow band member Karam Abbas) were getting a lot of recognition locally and internationally, the rawness and aggression of Rock/Metal music was missing. I’d rather write a song about believing in yourself (Light) and how drugs can kill you (Sniffing Glue).”

After returning from the US, Garaj was disbanded and Project X came into being with Melvin Clements on the vocals.

The early days

“I started listening to the early ’80s pop musicians like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Duran Duran, A-ha, Wham, and Tears for Fears. Metallica’s Blackened and Megadeth’s Set the World Afire (1989) brought about a major change in my life. Other influences included Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Def Leppard, Judas Priest and mostly The New Wave of British heavy metal bands.

“Unfortunately, I have no formal training in music. When I first picked up the guitar at 15, nobody told me that a guitar has six strings! I had a four-stringed guitar. I’m self-taught and back then there was no Internet or YouTube. We would rely on transcripts from guitar magazines, which was the only source of knowledge for musicians.

Project X

“I have friends in the music industry who are quite famous now but they are doing commercial music. I then formed Project X solely to fulfill my hunger for Rock/Metal music. It is the real thing for me, so that I can express myself. Project X is dark, it is different and it has the potential to make its presence felt.

“I am also on the verge of completing my album and I am busy writing some interesting material. Also, Project X has a new addition, ace drummer Mansoor Hasan aka Marty. We jam every other day and he and I have the same musical goals. I’m happy that I have found a like-minded band member, something which is extremely hard to find in Pakistan.

It’s good to experiment

Says Imran, “I might collaborate with some American and German artists. I’m in touch with some very talented singers on social media and they are willing to work with me in the near future. There is nothing wrong in experimenting with different artists/musicians as it enables you to learn and expand your knowledge base … who knows next year I might be nominated for the Grammys!

“To all the budding musicians out there, I would like to say this: there is only one Atif Aslam, one Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and one Sajjad Ali. Go find yourself, know who you are, listen to everyone but follow your heart. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else believe in you? Utilise the power of social media positively by posting your music and showing the world what talent you possess.”