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Spotlight: Suroor

Eastern and western beats have come together many times to create contemporary music, but the catch in Suroor is that the fusion comes with two entirely different sets of vocals.

An unconventional route to take to fame, Suroor have released their debut album after winning awards for the title track 'Pyar Tou Hona He Hae'. Their hit single was recognized as the Best Debut and Best Pop track at different award ceremonies in Pakistan and the band has now released their debut album by the name of their award winning number.

Their second track 'Dil Mera' is a very upbeat Spanish-Latin classical fusion and is also making rounds on TV channels these days. So who are these boys who have been stirring up the airwaves?

Suroor comprises of three polished musicians from entirely different backgrounds: Kamran Bari aka Kami (pop vocals), Muhammad Ali (classical vocals) and Faiz Ali Naqvi aka Faizi (music producer) who is the silent member of the band.

"I have known Faizi for more than a decade now and he respects me like an elder brother," says Ali. "He invited me to his studio because he had always liked my vocals and it was while working there that we came across Kami who was also doing music in the studio. Faizi and Kami asked me to do vocals on their track 'Pyar Tou Hona He Hae'. The song was very well received and hence Suroor was formed."

Ali is the classicist in the band and his voice has become quite familiar, to even a layman. Other than Suroor songs, the vocalist has lent his voice to many jingles including Tapal's 'Lage Na Nazar', with the result of making him a household voice even if people are not aware of his name yet. Ali hails from a classic musical background and has been in the music scene for quite a long time now. "My father late Ghulam Ali was an obo player and he played for the Pakistan film industry. He was regarded as an A class musician in the country. Moreover, my grandfather and uncle were also musicians. However, I am the only one who turned out to be a singer," says Ali about his musical background.

So did the family support him on taking up music? "No, not all! My father wanted me to study because he knew that this profession would be over much too soon. The popularity span of musicians has decreased considerably over the years. In the past, artistes like Mehdi Hassan and Madam Noor Jehan had careers that spanned over 30 to 40 years. Now bands like Junoon, don't last for more than over a decade," comments Ali thoughtfully. But despite the wariness, his musical training came from home. He would jam for hours with Raja Alamgir. "I took training from late Ustad Aashiq Ali Khan Sahib, who was my real teacher and have always been very much inspired by Mehdi Hasan Khan Sahib," he adds with emphasis.

For Kami, music has always been a passion and not something he was lucky enough to inherit. He faced opposition at home too; his only supporter in the family was his uncle, famous actor Jamshed Ansari. "My musical training started after I formed Suroor and I am training from a master in the game- Ali Bhai," says Kami with respect and adoration for his colleague.

"I am running my own ad agency and belong to a business family but I always wanted to be a singer since my childhood," chips in Faizi. "I even formed a band Khawab when I was studying at Commerce College but it was nothing serious." Faizi has been in the music industry for the past 15 years and his first serious project was 'Babiya' by Sajjad Ali way back in 1993.

Together they launched the band Suroor and labeled their debut track 'Pyar Tou Hona He Hae' as their break through number. Amazing as the song was, it was surprising to see big names like Ali Haider and Najam Shiraz lending their vocals to the song. So how did the collaboration come into being? "Ali and Najam were also working at Faizi's studio. When they listened to this track, they expressed their desire to sing it. Hence we decided to collaborate with them and it turned out to be a big success, winning us two awards," Kami says happily.

Another question that comes in everyone's mind when one speaks of Suroor is why did they take so long releasing the album after the first single was out? Kami answers, "The only drawback of teaming up with Faizi, one of the best producers around, was that he didn't give us the time we needed from him because of his busy schedule. We were afraid people would actually forget who we were but finally the album is out."

Suroor's music is a pop classical fusion and even in the western techno numbers, a twinge of classical is retained to keep the essence of the band alive. "If our flavour isn't eminent then there is no difference between us and other bands," defines Kami. So what sets Suroor apart from other pop bands? "I guess our music sounds completely different from other pop bands because of the odd yet striking fusion it creates and also because we have two vocalists singing their own strengths as opposed to having one lead vocalist," he adds.

Considering the fact that Suroor seem to have taken off so well, do they plan to follow the tradition of border hopping? "We totally support the idea and this is very encouraging for the artist because that is one area where an artist can make some money worth his talent," Kami replies.

Having said that, Kami points out that because of financial constraints, performers (including themselves) in Pakistan agree to do DAT shows, which is not a great trend. "Suroor are a huge supporter of live shows and we believe that when one is spending money then he should get its worth. We believe that 'you are alive when you are live'."

What do they feel about the piracy/royalty problem and as new musicians, how do they fight against it? "That is the sad part," say Kami and Ali together. "In this part of the world, artistes are the only people who suffer. Everyone else makes money including the TV channels, the record labels, the corporate sector but the artist. Everyone sells us but nobody is willing to pay our price."

Suroor's future plans include shooting a few more videos and then start working on the second album. "We just shot our video of 'I Wanna Feel' and it's been directed by Jalal. It will be on air by end April. The next video is already planned for our song 'Hum Hain Bhai'. It's a totally new experiment so we hope it turns out well. Also we are planning to do more live shows and we are working on it very hard."

The music industry has evolved considerably in recent times. With music channels coming out and the media expanding like never before, competition is ripe. But Suroor are not threatened by the other bands at all. "We really appreciate competition and we believe anybody who is talented should come out and show his talent to the world. This is the best time!" concludes Kami cheerfully.

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