Rock Band Parvaaz on “A Quest for Answers” to Existential Questions
In conversation with the band
With lyrics that reflect on “core human nature” and evoke existential questions, the Bangalore-based rock band Parvaaz’s latest album ‘Kun’ centres “around a journey of a person through time and space in a quest for answers.” Hailing from different backgrounds, the four band members have carved a niche for themselves in the Indian music scene, creating “soul-stirring music” in Kashmiri, Urdu and Hindi that reflects on fostering unity in these divisive times.
Parvaaz was formed in 2010 when lead vocalist Khalid Ahamed and guitarist Mir Kashif Iqbal reconnected in Bangalore during college and discovered similar interests in music. Having been childhood classmates in Srinagar, Ahamed and Iqbal lost touch with each other in the interim, only to find themselves together again in Bangalore. Fidel D’Souza joined them as a bass guitarist when his predecessor Neil left due to personal reasons. Sachin Banandur filled in for the original drummer for a show and has been with the band since.
“It's been a great journey so far...four people from different regions and backgrounds meet and form a band in Bangalore. Music brought us together and it has been a great learning experience, about music, each other and our own selves,” Ahamed told The Citizen.
Released earlier this year in October, ‘Kun’ comes after a five-year hiatus, following their debut album ‘Baran’. “It had been three years since the release of Baran when we had started seriously working on our second album. We were very conscious about making an album which has a strong thematic and sonic glue,” they stated. “We wanted the songs to thematically flow from one to the other,” added Iqbal.
Since the band’s inception, Parvaaz, through their thoughtful lyrics in Urdu, Kashmiri and Hindi, have been creating a transcendental yet rooted experience for their audiences. “These are the languages that come naturally to us. Plus we love the way these languages fuse with the kind of music we play,” said Ahamed.
Blending progressive and psychedelic rock, infused with elements of folk and world music, Parvaaz has created a unique sound for itself that makes it difficult to peg the group’s music under any specific genre. The band members remain satisfied that their audience is unable to confidently categorise their music.
“That way, we are not offer pigeon-holed into any one genre and that gives us limitless possibilities to express ourselves musically. It is up to people to decide genres for them to make sense of what they are hearing,” Iqbal told The Citizen. “As artists, we don't make our music with any such thing in mind,” D’Souza added.
It is a musical resonance that the band focuses on during the process of creation rather than a unifying theme. Ahamed stated, “Musically, a certain sound that we all (band members) resonate with is what drives us more than any particular theme as such. Lyrically, we are mostly interested in various aspects of core human nature.”
The years that passed between their two albums—‘Kun’ and ‘Baran’—have allowed Parvaaz to evolve, both in terms of their music as well as individuals. The band members believe the production quality of their music and the recording techniques employed have witnessed a vast improvement over the span of these five years. “We tried hard not to get over-excited in the process of making songs and to not add too many things into a song,” said Iqbal.
Of course, each band member has his own personal influences and individual preferences that are not limited to music but range across the artistic spectrum. “In the five years between Baran and Kun, the members of the band have diverged in their individual tastes in music. However, we are all staying more current within those different directions,” said drummer and percussionist Banandur. “Again, these new interests and inspirations may have subconsciously percolated into our music but we are not applying them consciously,” Parvaaz told The Citizen.
Speaking about their latest concept album ‘Kun’, an Arabic word for “manifesting” or “being”, Iqbal stated, “Lyrically, once we had decided on the first few songs of the album, we realised we needed a very broad theme. We titled the album "Kun" only after we had decided on all the songs and constructed them musically and lyrically because most songs capture existential questions and so we needed a title which would capture all of that in a single word, if possible. And that word is "Kun".”
Parvaaz paid immense attention to the “album flow”, arriving at the current order of songs post a lot of discussion, “so as to make sure the listener feels this journey in some way.” ‘Kun’ circles the eternal questions of existentialism, wherein most of the songs are from the perspective of a “traveller” or “lost soul.”
The last two songs, “Mastaan” and “Dasht-ba-Dasht” exemplify this journey the band members want their audience to take with them. Opening with ambient sounds of chirping birds, “Mastaan” follows a carefree traveller in search of his/her purpose in life. “Dasht-ba-Dasht”, which means “Desert to Desert” signifies a personal struggle to make sense of “these strange times”.
The intro to the album is a haunting combination of sounds that creates a dark, yet thought-provoking atmosphere, making one wonder what comes next. “In some cases, we added segues between songs and interesting interludes of soundscapes. Within each song as well, we have attempted to include a lot more dynamism. And the intro and outro of the album also emerged from our attempt to tie the album together,” Iqbal told The Citizen.
Parvaaz, termed “India’s Most Exciting Band” by Rolling Stone magazine (May 2018 issue) has many awards and accolades to its name—they won the Toto Music Award in 2015, the Judges Choice for “Best Rock Artist” at the Radio City Freedom Awards, 2017 and were nominated for GIMA award for “Best Rock Album” for “Behosh”, 2012. A documentary featuring Parvaaz is currently in its post-production phase, soon to be released.
“Music has also brought us so many experiences and the ability to travel and widen our perspectives. And the love as well as criticism we've received along the way has kept pushing us along this journey,” said Ahamed, reflecting on the group’s journey since its inception. Known for their energetic live performances, Parvaaz is currently planning an album tour to promote ‘Kun’ across India.