Gumby, Omran, Khalid and Sheldon gather for a raw and wired jam session…
Once upon a time, jam sessions were all the rage. It was when The Munchkins led the pack and gigs happened almost every weekend. Those were quite the days for music. These days jam groups have coalesced and members of each often meet up and have special gigs like this one.
'I don't give a flying funk' was one such special gig held at the PACC Auditorium and featured the iconic Gumby on drums, Omran Shafique on guitars, Khalid Khan on bass and Rachel Viccaji on vocals. The line up also featured a trio of guest vocalists, namely Sheldon Emmanuel, Taimur from Lahore and Karavan's Tanseer Dar.
"I've been having these gigs on and off for about 8 to 10 years now. Every time it's something different and special. This time, after being busy with Coke Studio season two for so long, we had a couple of gigs including the 'Summer Jam' and we wanted to do it at least one more time," said Gumby to Instep.
Gumby then shared the idea with Omran Shafique, the groovy guitar man of Mauj who quickly agreed to the idea.
"All I had to do was to contact the others. Khalid is always around and is eager to jam," recalled Gumby. He also added that gigs like these give musicians like himself a chance to jam with younger musicians and at the same time, gives the young musicians a chance to perform a gig with Gumby, Omran and Khalid. "It's all about giving new people a chance to collaborate with us and if the chemistry's there, then we can collaborate on other stuff too."
Customarily, the gig started an hour late, but the crowd (that arrived late) hardly complained. Everybody was eager to check out the super jam group that was about to perform.
The gig kicked off with a cover of Kings of Leon's 'Sex on Fire'. Omran, Gumby and Khalid immediately settled into their individual instruments like hand in glove. Rachel Viccaji's vocals added an interesting twist to the alternative indie track whereas Omran's crunchy guitar drove the song ahead.
Then came Sheldon Emmanuel on stage, much to the delight of the audience. To be honest, I had only heard of Sheldon before and when I did hear him sing, I could understand what the rage was all about. His ability not to mimic a song but to emulate it is what makes him special.
'Superstitious', originally by Stevie Wonder, is one such song on which Sheldon truly let his vocals shine through.
As soon as the tune finished Omran, Gumby and Khalid steamed onto another crowd favorite, 'Foxy Lady' and Sheldon joined them without missing a single beat. Hendrix covers are very popular at such gigs, but not that many guitar players can do justice to a Hendrix performance and here Omran shows that he is not one of those many.
Sheldon made his exit with Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction'. The crowd seemed disappointed to see Sheldon go, but he left the stage with reassuring words, "I'll be back."
The band introduced a relatively new singer to Karachi, that is Taimur. He seemed nervous as she shuffled onto the stage, but as soon as the song began, it was pretty clear why Taimur had been given the opportunity to perform along with the band.
'Come Together', a Beatles number, is probably where things slowed down a bit. Perhaps it was the previous three song rollercoaster from before, but the band's energy seemed to wane. As for Taimur's performance, though one song is too little to judge from, his singing clearly shows that the young singer does have a special spark.
The band's next track was a real oldie this time, straight out of a Motown Classic; 'Baby Love' by the Supremes with Rachel on vocals. Rachel's singing continued after with Alanis Morissette's 'Ironic'. The band seemed to pick their pace once again as Rachel channeled Alanis' irony and the crowd had joined in too!
Keeping true to his promise, Sheldon once again came back on stage and once again, the crowd applauded his presence. Sheldon is a rare breed of singer, the kind that sings for the pleasure of singing. With each performance he seems to lose himself in the song and bring out the best from it.
'One Drop' is an old Bob Marley song that Sheldon and the band made their own. A change of pace brings out an all new song altogether, something that Sheldon truly appreciates. "If it's the same song when you sing it, then why bother covering it in the first place?" he asks and rightfully so, what makes a gig like this special is that you hear familiar songs with a breath of fresh air.
Sheldon himself is a practitioner of performing songs in single takes as much as he can, "I do a song once or twice just to get the feel and then just go with the flow." With his talented vocals it's no wonder why, but will we get to hear from him outside of gigs? "I don't think so, unless I get to sing in English, because my Urdu is very weak." It's a shame that a singer has to be limited by the language barrier but here's hoping that Sheldon does get his chance soon.
Continuing with Bob Marley, the band then performed 'Get up, stand up', though more interpretive and less emulative. Having said that, not many cover groups here would perform such songs and getting to hear them being performed is quite a treat unto itself. Hot Chocolate's 'You Sexy Thing' was up next and Sheldon continued to sing to his heart's content. It didn't bother him that there weren't that many people in the crowd to begin with-what seemed to fuel him was the fact that the people that were there were enjoying his singing.
Also on the playing bill was Tanseer Dar as a special guest. While he may have caused much anxiety and ache to the soul of Michael Jackson with his singing of 'Smooth Criminal', his performance of the Foo Fighter song 'Pretender' fared much better with the crowd. Finally, the band ended the show with 'Been a Long Time, a Led Zeppelin classic.
This was probably one of the better shows of the year so far, though it wasn't big as the recent Independence Day gig held at Carlton. But it came with a sense of intimacy and closeness. But that wasn't inviting enough to pull in a crowd. As Gumby said after the gig, "We didn't even break even. Half the people who showed up were on the guest list." Doesn't that show that the price tag for the gig was too steep?
"600 is a reasonable amount to give for a gig like this. I mean, don't people pay that much for a meal? Some people can even afford to pay 10 to 20,000 for a table at a prestigious ball," stated Gumby.