You may know them from their Bollywood hit song ‘Laree Chotee’, meet the young gentlemen that are members of the band Call. Not only are they extremely talented and great performers, they have set high goals for themselves and are an inspiration for the young musicians out there. In an exclusive interview with the three group members that recently performed in Washington D.C., we got to learn about how they came to be and where they are headed in the future.
Please introduce yourselves to our readers (individually):?
Hello, I am Sultan, and I play the rhythm guitars in the band.
Hi, I am Junaid, and I am on lead vocals.
Salam, this is Xulfi, and I play the lead guitars, plus I try to sing too, sometimes (smiles)
How did you all get together to form the band Call?
Junaid: To cut a long story short, Call was first formed in 1994 with a different lineup. Only Xulfi has survived from that lineup now.
Xulfi: I was only fourteen at that time when I joined the band and I played the keyboards. Getting back to the question, the band disbanded in 2000 because every member had their own way to go to. In 2002, the band was reformed when the band auditioned for a vocalist. That's when I met Junaid, and I was thoroughly impressed listening to his vocals.
Junaid: I remember how it was. I was in Xulfi's room. Khurram, Xulfi's brother, then drummer as well and Xulfi himself were there auditioning me. I wasn't really sure how tough or easy it was going to be. But, I was selected and its history since then.
Sultan: Xulfi and I studied in the same university; we were doing our bachelors in computer sciences together. I was two years junior to Xulfi and had an interest in learning the guitars, so I asked around and found out that Xulfi gave guitar lessons and all. I started taking the classes, and then Xulfi asked me to join the band as the band's bass guitarist at that time. Now, I am better off playing the rhythm guitars though, because I feel more comfortable using that instrument.
What is the story behind the band name? Who came up with it and why?
Xulfi: Danish, my elder brother, came up with the name. Back in 1994, he was the vocalist of the band. Call signifies the voice, the message that the band wants to convey through lyrics and music. It has to be intelligently and creatively simple to be effective. So for us, Call, the name, does just that.
What was the inspiration behind your debut album Jilawatan? What did the critics say about the album?
Xulfi: The album was an attempt to actually go deeper into the meaning of the word 'exiled'. Jilawatan, by the way, means 'exiled from one's own country'. We tried to take the meaning a bit further and generalize it. Therefore, the album talks about one's exile from his or her own self, when a person feels distanced from his own identity. In doing that, we actually pinpointed a lot of issues that the youth of our country go through mentally, which actually go unnoticed and unattended. The youth go through a phase of dissatisfaction, and it's important that there should be artists who speak the youth's language so that they know there is someone who can understand what they are going through.
But, as far as this album is concerned, it is more diverse than our previous release. The focus is even more general, but at the same time we have tried to put our thoughts in words in a more a simpler manner without taking away the true meaning and its essence. Hopefully, everyone would be able to relate more to it.
You have quite a few hits under your belt like Sab Bhula Kai, Bichar Kai Bhee, Kuch Naheen, and the most recent, Laree Chootee which was a huge hit across the border. What song is the bands most favorite or most requested song?
Sultan: I believe my favorite song as far as the first album is concerned, is Shayad. The most requested I suppose, is Laaree Chootee.
Junaid: Sab Bhula Kai is my personal favorite.
Xulfi: My favorite is Shayad. But again, as Sultan said, the most requested one is Laaree Chootee. I am sure the personal favorites are going change, as our second album has a lot more to offer.
Who writes and composes the songs for you? What is the process that goes into making a hit song?
Junaid: Our new album, including Laaree Chootee, has mostly been written and composed by Xulfi. Jilawatan was written mostly by Haider, Xulfi's elder brother. A few other songs were also written by Xulfi. Sab Bhula Kai was written by me, and I also did the initial compositions. Later on, Xulfi added his flavor to the sound as well.
Xulfi: There is no set formula for hitting it big with a song. I believe the audience pulse has to be understood. And for that, you need to make sure that you don't compromise on the way you express yourself through your music and lyrics just to get the audience's attention. You can only be satisfied when the audience loves the song that you have made. I also believe that writing simple songs is the most difficult thing because generally there are very few topics that are talked about in lyrics of songs. Therefore, one needs to think of more general topics people associate themselves with and write about them to seek their interest. Plus, a good marketing campaign might help too, along with a kickass video (laughs).
More and more singers have started releasing their songs across the border, is it equipment and sound that makes it more appealing or the fact that songs get more hype and attention there?
