All that Kolachi Jazz

They say that jazz is an acquired taste.

If that is so, then Karachi has quite the appetite for Jazz. On a brisk Saturday evening, the jazz/fusion supergroup, the Kolachi Quartet performed a gig at the PACC.

The who's who of the entertainment industry loitered around the entrance of the inner-theatre, where the concert was set to take place. TV stars, musicians, photographers, models, all mingled with the band members, a sight not particularly seen before the concert – or come to think of it, at any concert.

The group is comprised of varied musicians. Pakistan's prominent percussionist Gumby, handles the drums; classical guitarist Abbas Premjee helms the guitar; Khalid Khan of Aaroh provides the bass lines; finally to round things off, Emu of Fuzon fame, chimes in with his synthesizer and keyboards.

The Kolachi Quartet has performed before, but that was a special performance, away from the prying eyes of the public. This time around, they have opened their doors and although there weren't enough members of the general public around, the group's provided a very interesting performance.

As the lights dimmed, the musicians took to the stage. They looked relaxed, grinning at each other, obviously knowing what they were about to do.

Abbas greeted the audience and announced the track the name of the track, "Oops." Like a well oiled machine, each musician fell into place. At first, it doesn't seem that out of the ordinary, four musicians playing in a band. When you put them in their individual perspectives, that's where the interesting bit kicks in. Each of them brings their own flair and passion, each sound is different, yet when they all come together, their music gels perfectly.

The track itself was jumpy and upbeat, filled with the jazzy and fusion sound and gave a sneak peak for the audience what the show is all about. "That sinking feeling" followed and it was when the band shifted gears into a slower tune. The crowd seemed to sink itself into each tune and although Jazz is ambient music, the band made sure they were center of attention. An untitled piece follows: "We haven't given this one a name yet, but we call it the Kirwani Jam," says Premjee. The piece begins with an erratic but stable beat and pretty soon the audience gets into the groove.

The band then welcomed Zara on the stage. The singer has been previously heard on the "Khuda Key Liye" soundtrack and although she does justice to the film, her live singing is a bit less impressive. "Suniye Jee" is a soft ballad, Zara's vocals sinking into the ambience created by the band. At times, she seems a bit lost, but through the most of it, she's on track. After another track with Zara, the band then took a break as Abbas Premjee took the stage to perform a few solo compositions. The audience watched with awe and wonder as Abbas plucked and strummed two different pieces. From crescendos to soft whispers, Abbas clearly showed off his training in the guitar—and the audience loved it.

The band re-groups and then is joined by singer Irfan on stage. Irfan is a folk singer from Multan and sings in his native tongue. Although he stumbles a bit at first (perhaps due to some technical glitch) as the songs move on, he finds his own temperament and settles in with the band.

After the concert, the band spoke about the premise of the concert with much glee. It was clear that not only did they enjoy playing as a group, but they did so as individual musicians as well.

"This was probably more for us as musicians than as a band performing for an audience," spoke Gumby. Emu agrees, "It's just something that had to be done. As a musician, I've always been into Jazz – I was trained in it – but had never had the opportunity to play it live or as a part of a band." Khalid said, "I enjoyed playing with them, this was our first public concert and it was amazing."

When asked if they would ever release an album, Gumby replied "Every piece that was played in the concert – except for one – was an improvisation piece. We've practiced a basic structure, but apart from that, it's all something that happens once every concert. It's not something that can be captured on a disc, it has to be done live, in front of an audience." Emu reiterates this fact, "This is total improvisation, which is the essence of Jazz music." Guitarist Premjee echoes the sentiments of his fellow band members, "Jazz music is spontaneous, you can't have that on a disc, its meant to be played live—hence, we'd like to do more shows." Bassist Khalid Khan echoed his band members but added, "We can probably look into a record but at the moment, we're planning on doing more shows."

However, the band faces one criticism. Jazz music as a genre is extremely niche in Pakistan at the moment. There are very few people who play it, and even fewer who can appreciate it. "That's right," agrees Gumby, "it is niche, but at the same time, we're doing it and it's not like nobody came to the show." Emu says, "It is very niche, but then we had so many people show up at our show and because of that support we now have more shows lined up!" Whereas the majority of the band agrees upon its niche genre, Abbas Premjee has a different view: "I don't think its niche at all and if it is its less than ghazals and everything else that we have." Premjee insists that more shows will lead up to jazz becoming a broader genre than it already is.

Although we can expect more from Kolachi Quartet, the members themselves have a busy schedule up ahead. Premjee spoke about his solo album "Elements" and that it would be released shortly. Khalid Khan spoke about Aaroh, "We're working on some new songs that will lead into a new album." Meanwhile, Emu and his band continue to broaden their audiences, "We're [Fuzon] going to India again soon, so that should be exciting." Finally, and not the least, Gumby has his hands full too, with working on Abbas Premjee's album, providing drums for other people, like Kaavish's upcoming record and ultimately, more Kolachi Quartet shows.

The concert itself was probably the first of its kind, and it’s a shame not enough people get to experience it the first time around—but according to the band, more shows are around the corner so that the most of Karachi can experience the sounds of the Kolachi Quartet.