Karavan — the journey continues
By Shaiba Rizwan
The demise of Awaz, a band that gave us some nice teenybopper ditties in the late nineties, proved to be quite productive for the local pop scene. Awaz had become bland and going their separate ways was the best thing Haroon, Fakhir and Asad could do. The three ex-members all started new projects.
While Haroon and Fahkir went solo, attaining some commercial success, Asad did what a true rocker would do, and made his own rock band. Karavan, with its infectious mixture of rock, pop and funk metal with a desi touch, appears perennially to be on the verge of making it big. But despite not making a major impression on the market, they have had critical success with two of their three albums.
Perhaps the most difficult period for the band was when Najam Shiraz, their first vocalist, left the band immediately after their debut album had bombed. One album and one video, which saw Najam in black leather pants doing Steve Tyler antics, was enough for him.
Karavan’s first album was a decent effort, but nothing out of the ordinary. The band was then clearly directionless. Najam’s voice just didn’t gel with the eighties rock sound ala Def Leppard and Aerosmith that they had. Released when Junoon’s powerful Sayonee and Yar Bina were at the top of the charts, Karavan’s first album sank without trace.
Guitarist Asad and bassist Sameer soldiered on, roping in Tanseer Dar, the singer, and Alan Smith, the drummer. Tanseer does not have Najam’s vocal range, but the lad gave it his all and his long locks and dark glasses gave him the image the frontman of a rock band should have.
Karavan released their second album, Safar, in 2000. Safar was a moderate commercial success, but critically it put the band on the map. Despite leaning heavily on Junoon-inspired tabla/guitar combinations, Karavan managed to create a distinct style, the most notable facet of which was the absence of keyboards, which gave the band a more raw sound.
Safar was inspired by glam rock bands like Kiss and Poison, neatly mixed with subtle tablas, dholaks and drums. Asad, Sammer, Tanseer and Alan had announced their arrival as a band. Tracks like Aja Meray Pas and Beqarar were quite a hit with pop fans and there was a lot of chatter about the album on the Internet.
Late in 2002, they released their third album Gardish, their best work to date. Gardish was a well produced album with intelligent lyrics and innovative tunes. It ricocheted from retro soft rock to contemporary progressive metal. The title track of the album saw Asad, the band’s driving force, really let his guitar rip.
Now Karavan have released a live album of all their old hits on the net. Perhaps with the country’s leading record label in limbo because of a piracy dispute, the band had no other option.
However, Karavan has been unable to grab that cola sponsorship which seems so necessary for bands to survive in our industry. You also hardly ever see these guys performing live. Their songs are played regularly on the radio and their videos on the music channels, yet Karavan does not have a following to match bands like EP and Jal.
Well, I would say that’s how a rock band should be: wild and unadulterated by cola, mint or tea sponsorships. Perhaps all Karavan needs is to come up with that one breakthrough single which can elevate them to a new level, like Junoon did with Jazba, Jal with Aadat, Abrar with Billo and Ali Zafar with Channo. Till then, I hope the band keeps coming up with good new stuff. Rock on Karavan.