Simply Shallum

Amidst the hustle and bustle of one of Karachi's busiest high streets, tucked away in a studio apartment, hidden from prying eyes, Shallum Xavier is hard at work on his solo project. Though it is completely nondescript from the outside, inside Shallum has been laying down the final touches to the album, which is his personal pride and joy.

During the past few months he has been hard at work, collaborating with various musicians from across Pakistan. And now the hard work is about to pay off."This is the first time I'm putting my name on a project—just my name," he says, enthusiastically. The soft spoken guitarist, also one of the founding members of Fuzon, has been at work on this particular project for some time now. "I guess it began around the time Fuzon was starting off. I had done a particular instrumental track and released it online. But because the band was just taking off at that time, we were everywhere and I couldn't get enough time to concentrate on this."

And indeed it is true, since Fuzon burst on to the scene they have quite literally been all over the place – but in a good way. Whether it is traveling to India and performing there or performing locally, the astounding success of Fuzon meant that Shallum just didn't find enough time to concentrate on his own work—until now.

Although the current conditions aren't so good for the music industry in general, a fact that Shallum himself reiterates, there is one opportunity that has arisen for the statuesque guitarist. Free from distractions, concert engagements or any other thing, this downtime has give Shallum the opportunity to finally work on his album.

Speaking on his reason to venture out as a solo artist, Shallum said, "There are lots and lots of reasons, though one seems to be the most predominant one. A lot of people think that I'm just a guitar player or a decent guitar player. That's because I've never tested myself or pushed myself into being something more than that – even though I've composed songs for Fuzon and other people alike. This is a test for me to show people that I'm a musician through and through. I've come a long way from when I started with Najam and all, I used to see them produce and compose, and through that I picked up a lot of things along the way. So far the results have been quite rewarding."

The first thing on Shallum's to do list was to construct his own studio, which he has, and once that was done, he quickly began work. The process is now just over two years old, with seven tracks, either complete or in the final stages of completion and when asked what the album was about, Shallum's reply was, "I think you should listen to it."

The first track we hear is something he's done just days before. It starts off – naturally – with a guitar cord that sounds almost like a sitar or some other stringed eastern classical instrument. It sounds like a call to a journey, and as the track continues it's almost as if we're drawn into a story of longing. "I've played every instrument in this track myself," says Shallum, "even the backing vocals that you hear."

The second track features vocals by Zara Madani (Khuda Key Liye and Kolachi Quartet) and echoes more of the Fuzon sound than the first one. It is charming and enchanting, thanks to Zara's vocal and combined with Shallum's unique guitar play it turns out to be a pleasant listening experience. The first time you listen to this you think obviously that's Gumby on the drums. "Nope," corrects Shallum, "that's me."

The third track was the result of a collaboration with a musician from Faisalabad, a vocalist by the name of Manan Khan, on a Norwegian project. It starts with an almost Arabic beat to it, something different for the musician.

The fourth track bursts in with heavy riffs amid the same desi tone of the album so far. The vocals here are particularly interesting provided by Manan Khans, accompanied with Shallum's riffs and a Bull Horn.

Though some tracks on the album are instrumentals to the listener, Shallum prefers otherwise. "I think they aren't instrumentals as such," he says. "I haven't finished them as yet, so I don't know what they'll be in the end."

Another common factor with all of the tracks is the collaborators so far, who are either unknown or not as relatively known so far. "I haven't used anybody that is common in the industry, I opted for fresh talent." Any particular reason for that? "They put in that extra effort and plus the stuff that they do is very original and fresh."

It has been an interesting experience for Shallum working solo. Is it difficult having the final say of things? "Yes but I love doing this. I stay here in the studio most of the day, I make music, and it’s a very challenging experience. This whole experience has given me a lot of confidence, I mean I may be dedicating my time to this effort but I'm working on other things as well."

One of those things includes working on Fuzon's next album. "I had a meeting with Emu the other week, and we're going to get that ball rolling soon."

As for his own effort there is some time before we'll see his album on the shelves, "In another couple of months, after the mixing and mastering, hopefully this album will be released."

Whether it is a particular instrument or it’s a particular style of composition, Shallum has set out to prove that he's more than just a guitarist. The tracks are unique in their own way and fresh to listen to. The untitled album so far sounds promising, it echoes with a musician who is constantly testing himself and his art, and at the same time hoping that it will be appreciated by those that listen to it.