At a time when most of Pakistani music enters the stream of popular culture only when large corporations throw in lots of money to sponsor programs like Coke Studio, Nescafé Basement and more recently Pepsi battle of the bands. I feel that there should be some attempt to popularize music that’s being made for the sake of music by musicians that are not as dedicated to fame and fortune, as they are to their art form. Musicians that are creating the kind of music that gives meaning to our otherwise mundane existence and makes us feel fulfilled. And while there are platforms like the LMM (Lahore Music Meet) that are doing just that, more needs to be done to get Pakistanis to stop watching the news and find a new, more fulfilling form of entertainment.

This piece (hopefully the first of a series of similar ones) is about a band called Janoobi Khargosh.

Writing this comes with a hint of awkwardness perhaps because the person who is the subject of this article came to be a really good friend of mine but nevertheless, the thought of writing something about this unique individual has been nagging me for more than a month and I believe that now is the time to bring my thoughts to paper.

I first became aware about a band called Janoobi Khargosh through a friend. 18 years old at that time, he was managing the Mekaal Hassan Band and was constantly on the lookout for original music coming out of Pakistan. The first Janoobi Khargosh track he made me listen to was called "Chaar Paanch Chay” which being a musician myself I couldn’t but listen to with a pinch of envy. Whichever band had made this track were pretty good. The groove was enrapturing, the music filled my mind with a thousand colours and the production was sublime.

I asked my friend who these guys were and it turned out that there was but one man behind this band called Janoobi Khargosh and his name was Waleed Ahmed. This name rung a bell in my head because a couple of years ago, when there existed a ravishing underground metal scene in Lahore, Waleed Ahmed used to play for a death/doom metal band called ‘Dionysus’. Sometime later he had apparently shifted to Karachi where he had created this psychedelic pop band called Janoobi Khargosh.

When I dug deeper into the world of Janoobi Khargosh I was ashamed to find that this man had single-handedly released an entire 10 track album, self produced and self composed with some help from his brother Umer Ahmed and featured artists like Nadir Shehzad from ‘Sikandar ka Mandir’.

In time I became a hard core fan of Janoobi Khargosh. The music was too irresistible and original. The lyrics hinted at something deeper, but I never gave the lyrics much heed, I was too dazed by the music. The ten tracks were sufficient to cover my long drives from DHA Phase 6 to The Nation’s office on Mall Road.

Then one day I heard that Waleed had shifted back to Lahore and wanted Daud (the drummer for my band ‘Keeray Makoray’) to play for him for a gig and it was during one those days when I was hanging at Daud’s place that Waleed showed up. We listened to old progressive rock bands, discussed music and audio production after which Waleed made us listen to some of the tracks that he had not released yet. He played a track called “Cinema” which he described as the score of a fight sequence, where the main character of his album has to fight the Janoobi Khargosh to get back something he had lost. That was when I realized that this man was on some serious psychedelics and the kind that I needed in life.

But sadly he wasn’t. It was inspiration which he had/has and which I continue to search for.

The gig these guys were preparing for was to be the first Janoobi Khargosh performance in Lahore at a venue called True Brew Records. The performance was tight as was expected but the interesting bit was when someone from the audience asked Waleed to tell everyone the story behind his song “Mars” (from the upcoming album) and after some persuasion, Waleed told the audience the plot of the next album.

He said that the story of the next album started with a planet that’s about to be destroyed by a meteor and everyone on that planet are panicking because everything they know is soon to be annihilated So they choose this one person, called Monkey and give him “Asliyat” to save it from destruction. They put him in a spaceship to leave the planet to keep “Asliyat” secure. But during his journey in space, Monkey loses Asliyat because some space bandits rob him off it. So he follows these bandits around looking for the lost ‘Asliyat’ and in his search he lands at Mars, which was what the song ‘Mars’ was about.

A few weeks after that gig Waleed contacted me asking if I could play guitars for him at the Lahore Music Meet. Being a fan I immediately said yes and we started jamming. Janoobi Khargosh’s original guitar/bass player had their exams so they weren’t available for the gig. So now Janoobi Khargosh at LMM was composed of my bands drummer (Daud), bassist (Ibzi), myself ,Waleed and Umer.

When I showed up for the first jam, Waleed had already made a new song which he said he had made a day before. I was annoyed because it meant more work for me and also because I really wanted to play songs from the old album, but since the man was persistent I couldn’t say no. And this song was nice. Waleed kept singing the lyrics “Scenery dekhlo agay, nahin hai yahan koi tum sa jahan” while teaching us the chords. At a certain point I asked Waleed what exactly it was that he was singing. Waleed explained that Monkey, the main character of his next album has reached the edge of the universe and before him was emptiness. So Monkey sitting at the edge of the universe is telling his friend Scenery (another character in Janoobi’s world), that there is nothing like her there.

That was the moment when I understood that Janoobi Khargosh is not just a band, it’s an entire universe in the mind of Waleed Ahmed which is why I felt that writing this piece was essential to have some record, some glimpse at the genius being channelled through Janoobi Khargosh. So that others may know that beneath the surface of these songs, there are treasures undiscovered.

His latest single, a super track called ‘Super Cat’ (whose video I had the pleasure of editing) while being about an imaginary all powerful Cat that can save everyone and fix everything, is partially about Junaid Jamshed’s tragic death and his most popular single ‘Chaar Paanch Chay’ is about a fire fighter pulling bodies out of a burning building.

These are just a few songs from the world of Janoobi Khargosh which I have managed to find the meaning behind having the privilege of knowing the mind behind it. But to all Janoobi Khargosh fans and fans to be, there is much more you can extract from this music.

If you’re someone who successfully managed to read through this piece and if you don’t believe me, go to Soundcloud or Patari and give Janoobi Khargosh a listen because as clichéd as this may sound this music is real music and the kind that can actually give some meaning to the lives of our Atif Aslam/Coke Studio/Nescafé basement loving audience.