Inside the Making of Parvaaz’s Long Awaited Album ‘Kun’
The Bengaluru rock band talk about sculpting the sound on their third record and what comes next
Ask Parvaaz to pick a favorite song off their new record Kun and guitarist Mir Kashif Iqbal immediately waves us off and says, “I would have said I had a favorite if you asked me about the previous album, but not this time. This time, equal energy has been spent on all of them.”
Vocalist-guitarist Khalid Ahamed finds a new favorite as he listens to the album over time. Drummer Sachin Banandur deviates to say the easygoing “Mushq-e-Gul” is the one he feels they did “really good.” The somewhat reticent bassist Fidel D’Souza mentions he’s keen to know if people will listen to the record as a whole. Ahamed responds cheekily to his bassist, “Any song that you hate?” D’Souza smiles and says no. The frontman, fully aware that he just turned interviewer for a second, says, “Very diplomatic answer.”
In the decade or so that the Bengaluru rock band has been around – combining Urdu and Kashmiri poetry with prog-leaning, psychedelic and blues intent – Kun comes across as Parvaaz are at their most laborious yet confident selves. The rapport is so evident that they’re often finishing each other’s sentences, always knowing when one person has finished making their point and if they can respond first to a question. D’Souza says at one point, “We spent quite some time on this album, but hopefully it’s got some new sounds and some terrains.”
Following up 2014’s Baran, the 10-track Kun is centered around existence and existential crises and the band reflects on the times we live in, not necessarily making any specific reference to global, Indian or even Kashmiri issues. Ahamed says, “If [you] see our songwriting, we’ve never given a direct message.” Iqbal adds about the way the Urdu, Kashmiri and Hindi lyrics are positioned, “There’s often a question and then an answer immediately. Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes there’s a question in the beginning and maybe there’s an answer at the end.”
Parvaaz embarked on some firsts with Kun, including undertaking pre-production for the first time at their live sound engineer Rahul Ranganath’s Mono Hive home studio. Then, they transplanted themselves to Mumbai’s Yash Raj Film Studios with veteran engineers Shantanu Hudlikar and Abhishek Khandelwal (plus assistant sound engineer Mansi Tare) for nearly a month of recording. Ahamed recounts, “We had a session every day at 11 am until 8 pm. That was our timing for almost a month. Wake up, bathe, have breakfast, go and come back, sleep and wake up early the next morning. I also believe we work on deadlines well, we tend to work more efficiently.” Musicians such as Mumbai-based Sameer Rahat (from rock band Joshish), long-time producer and keyboardist Jason Zachariah, Akshay Dhabadkar and bassist, composer and producer Leslie Charles (from rock band Thermal and a Quarter) add piano, string and orchestral flourishes throughout Kun.
Mixed by Mumbai-bred, Auckland-based Zorran Mendonsa, Kun starts off with one of their heaviest songs yet (“Harf”), followed by one of their shortest – “Mushq-e-Gul” – and drifts into a signature stargazing sound on “Soye Ja” and “Shabaan.” Ahamed descends into one of his most passionate vocal portions towards the end of “Shabaan,” which seamlessly transitions into “Zindaano.” Featuring an incendiary tone and pace, “Zindaano” closes out in psych-rock fashion for the melancholic “Katyi Rov,” which takes a shimmering turn with an instrumental movement.
The band’s oldest song “Mastaan” also finds its way on to a Parvaaz record, something they’ve been trying since 2012’s Behosh EP. Iqbal and Ahamed recount how they had only half the lyrics written in an old notebook, with the rest torn out and missing. It’s certainly an instant mood changer, featuring sing-along hooks that harkens back to a previous version of Parvaaz, but offering something new. Ahamed says with a laugh about finally including the song on record, “We need to make more happier songs bro. We’d get totally depressed otherwise.”
The album closer is the dusty blues-inflected “Dasht-Ba-Dasht,” which keeps the cheery mood going. The band hints that this song might have a music video. Ahamed notes that there will be more music videos to promote Kun. Banandur adds, “The whole album is so cinematic, so it would help to have a visual narration.” With a few shows already in the pipeline, a more specific live experience showcase – similar to their 2016 live album Transitions – is being toyed with.
One thing’s for sure, despite the five years it’s taken between albums, Parvaaz say they’ve only scratched the surface of their potential as music makers. Ahamed says with a smile, “We’ll still say this is not our Dark Side Of The Moon yet. We still haven’t reached there.”