The press meet of The Mekaal Hasan Band was ambushed yesterday but in an interview done on Monday night, musician Mekaal Hasan emphasised how music transcends borders and why the band chose to turn into an Indo-Pak outfit
The Mekaal Hasan Band (MHB), formed in 2001 by Pakistani composer and guitarist Mekaal Hasan, has been known for blending traditional sounds from the East and musical arrangements from the West. The erstwhile band’s music included Jazz, Rock and Sufi influences and fetched them several awards as well.
Now, in a path-breaking move, MHB has turned into an Indo-Pakistan band and the new line-up includes guitarist Mekaal Hasan, flutist Ahsan Papu (both Hasan and Papu were part of the original MHB), drummer Gino Banks, bassist Sheldon D’Silva and vocalist Sharmistha Chatterjee. The band is expected to perform at music festivals by the year-end and plan to release their new record, Andholan, in March.
(From left) Composer/ guitarist Mekaal Hasan, bassist Sheldon D’silva
Speaking about the concept, Hasan says, “As a band, we used to tour India every year. I had friends in the music circle and it was Gino who suggested we play together. Thereafter, we met with Sheldon and Sharmistha. Musicians like Gino and Sheldon are busy and selective about whom they work with. Getting them on board is a blessing.”
He adds that being a Pakistani band, it was often tough to get visas for all the members. Last year, they had to cancel their NH7 Weekender gig at Bengaluru and Delhi due to such visa hassles. “With an Indo-Pak line-up, we are now a local band,” he states.
While the vocal recording has just finished, Hasan intends to return to Lahore and get cracking on the sound mixing.
The new record will be titled Andholan, which means blending tunes and also refers to tumult, perhaps hinting at the rebellious nature of the times we live in. “Art often comes out of the worst crisis. The message is to forget about politics and listen to music. Good music will always find a way,” he says.
The musician also admits that he has been listening to female-oriented music for the last few years and the addition of a female vocalist to the band has complemented their sound.
Drummer Gino Banks will feature in the new line-up of the band
Hasan maintains that the sound will mostly remain the same: “In Hindi and Punjabi, the scale is the same though the ragas might have different names. The band’s name also remains the same; music lovers have a 14-year-old association with the band and we have released two records under MHB (Saptak and Sampooran). A new name would require a re-building of the brand. We are adding more colour, not changing the content or the sound.”
While an Indo-Pak band might raise eyebrows, Hasan believes this idea can create a platform for positive interaction between Indian and Pakistani musicians, help them to mutually benefit and strengthen peaceful ties between the two countries.
“We have a common culture. This new band also allows us to give back to India. So much of our material comes from Indian Classical sounds and this will help us to bring it back home,” he concludes.