Soundcheck: Asif Sinan gets Jazzical
It has been a while now since Asif Sinan has been quietly making his mark in music with a fusion of jazz and Indian classical (which he terms ‘jazzical’).
Although he is a frequent live performer, it has been only recently that Sinan’s performance gained public attention — a performance with Indian star Kailash Kher in Karachi. “It was a great feeling and more so because I was highly appreciated by Kailash and his band,” he says. About another international collaboration, he says, “I have collaborated with American Jazz quartet Ari Roland and an American Jazz pianist Mike del Ferro in the past but this time it was closer to home. The best part of collaborating with professionals is that they are trained and play with a very open mind and are receptive to improvisations. I am in the process of collaborating with another Indian artist.”
Recently, he also performed alongside the US brass band, The Stooges, and the event held at the US Consulate was a hit.
Asif Sinan’s first live public performance was in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 at Imran Khan’s gathering at the Quaid’s Mausoleum where he played a rocked-up version of the Pakistani national anthem. “Playing from the stage to a sea of people singing Pak Sar Zameen with my guitar and the Quaid’s Mausoleum in the background was a very emotional moment for me.”
Asif started playing the guitar at 13 under Aamir Zaki. He heeded the call of Eastern classical music and enrolled at Napa for a four-year programme in music, majoring in guitar and graduated top of his class.
Coming to his studio music, he writes, produces, arranges and mixes all the music solo. “Since it’s a fresh genre and given that I compose and play all the music, it’s only natural to produce the music myself,” he says.
He plans to release an EP titled Jazzical internationally at the end of 2012. It will have instrumentals which are a fusion of jazz and Indian classical, as well as songs in Urdu in the same genre.
His first single, Jo jaye janay do, is a ditty blues number with a solo that flirts with some eastern taals. An enjoyable, hummable and fun number, I asked him why didn’t he instead make a video of a number like Raag Kirwani that is always in great demand in live acts or Nadiya? “I felt we are surrounded by so much negativity that I had a strong urge to do a light-hearted number and a fun video. The video directed by Bilal and Shayaan is reminiscent of films of the 1920s, and brings an instant smile at the quirkiness of the lyrics and the story.” he says.
His forte lies in guitar-playing: he can make it sound like a sitar while effortlessly sliding into jazz notes in the next second while remaining in the same phrasing. “I can do this because of my training. Both classical purists and contemporary listeners find my guitar skills unique.” He plays a serene live version of Jo Jaye Janay Do and Nadiya in his studio.
Asif says he truly believes that music has no language. “All through my teens I listened to and played George Benson and Pat Martino, but at the same time I was also listening to Mehdi Hassan and Pandit Ravi Shankar, and I could tell instinctively that the ‘language’ of these great musicians was the same — there was just a difference of ‘accent’ and that was my starting point.
“I want to create a bridge between jazz and classical. I have played pure classical music on the guitar in many classical baethaks with the taanpura and tabla. However, I also play the same ragas on guitar in a contemporary style for the younger crowd with drums and bass. It shows that if classical music is made contemporary and played well, people will listen,” he says.
Asif Sinan aims to strengthen music as a field of study. “I want to create more ‘respect’ for music as a field of study. People need to understand that like any other subject, if you have an inclination towards music, studying it formally will improve your understanding and this will reflect not just in your playing but also in life itself.
“Music instills discipline and appreciation of beauty in life. Hence, good music makes you a better human being. I conduct workshops in schools, universities and other forums to create formal interest amongst students in this field.”
His second video is currently under production along with his EP which is also nearing completion. He will also be performing with an international jazz band in September. “My ultimate plan is to make Jazzical universal, not just a bridge between East and West,” he says.