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Mekaal Hasan On His Band’s New Lineup Featuring Indian Artists

The Pakistani Sufi rock band’s frontman and flautist Mohammad Ahsan Papu are jamming on new material with drummer Gino Banks, bassist Sheldon D’Silva and vocalist Sharmistha Chatterjee

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Feb 10, 2014
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Mekaal Hasan

Mekaal Hasan

Pakistani musician Mekaal Hasan remains unfazed after a protest staged by right-wing party Shiv Sena at a press conference he had called to announce a new project last week. While the news of Hasan’s new lineup for the Mekaal Hasan Band, featuring drummer Gino Banks, bassist Sheldon D’Silva and vocalist Sharmistha Chatterjee, was overshadowed by protests and the politics behind it, the Sufi rock guitarist says in an email interview, “We will not be making any political statements or giving answers to questions which carry political commentary. The musicians have enough talent to let the music speak the truth.”

The Mekaal Hasan Band’s original members including Hasan and flautist Mohammad Ahsan Papu, are jamming and recording material with Banks, D’Silva and Chatterjee for a new album, Andholan, due in March. Following the studio release, the “Indo-Pak lineup” will perform in India and abroad, according to Hasan. At their live shows, the band will also perform previous MHB material. Vocalist Sharmistha Chatterjee, who has also been a film playback singer [Saawariya, Veer], tells us how the songs needed to be reworked, considering they were written for a male vocalist [Javed Bashir]. Says Chatterjee, “Papu and Mekaal helped me with the language, explained the meaning of the songs and also showed me the ”˜chalaan’ of a few new ragaas which I wasn’t knowledgeable about before. It has been a good learning process for me.” Chatterjee, who is part of jazz pianist Louiz Banks’s world music project Ganga Shakti, joined MHB in November last year, after she was recommended to Hasan by Gino Banks.

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Hasan says the new lineup is a mix of jazz players such as Banks and D’Silva joining his own rock influences and Chatterjee’s Hindustani classical style to create fusion. Hasan adds, “It’s MHB with much more color and dynamics than ever before.” Bassist D’Silva says the music has elements of traditional “Indian – Pakistani folk and classical mixed with high energy jazz and rock.”

With Andholan set for release in March, Hasan does not feel last week’s protest at the Press Club in Mumbai will dissuade them from continuing with the project. Says Hasan, “If peace is to be made a reality, then why not through the medium of music for a change? I think once people realize that we are making music together which binds us culturally, and that for the first time, Pakistani musicians are writing for and with Indian musicians, it will gather us the positivity that the band merits.” 

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