Shallum's Solo Sojurn

“The first thing people ask me is whether I’m still with Fuzon.Yes, I am. This is just a solo project.”
– Shallum Xavier

Shallum Xavier has been a staple musician for nearly a decade. It was his guitars and tunes that brought about Fuzon, combined with the singing prowess of Shafqat Amanat Ali and maestro composer Immu. The three of them took the music scene by storm and even though Shafqat might have left, they now have Rameez and are stronger than ever. But where does that leave Shallum’s solo project? A project comprised of a collection of songs composed, co-written, and performed by Shallum along with other local–and even international–musicians. Have Immu and Rameez heard the album? “Yes, they have, ” said Shallum. “And they’re very supportive.”

Shallum takes a moment to reflect on people’s immediate reaction when he mentions he has a solo project. “People fail to realise that musicians don’t limit themselves to one group or one project,” he said. Commenting on the current atmosphere for musicians in Pakistan, Shallum said that it was very suffocating if they don’t get to perform regularly. However, no matter how far he tries to go away from Fuzon, he might not be able to escape the band’s shadow.

“There will be comparisons, of course, I am the same musician that performs with Fuzon and this is my solo effort; yes of course there will be comparisons and I’m okay with that.” There’s also the suggestion that the songs featured in his album are the ones that didn’t make the cut into a Fuzon album. “That’s absolutely not the case,” he said. “When Fuzon starts off to make a record, we start off with, suppose, 12 songs and we record 12 songs, no leftovers.”

The song, called ‘Payam’, features vocals by Zara Madani, the singer featured in Shoab Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye. She is also occasionally seen and heard with the Kolachi Quartet, a jazz supergroup which features Gumby, Immu, Khalid and Abbas Premjee. I immediately asked Shallum if there was a big idea behind the song.

“In 2007, I submitted this song to a competition held in Norway, they had asked Pakistani musicians,” he recalled when he first came up with the idea or rough composition of the song. “It was during the shoot of ‘Dewaane’, that I came up with the idea for this. I quickly sorted out the lyrics with songwriter, Jaffer Sadiq Anthony, and although it may sound like a love song, it really isn’t. It’s about hope and how many different meanings it has for many people.”

The video features Zara intertwined with shots of Shallum, performing amidst the backdrop of an elaborate farmhouse. The video is simple, to the point and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. “This was pretty much Nasir’s idea,” Shallum said, about the concept.

“He had heard the song and knew right away what he wanted to do with it.”

Shallum says of the video’s director, Nasir Tehrany. The video also features model Nausheen Shah, lost in thought in the farmhouse. She seems to be seeking hope, in whatever form it may be; a manifestation of the song’s theme, suggested by Shallum.

So now that the video’s been shot, what’s the status of the album? “Well, I’m about to go to Oslo in a couple of weeks. There, I’ll get the album mixed and have a few more unique instruments placed into the songs.”

The instruments Shallum plans on using, he says, haven’t been heard of before in this region. The sound will be familiar but multilayered. He also plans on collaborating with musicians from around the world. But that’s for something else entirely. “I wanted to release ‘Payam’ as more than just an Urdu track,” Shallum said. “I’m also working on a Spanish and an English version of this song.”

But what about the album in question, his first album itself–which will probably be called Payam–when should we expect to hear it? “Soon.” Has he decided on which record label he will go with? “I was approached by Universal in India and I’m in talks with them, let’s see how that turns out.” And what about local record companies? “I haven’t decided anything, just that I’ll go with whichever company will give me the best comprehensive plan and coverage.” He also stated, push comes to shove, he might even release the album through Amazon or iTunes.

Finally, what about Fuzon? What’s in store for the band that brought us Shallum Xavier in the first place?

“We’re back in the studio, we’ve put down a few songs already.” And what’s it like recording an album with Rameez? “It’s terrific, it’s amazing actually,” Shallum speaks only highly of the new Fuzon singer. “I think this recent tour in Bangladesh we did, the two back to back concerts, really stemmed Rameez into the group.” He recalls how the singer wooed the Bangladeshi audience with his performance of a Bengali song sung by Kishore Kumar.

Shallum plans on going to Oslo for his own album, before touring with Fuzon around the U.S. Till then his fans will have to do with ‘Payam’, from his upcoming solo album of the same name.

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