Pakistani Showbiz

From selling mobile phones to music

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With a brazened smirk stretched across their faces, twenty-one-year-old music pros confess selling mobile phones to purchase their first ever guitar. For emerging instrumentalists Sharoon and Haroon Aashiq, it bought them their dream. “Youngsters our age usually spend on expensive cell phones which is a necessity. We, on the other hand, wanted to buy the guitar which was our necessity,” Haroon said laughingly.

The identical twins hailing from Rawalpindi are the youngest in their family of eight siblings. Just like any traditional household, the boys grew up learning about religion, culture, norms and traditions.

They marked their attendance at Church each week where the duo became a regular feature with the church choir. Their active participation piqued an interest in music allowing them to pick up instruments such as the violin, cello, tabla and harmonium.

The love of melody encouraged the duo to passionately strum the right strings, grasping attention and gaining popularity within their small community. Sharoon, sixteen at the time, was told by the church instructor to take up professional lessons. He then made his way to Ustad Idrees Ahmed’s and Ustad Raees Ahmed Khan’s studio — a shanty room on top of a shop that sold music instruments in torn-down building nestled on the teeming 6th Road of Rawalpindi. Spending hours with the instructor, days went by unnoticed as they practiced until they mastered their skills.

Documentary filmmaker Asif Arbab

After two years of professional training, Sharoon now plays the violin, while Haroon plays more than ten instruments such as rubab, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, tabla, congo and piano.

In 2012, the duo formed a band called Misher Male — The instrumentalists. Haroon said that while there were several emerging singers, there were not many bands that were focusing on instrumentals. Last year their music gained popularity on social media that caught the attention of Asif Arbab who runs a private studio called ‘Montage Audio Studio’ in Islamabad.

Arbab, who has been a documentary filmmaker for more than 15 years and a music enthusiast is also an award-winning composer. Returning from LA in the 1991, He was a part of the music scene, until it died out. As the music scene in Pakistan revives, Arbab has dedicated a space in his studio for music providing young musicians to use the facility at a lower rate trying to encourage and churn out emerging talent.

While other studios are charging Rs 60,000 to produce one song, Arbab is charging Rs.25,000 for  audio recording and production.

Haroon and Sharoon might puzzle one with their appearance. If one walks out the door and the other walks in, they are so identical but their specialty of music instruments sets them apart.

“I know who is who when I see their instrument in their hands,” says Arbab.

The launch of their music online caught attention of Xulfi from Nescafe Basement who featured the musicians in the second season.

“I still remember, it was December 26 and I got that phone call to be a part of Nescafe Basement. I was speechless,” reveals Sharoon. The brothers were now focusing on mixing eastern and western tunes and reintroducing the violin and other sounds in a new manner.

With a growing international fan following on social media, Haroon and Sharoon have become a regular feature at corporate and diplomatic events.

“We completed high school and started playing. Our parents were initially not supportive and wanted us to pursue higher education and branch into lucrative professions, but we managed to change their perception,” says Haroon.

The musician adds, “The music industry is growing and platforms such as private studios and social media has changed the dynamics of the music scene for emerging artists.”

The boys also teach and train students at Arbab’s studio for violin and guitar lessons.

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