Looking at True Brew TV’s newest releases
Jamal Rahman, music producer, guitarist and founder of Lahore-based True Brew Records as well as the original music series True Brew TV, has proven everybody wrong. Anyone who feels there is no original music being made in Pakistan outside of Coke Studio and other branded music shows only need to watch True Brew TV to be proven wrong.
Since launching last year, True Brew TV has released more than 30 songs. The format of the series is divided into two sections: 1) Singles (which means a studio recording without an audience) and 2) Live at True Brew (which means an artist performing before an audience).
The Singles format has featured – so far – artists such as Wooly and the Uke, Ali Suhail, Shajie, Cheems, Janoobi Khargosh, Shorbanoor, Gentle Robot, Jimmy Khan, Haroon Shahid, Mehdi Maloof and Sikandar Ka Mandar, with some having appeared on Live at True Brew. They’ve also featured acts like the viral Saakin, Mughal-e-Funk, VIP and the prodigal Abdullah Siddiqui as well.
Collectively, True Brew TV shows just how many good artists are currently making diverse music and is a carefully curated platform. It has acknowledged artists that exist beyond the corporate favourites and in some rare cases, has introduced us to acts we didn’t know existed.
It’s a great accomplishment but Jamal Rahman doesn’t blow his own trumpet, something that isn’t true for a lot of artists or producers.
True Brew TV’s most recent releases include Saakin’s ‘Kundian’ and the prolific singer-songwriter Zoe Viccaji’s ‘Jis Ne Bhi Aana Hai‘.
The Zoe track also features Kami Paul and Jamal Rahman. Having featured on Zoe Viccaji’s debut album, the song gets a beautiful makeover on True Brew TV. This stripped down version is so strong that, in my opinion, it surpasses the original song. Lyrically, it’s always been one of Zoe’s better songs but it’s this version that does great justice to its poetic potential. Kami’s ability to use percussions to great effect and Jamal’s guitar-playing abilities also come across rather nicely. It’s a production that enhances Zoe Viccaji’s vocals and shows that songs can be covered in many ways; you just need the right vision and execution, skills that Jamal clearly possesses.
When asked about True Brew TV’s latest release, Jamal tells Instep from his studio in Lahore, “The song ‘Jis Ne Bhi Aana Hai‘ is from her first album, Dareeche.”He reveals there is a story behind it.
“A couple of years ago I used to do a lot of shows with J&S in which we curated music. For a lot of shows, we brought in artists and we re-did some of their music. And for one of those branded launch shows, we had Zoe, Sara Haider and Jimmy Khan.”
Adds Jamal: “In those rehearsals, we re-did two of Jimmy’s songs, two of Sara’s songs and two of Zoe’s songs. Those versions gave birth to the new versions of ‘Baarish’ and ‘Jis Ne Bhi Aana Hai‘ and that night was fun; we had such an enthusiastic response from the audience. They’d heard these songs but not re-packaged in such a way. Right after the show, people came up to us and told us we should record it.”
As Jamal remembers, it inspired them enough to record it the next day. While Jimmy Khan’s ‘Baarish’ was recorded, Zoe’s song was not recorded then because she had to leave. “Zoe’s in Karachi, I am in Lahore, and we weren’t able to pull it together. Last year when we started True Brew TV, I was thinking about what could be incorporated,” says Jamal.
Zoe’s busy schedule as well as that of other musicians meant waiting but eventually they timed it. After a couple of rehearsals, the song was recorded with that raw vibe that is synonymous with True Brew TV intact.
“We were able to record it and it’s one of my favourite songs from Zoe’s catalogue. It’s got a sweet vibe,“ says Jamal.
Prior to releasing Zoe’s song, True Brew TV also released Saakin’s second single, ‘Kundian’, a terrific song that doesn’t sound like its preceding single and remains an intriguing listen. If you don’t already know about the group, Saakin is an Islamabad-based band who have rocketed to fame with their debut single, ‘Saqi-e-Bawafa’ including being roped in by Sarmad Khoosat to produce the original soundtrack for one of his two upcoming films.
Speaking about the group, says Jamal, “Saakin had been giging for a while, they played at LMM last year. That’s when they made their debut in Lahore, I believe. I’m not a 100 per cent on that. But they hadn’t released any material. ‘Saqi-e-Bawafa’ was their first release from True Brew TV. They didn’t have a music video. The great thing is that we had them come and perform at the venue with an audience as part of Live at True Brew and when we came out with the song, people started ripping it and sharing it on WhatsApp.”
Jamal says that about ten days into the release, the band received the ripped version from friends. “So, it had been doing rounds on WhatsApp. Based on the success, the band recorded a studio version using my studio and made a video. From the same performance, we’ve released a new single called ‘Kundian’.
Jamal maintains, “It’s doing well (‘Kundian’) but it hasn’t come back on WhatsApp yet. ‘Saki’ has a very palatable melody and the message and is such a throwback to good old Sufi music so I think they hit the right mark. With ‘Kundian’, it’s different and I hope they don’t get pocketed in that Sufi label too much because they have a pretty diverse catalogue of songs.”