From Karachi to Berlin: Haamid Rahim aka Dynoman speaks to Instep about Inside to Way Out, Karachi Files and the constant struggle of Indie artists in Pakistan
It’s ironic how, when Noori came out with an album last year, fans and artists roared in frenzy, lauding the band’s efforts of working against the odds and putting out an album at a time when the music industry is considered to have become sterile. But when Natasha Humera Ejaz released her EP (also last year) there was barely any noise.
Pakistan’s indie music scene is like a lone warrior that is rebelling against the system, against perceptions while still holding onto hopes of being recognized with a drawstring; it is fighting for its own visibility. Even though indie collectives have been creating new music tirelessly, the one question that continues to haunt their existence is whether their music is sustainable. Statements like "one can’t live by indie music alone," from the likes of Zoe Viccaji, who has managed to crossover to mainstream, haven’t been helpful either.
As these avid dreamers and musical troopers come out of the confines of their rooms and slowly make their presence felt across the globe, questions need to be rethought. Do indie artists deserve more of our attention? You bet.
For long these artists have been disowned on the grounds that they are too ‘westernized’ in their musical influence or just ‘unappealing to the masses’. Their depiction is no less stereotypical because well, anything to do with electronic or techno sounds, with little to no lyrical input, doesn’t qualify as music in Pakistan. But the fact is they have merged a diverse set of sounds to create the kind of music that could’ve never been imagined in Pakistan. They are emblematic of a paradigm shift - one that the nation desperately needed to dissociate itself from the world’s idea of Pakistan and one that is actually getting the West to talk about Pakistan differently.
Summer 2015 saw more than a dozen musicians cramp up in a house in Karachi for a two-week long music residency called Soundcamp. The impromptu musical activity, that brought artists from both Germany and Karachi on a single platform (more a living room-turned-recording studio), resulted in a collaborative album called Karachi Files. Almost a year later, these dozen artists reunited in Berlin two weeks ago to launch the compiled album and perform as part of a larger initiative targeted at changing the West’s stereotypical and media-influenced perceptions of Pakistan; it was called Inside to Way Out. The album is being produced under the label NOLAND - set up by Berlin-based DJ duo Gebrueder Teichmann - with the aim to release music from all across the world, without any boundaries separating them. Instep speaks to Haamid Rahim aka Dynoman on the collaboration, its challenges, the experience and more.
Instep: What exactly is Inside to Way Out all about and how did the idea come through?
Haamid Rahim: Inside to Way Out is a collaborative effort between Pakistan and Germany, made possible by the HAU theatre in Berlin. The festival came to being after a music residency in Karachi, known as Soundcamp, came to an end in 2015. Soundcamp was made possible with the help of the Goethe Institute and was a collaboration between Andi Teichmann, Hannes Teichmann, Haamid Rahim, and Bilal Nasir Khan (Representing Gebrueder Teichmann and Forever South respectively). Bilal and I set up a two-week long residency and curated local artists, which included Ramsha Shakeel, Natasha Humera Ejaz, Talha Wynne (Tollcrane), and Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey. Gebrueder Tiechmann invited foreign artists, which included Taprikk Sweezee, Arttu Snellman, Hermione Frank (rRoxymore), M. Manal (Menimal), and Photographer Pablo Lauf to document the Soundcamp.
After that concluded I returned to Berlin to meet with The Teichmann Brothers and Zuri Maria of the HAU theatre to see if Soundcamp could have its Vinyl Record release party in Berlin in 2016. After hearing about the Soundcamp, the HAU theatre decided to curate From Inside to Way Out and researched other aspects of the festival and made it into a weekend long affair.
Instep: On the collaboration, how was the whole experience of collaborating with such a diverse set of artists and eventually consolidating the music produced into an album?
HR: The experience was amazing. We lived together in a house in Karachi, and had turned the house into a studio. There was music equipment everywhere, and all participants ate, slept, and breathed music. The initial jams started right away, and we began jamming out tracks to the album. During the two-week residency maybe more than 30 songs were written. After that, everyone who took on the task of producing the album consolidated the songs and track selection began early 2016. The album Karachi Files has 15 tracks and is available on a four-sided vinyl release.
Instep: What are some of the inspirations that will be reflected in the sound of Karachi Files and what were some of the challenges you faced in bringing the whole thing together?
HR: Karachi Files was an inspiration on its own. The participants inspired each other, and it aims at showing that Karachi still has such amazing, interesting art being made. The biggest challenges we faced were lack of anything to do as a break in Karachi, electricity power cuts, lack of freedom for our guests to explore Karachi on their own, and the Safoora Goth Carnage, which really brought the vibe down for a few days.
Instep: Will the album be launched in Pakistan?
HR: Yes we are working towards a launch in December 2016. We have been approached by the Goethe Institute to make it happen and the event is currently in the works.
Instep: Lastly, the general mindset is that no music is being made in Pakistan. But we have indie artists like you who are creating all sorts of new, interesting music. What, in your opinion, is the biggest struggle the Pakistani music industry is facing right now and what should help it?
HR: I believe that the Pakistani music industry does not have an open mind to the type of music that us electronic musicians make. There are a lot of musicians and listeners who do not consider electronic/experimental music as "real" musicians – and that is what needs to be fixed in order for the Pakistani music industry to make a return. Keeping an open mind and evolving with the times is essential to every music scene and industry. We have broken international borders and stigmas with this release, and intend on continuing with projects that will create ripples across the world.