Fans of football would agree that a band’s drummer is synonymous with the goalkeeper of a football team. He stands at the back providing pivotal support to his band members. Such is the importance of a drummer who is responsible for the correct drum beats, openings and closing of the tracks. One miss on the part of a drummer can ruin a live performance. Aahad Nayani is one such drummer who has been quietly making his mark in the music scene. His association with Strings brings in the band real exciting and raw energy. Instep caught up with Nayani to talk about his inspirations, his journey so far, and the future of drummers in Pakistan.
Instep: When did you start playing music and who have been your inspirations?
Aahad Nayani: Music has been in me since I was born. It actually runs in the family. My mother tells me that I used to beat utensils with a rolling pin when I was a baby. As a child, I was delighted when my father played the drums – the sight of those huge shiny golden cymbals, the thumping sound of those drums, the frenetic motion of my father’s hands and feet, always made me smile. It made me want to also play the drums. So, I researched music schools, but was sorry to find none in Pakistan. Then, I turned to the Internet, where I found a magnificent group of drummers, or should I say monsters, who have rocked the world with their phenomenal performances! Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre), Steve Smith (Journey), Dave Weckl (Chick Corea Elektric Band), Dennis Chambers (Santana), Thomas Lang (who played with Robbie Williams, among other artists), etc.
Instep: How has been your journey with Strings?
Aahad: I first met Strings at the Azm-e-Alishan national song competition, for which I was playing drums in the house band. On the last day of the recording, Strings offered me to join their band. I auditioned for the position and the chemistry between all of us developed from day one.
I began touring with them in 2010, with a tour to Lahore and then to London. The London tour was my first exposure to an international audience and pushed me to give my all to each performance. During a North American tour, I fulfilled my dream of playing at the Berklee College of Music. I was honored to play at different festivals such as Rashtrapati Bhawan for the opening of SAARC festival in India and the Aman ki Asha Indo-Pak festival. At SAARC and in Dubai, we were treated with so much respect; it made me realize that we should cultivate a good relationship with other bands and host countries.
In addition to the tours, I have also recorded some tracks with Strings, which has been a learning experience in itself.
Instep: How much have you grown as a musician through these years?
Aahad: Initially, I was not at all into pop or rock music. I was more interested in playing progressive, Latin and funk. When I joined Strings, it was a real challenge for me to play and do justice to the pop and rock beats. This is one of the major developments of my musical journey. Recording with Faisal Rafi helped me break into that genre as well.
Plus, touring with Strings helped me learn the art of performing on stage with confidence, and interacting with cameras during video shoots. I’ve met different musicians with various perspectives, so interacting with them has opened up a whole new world for me.
Instep: You recently became the first drummer in Pakistan to have been endorsed by international drums and sticks companies – Mapex Drums and Vater Percussion, to be exact. How did the opportunity come by?
Aahad: This is one the most amazing things to have happened to me in my career! Every drummer dreams of getting endorsed by these companies, I’m so blessed that I have it!
I was looking for an endorsement from Vater, and one day I mailed my portfolio to them and after a week or so I got an email from their distributor in India saying that they wanted to finalize the deal whenever I am in India.
While I was in Mumbai for the deal, I also met with the distributor of Mapex India, who gave the idea of pursuing an endorsement from Mapex as well. He emailed my portfolio to Mapex and they contacted the Beatle Centre in Karachi, which is their local distributor, and here I have my Mapex Monster! These endorsements give me hope that I will get recognized globally as a Pakistani musician.
Instep: How has been the experience of playing for the film Moor?
Aahad: This too has been one of the best experiences of my life! I was on tour when Bilal Maqsood told me that Strings are recording Moor’s soundtrack, and I am playing drums on it! I think no one does live drums in a film, especially in Pakistan, but the experience of playing a movie was incredible. I am looking forward to recording another film in the future.
Instep: You have also played a gig with Overload. What was that like?
Aahad: Overload dabbles in different genres and is one of the best rhythmic bands, which made it a fun experience for me. It was an honour when Farhad Humayun called me to play a session with them. When I reached Lahore to jam with these boys, there were some positive chemistry between us. We played three tracks for the Oreo Pakistan launch and it went pretty well!
Instep:How bright is the future of drummers and drumming in Pakistan? Do you know of any training facility for drummers?
Aahad: After watching Nescafe Basement, I realized that the music industry will grow immensely, but it will take time due to the lack of awareness about music. People haven’t understood the importance of music schools. We have NAPA but they don’t give drum lessons. As for now, the only training available for us is on the Internet, and learning online takes a lot of passion, patience, self-motivation and commitment.
Instep:What are your future plans?
Aahad: For now, I am with Strings, with whom I’m happy to keep playing in the future. I’d also like to play with different musicians as a session player. Further in the future, I definitely see myself as a music producer.