Xulfi: The bigger the market, the more the listeners, and thus, the higher the probability of success. However, success comes with a lot of effort. Most of the artists who have made it big there were somewhat established in Pakistan before they went to India. In a way, hard work, along with the different identity that we bring with us, plus the fact that our voices are pretty untamed, and the music are all factors that help make music across the border more edgy. That's the uniqueness that actually attracts the Indian listener who is more tuned to listening to absolutely trained pitch correct voices. I am not saying one has to be bai-sura to hit it big (laughts), I am just mentioning how being a little 'free' in one's expression can hit the audience harder than a very predictable voice.
Sultan: Besides, Bollywood markets a product very aggressively. So there is a higher probability your song will reach across to a lot more people in the world.
Pakistan has seen a big change in the music industry over the last decade, where do you see it headed in the next five years?
Junaid: Hopefully, it will become a stronger industry with time. I hope new artists that come along realize the importance of creating good music and performing that music live every time they go on stage. Right now, live performances are just becoming a rave in our industry. There are still artists that would rather perform on CD or just the vocals being live with the rest of the music on CD. I hope this practice is discouraged by all music channels and the public as well, and only live performances should be the norm. The public is already aware when a person is just lip syncing. Therefore, music listeners and music creators are both moving in the right direction, and in the next five years, things should only be brighter, hopefully.
The pop scene in Pakistan is one of a kind; there is a lot of activity happening there with underground music, solo pop artists and bands all over the place. With so much competition, how do you manage to reinvent your music and keep your distinctiveness?
Xulfi: You need to reinvent yourself in order to reinvent your music and your lyrics. I think that's the only way an artist can survive creatively. An artist needs to know that he needs to think and dwell deeper into simpler things in order to find new meaning out of those things and express them in a fresh way and better way than his or her counterparts. Here, I would like to mention that there is very ordinary music too that comes out of our country. Not just music, but the lyrics as well. I hope a standard can be set in the future years for every existing and new artist to follow in our music industry, so that ordinary stuff can be filtered out from the good stuff.
What projects are you currently working on? When can we expect a new single or an album from Call?
Sultan: We recently did a song for the bollywood movie Aasma. The song is called 'Yeh Pal' and has been totally recorded and produced at Xulfi's studio Xth Harmonic, as was 'Laaree Chootee'. I am mentioning that because most people think the song has been produced and made in India, which is absolutely not true. The song has been written and composed by Xulfi, so it's a Call project which was totally completed in Pakistan.
Junaid: We have been working on our new album for the last 2 months now, and when I said working, I actually meant recording.
Xulfi: Absolutely, the recording process is actually one of the last processes in the album. It took us quite a lot of time to do the compositional and lyrical part of the album. At the moment, we are hoping for a September/October release. But let's see how things go.
Your song Laree Chootee was nominated in the Lux song of the year award, tell us what other songs were nominated, and how do you feel to be nominated?
Junaid: It's a great feeling for sure! I am not sure about the competition that there was for the song of the year category, but I am just hoping the awards are all fair and may the best song win.
You all have been in the music scene for a while now, what words of advice would you give to the youngsters who are inspired by musicians like you and want to enter this profession?
Xulfi: It's a battlefield out there, haha! Nah, not really though. Actually, there is still a lot of room still left in the Pakistani music scene. Anyone can actually fill that gap, but that anyone should be a really good judge of his/her own skills. Sometimes, people just misjudge their ability to create good music. Some people don't have the knack for it. Some people do. I hope the people who are experienced in the industry, including us; help these people know how they can make best use of their ability. And they should be honestly told if they have it in them or not. If they do, then they should be seriously encouraged to pursue this as a career, otherwise, I wouldn't advise just anyone to jump on the bandwagon.
Call was here on a concert tour, what cities did your tour perform? How has the experience been for you?
All of us: We performed at the George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. It was a great experience performing in front of an audience who has only seen us on television and seldom gets the chance to see us perform live as they live far away from their country. It's good to emote with them by being on stage and singing those songs that they love and relate to. Honestly, I never expected that the audience will love us this much. Whoever was present there had something really nice and good to say about the show. That shows how they were looking forward to our show. I hope these types of shows should happen more often, and organizers making an effort to bring good Pakistani music into states should be strongly encouraged. Here, I would like to give kudos to Raakin Iqbal of Huqa Entertainment for organizing such a fiesty show.
Xulfi: Apart from the show, the trip that the tour was, was a lot of fun as well. We got to witness America in a new light; different than how the media sometimes depicts it. We are only taking good memories from the place back to Pakistan.
Lastly, what is your message to the readers of telepk.com?
I hope all of the readers can relate to what we have said in the interview. Keep reading the telepk.com! And lastly, thanks a million to the telepk.com for giving us a chance to express ourselves to our listeners and our fellow Pakistanis and Indians residing in the states. Hopefully, next time around, there will be a bigger tour, and all of our fans all over America would get a chance to see us perform live in their city. We love you all!