Mizraab, a progressive metal band, is the brainchild of numero uno guitarist Faraz Anwar. The band has faced numerous problems in album release due to their heavy metal sound mixed with intelligent lyrics which do not fit in the usual mould of sad excuse for poetry with the masses are accustomed to.
First, they mysteriously ‘disappeared’ on Indus Music. Then, the release of their album, Maazi Haal Mustaqbil (MHM), has been floundering for a while now, with different release dates being announced at regular intervals. And yet there is no sign of the album anywhere. The seemingly endless series of delays has left everyone questioning why one of the most awaited albums of the year is being incessantly delayed, and delayed and delayed.
To answer these burning questions, I talked to Faraz Anwar, the front man of Mizraab and Khalid Sadaf, chief executive of Sadaf Records, the record label which is supposed to release MHM.
Faraz Anwar credits the delay of the album to Sadaf Records, who, he says, kept delaying the album since the record label thought it would not be a “commercial hit.” However, they are finally convinced that the album holds some promise and are now ready to release it with Mizraab’s new video. But since the video shoot is scheduled for the 17th of February, the album will probably be released after the Islamic month of Muharram.
On the other hand, Khalid Sadaf says that Sadaf Records were not delaying the album. They had agreed to release the album earlier, but did not want it to disappear after two days of its release. They were not satisfied, he says, and wanted to release the album with the new video, in order to hype it up.
He chalks this down to marketing strategy, and says that this offer is usually not accorded to new bands, but was given to Mizraab. When asked if the album would release after Muharram, he stated that if Mizraab had given the video 15 days earlier the album would’ve been released at the time of Basant. Laughing, Khalid Sadaf says ‘If I could release Dr Aur Billa’s album which I have two days ago, I would have released Mizraab as well as I’d signed them up way before I signed up Dr. Aur Billa’.
One wonders what really is going on. Is Mizraab going the Karavan route and taking their time with the video? Or is Sadaf trying to cover up the fact that they stalled the album in favor of a more commercial flavor? Perhaps a little bit of both? Whatever the reason, it is a rather unfortunate situation.
Mizraab is not the first talented band to fall victim to record labels. Perhaps the biggest (and saddest) example is that of Rushk. With an album as impeccable as Sawal, one would expect Rushk to be all over music channels and radio stations but record labels weren’t even ready to release the album in Pakistan. Eventually when the album was given the green light, all that was released in the market were a limited number of audio cassettes which are not available anymore.
I can’t really blame the record label for not backing “non-commercial” music but what option are bands left with? Pakistan has only a handful of record labels (which are more like distributors than record labels) and naturally they just want to make their buck. They want their mind numbing Preetos and Channos while giving boot to talents like Rushk and Mizraab. The concept of an Indie-label is unheard of and real talent is going unnoticed.
Although it is unlikely that Mizraab’s MHM will face the dreadful outcome that Rushk’s Sawal did, my heart goes out to all talented musicians who are over looked because they are not cheesy enough. Apparently having even the slightest of intelligence in your music qualifies you as a non-commercial entity and record labels refuse to touch you with a ten foot pole. A solution to this mess is unlikely to present itself anytime soon.
In fact, the whole concept of a big fat paan chewing idiot deciding the fate of a band is just revolting. The ‘middle man’ needs to be done away with and bands need to make their music available directly to their audience. With the advent of the internet, such a possibility is not far from becoming a reality. Bands like Radiohead are already exploring such options and might actually try selling new music off their website without the involvement of a record label. But in a country like Pakistan, internet does not enjoy as vast of an audience at the moment. Online shopping hasn’t exactly caught on either – it is something only the “loaded” enjoy.
What is the solution for Pakistani artistes then? DIY seems like the most intelligent choice at the moment and bands like Corduroy are already on the bandwagon giving it a shot. It will be interesting to see what kind of a response Corduroy receives when their debut album is finally released – which is due out sometime this year. Perhaps it will act like an eye-opener for many other artistes who find it impossible to get noticed by a record label. We are hoping for the best and will continue to wonder what else can be done to help situation. Email us your ideas and we’ll be glad to present a sequel to this article exploring more options.