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Understanding the ethos behind Janoobi Khargosh

Waleed Ahmed talks about death metal projects as well as the musical identity we know and love as Janoobi Khargosh.

Understanding the ethos behind Janoobi Khargosh
Photo courtesy by Ramis Abbas

Waleed Ahmed wears the musical identity, Janoobi Khargosh, and under it has released more music than most artists combined in the mainstream.

Beginning with Billi Khamba Aur Urantashtari (2014) that featured 10 songs, Janoobi Khargosh has gone on to release Cpt. Space Master EP (2017) featuring 5 tracks including the incredibly addictive ‘Super Cat’, a single called ‘Hum Saray Computer Hain’ in 2017 and a single off Survivors in 2018 called ‘One’.

In a casual interview over the phone, Waleed Ahmed, both articulate (and inarticulate when describing the universe of writing Janoobi Khargosh songs) answered a mob of questions without complaining and with a great deal of intelligibility. He finds it somewhat weird to record voice notes to questions and prefers talking on the phone, providing clarity and a glimpse into his person.

“I’ve been doing music since 2011,” begins Waleed Ahmed, “And the thing is I was in a death metal band called Dionysus. We were young and we’d play death and black metal music.”

They even went on to release an album and released an EP as well. All this happened, explains Waleed, when he was in Lahore.

“I moved to Karachi and I made a post-black metal band called Lohikarma and made an EP called Dreaming Skies. In fact, at that time, Dionysus was rising and we were signed with a foreign label with release in Sweden, etc.”

After those bands, Waleed went on to release yet another album, this time under his own name called Waterfort (2014). “This was before Janoobi Khargosh, and I didn’t know any musicians in Karachi prior to Waterfort. People heard that album and I became friends with musicians like Sikandar Ka Mandar, Ali Suhail, Shajie Hasan. Karachi has a strong music scene, especially indie music.”

As friendships grew, Waleed Ahmed notes he realized that he had been making similar kind of indie music songs and they were in Urdu. “I thought to myself that the kind of indie songs I had made and could make, the non-progressive, no metal, I’ll make such an album and I won’t tell anyone that it is me, Waleed Ahmed.”

Hence, Janoobi Khargosh was born and under its alias, Waleed decided to write whatever came to his mind. “I made ‘Samjho Yeh Zamana’ as Janoobi Khargosh. After that, in Karachi at least, the music community that existed showed a great deal of interest.”

As Waleed remembers, interest was born in Janoobi across. People were sharing the songs. So, within a week I made another song called ‘Pagal Ho Gaya’ and released it as Janoobi Khargosh and that pushed it forward.”

“People started writing articles and someone wrote that XYZ is Janoobi Khargosh. When I read that, I decided to reveal via a Facebook post that whoever is claiming to be Janoobi Khargosh – that is not true.”

As Waleed recalls, before Janoobi Khargosh, he was playing metal and after that it was progressive.

“Since the end of 2012, I became easy as I learned more technically, lyrically and production-wise. Producing metal is completely different.”

As for the music that Janoobi Khargosh puts out now, Waleed Ahmed is mainly responsible for creating it. “But, once the structure of a song is complete, I get different musicians to replace things,” he confesses, “Like I make a bass line, I’ll go to Ibrahim (Imdad) and tell him whatever comes to you, something similar, something better comes to you, play on it.”

As a result, the characteristics of another musician come into play and innovation becomes a reality.

“On the new album, Zain (Ahsan) has played guitars, so I am looking to get different musicians to play on the initial idea. Sometimes, however, I don’t get anyone to play on a song and I end up playing myself.”

The most important question here, what is Janoobi Khargosh trying to say?

“I don’t know what I’m trying to say but if I tell you how I write songs, it may clear things up. I think of something, a scenario and it’s a loop, I think about it and whatever is happening within it, I write a line. It’s not something deep but a scene where a man is sitting under a tree. I compile such things, and what else is happening in that place. I, then, start making music and pick up fragments from it. It could be where is that man from or where does he want to go? I take such fragments and the melody is going on it. I’m not thinking too much. I find something new like it is becoming a story.”

The upcoming album, notes Janoobi Khargosh, is called Survivors and the single, ‘One’ is from it. “The music video for ‘Jungle’ is essentially a short-film and Karachi-based artists made it. It is unlike the Janoobi Khargosh aesthetic but more of a short-film. I didn’t push the music video. It is the kind of music video that leads to lots of views and your identity grows and people in Pakistan generally like such high-quality stuff and I want it to grow and evolve but within its own space.”

As for the future, the next Janoobi album Survivors will feature Umer Khan (Poor Rich Boy poet, singer-songwriter) on vocals with Waleed on some songs; Umer Ahmed (Waleed Ahmed’s younger brother) on synth who helps him out with Zain Ahsan having played guitars on some songs.

“We can’t help out each other – alluding to the music scene in Lahore – too much because we have jobs but a single from Survivors is slated to release next sans music video,” says Waleed.

In the upcoming album, Survivors, Vital Signs remain an influence but in bits and pieces.

“Do you remember the intro theme song of the TV series Alpha Bravo Charlie and things such as that, asks Waleed. In this album, there are many Pakistani ‘90s influences, hidden within the song. “I used to listen to Vital Signs a lot as a kid; it was like my favourite band. So, I have that association with Vital Signs from childhood.”

The ‘90s music scene is an aesthetic on the new album and previous ones as well even if it doesn’t mean Waleed throws on Vital Signs songs on repeat – now.

On a parting note, Waleed Ahmed reveals that naming a band is the most difficult task as I grill him why Janoobi Khargosh and not something else. “I don’t know why I picked Janoobi Khargosh; I was watching the Grammys and it came to me that they announce there is a band called Janoobi Khargosh that has won Album of the Year and that was it.”


Maheen Sabeeh

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