While the country is struggling to break the shackles of extremism, the young guns of Pakistan are inspiring thousands through their music. With their rather untouched genre of music, three youngsters of ‘Three Musketeers’ band are uplifting the standards of music at national level. Their mesmerizing performances are growing with their ever-increasing popularity. Let’s have a conversation with their violinist Hamza Butt and learn about their innovative compositions.

Kindly tell us about your band and music.

Our band was formed around three years ago through a very casual jam session. All of us members (Hamza, Shahrukh and Zaryab) are current/previous students at FC College Lahore where we first got together and tried out the instrumental combination of violin and guitars. Since it clicked, we decided to continue experimenting and covering different genres in this style, generally up-tempo ones. This fast, acoustic tone reminiscent of dynamic Latin music led us to naming our band “Three Musketeers”.

Give us personal background of your band members?

I (Hamza Butt) am a baccalaureate graduate in biotechnology and currently pursuing my masters studies in biostatistics. Shahrukh Sherwani, our lead guitarist is currently doing his bachelors degree in economics from FC College. Zaryab Abbas (rhythm guitarist) has recently started his undergraduate study in engineering from Melbourne, Australia. So, currently Asjl Khan (bass guitars) who is also studying economics joins us in live shows.

What’s the inspiration behind adopting acoustica as your genre?

Acoustic music, in my opinion is the purest form of music because it transmits unaltered sound to the listeners and truly allows the appreciation of instrumental aesthetics. Luckily the music taste of all our members had this factor in common so we decided to pursue this genre.

Isn’t it similar to trance music?

Trance music has some clear difference to acoustic genre since the former incorporates ‘technologically altered’ sounds which are usually simulated live through DJ turntables or synthesizers. At the moment our sound is only comprised of only amplified acoustic instruments (and the bass).

What’s the scope of this genre in Pakistan?

It is tough to look at past examples because you don’t find a lot of instrumental bands in Pakistan. However, our live performance experiences have shown that dynamic acoustic music does potentially have a good scope among our youth; the novelty factor of creating a signature live tone really gives us an advantage.

Do you have special training that has prepared you for your career?

I haven’t had any formal music training or degree, though I did do a semester-long ‘music science’ course during my undergraduate study in Hong Kong University; it was actually a physics course that dealt with musical instrumental families and analyzing their characteristic wave patterns. Being a science student, this really inspired me to practice and read on music more actively, and I’ve tried gathering different literature to help me in the process.

Tell us about your favorite musician, band and song.

It is impossible to mention one name, but since I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental composers lately, one of my favorites is the Greek composer Yanni. He incorporates a multitude of instruments/genres in his works very skillfully, whilst keeping the mood energetic. I also enjoy listening to The Piano Guys because they represent my two favorite instrument categories.

What is most rewarding about music? What makes it all worthwhile?

A good spell of music, whether it is played or listened to, tends to stop time and help one focus better on the little things in life. This brief experience makes it all worthwhile.

So far what’s been your most encouraging moment as a musician?

One of the greatest feelings I’ve had as a musician was around the end of September 2014 when I performed with Forman Symphonic Strings (a small string ensemble comprising of 8 beginner violinists that I’m currently training) at PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week 2014 in HSY’s opening act ‘Divine Decadence’. It was my first experience of doing a choreographed performance that helped me realize how musicians fit in to the bigger picture of performing arts. Having your students perform onstage is equally one of the most encouraging feelings.

Has there been a defining moment in your life that make you decide to take this direction?

Music was always restricted to a side hobby before I began my undergraduate study (since I was more concentrating on academics). However three years back I decided to enroll in a televised music show called ‘Nescafe Basement’ and played as an instrumentalist in Season 1. This experience really helped me look at music as a potential side career and I have tried working towards achieving it since then.

What is the importance of live performances in a musician’s life?

Live performances are a crucial element for musicians because they not only help us build a following, but they also help gauge what type of music should be produced to target a particular market. From an individual perspective, the euphoria of onstage performing is also a big motivator.

Do you have any plans of working for neighboring countries?

No definite plans yet, but would love to do so.

Terrorism and political uncertainty have adversely affected our music industry. What measures on personal levels are required to overcome this situation?

One of the strategies already in work is to tighten security and identification measures at concert and event venues. Musicians and audience both need to adhere to these measures because they are equally important if this sector is to thrive.

From where do you get inspiration for a new track?

Inspiration comes in many forms. I like to use a bit of vivid imagery to establish a link between musical riffs and scenes from nature/life events. It is also important to deal with technical aspects such as song structure/arrangement alongside to compose a good track.

Where and at how many venues have your performed so far?

As a band, we’ve performed at most major universities and schools of Lahore. We also performed at corporate events outside Lahore and for student organizations; one of our main highlights last year was performing at the Governor House, Punjab.

How often do you bring in new original compositions?

We’ve been a bit thrifty with new compositions since our focus had been live shows over the past two years doing mostly cover renditions. Our first music video “Spanish Alley”released in March 2013 and had a good response. We have two more original singles and several cover songs in the pipeline that will be released very soon.

What is a string ensemble?

A string ensemble is a group of instrumentalists who specialize in different string instruments (usually the bowed ones like violins and cellos) and perform orchestrated music together as a group. They usually have more than one melody lines written as sheet music; these melody lines establish a harmonic sound when played together. My group ‘Forman Symphonic Strings’ is a beginner project that is trying to conform to principles of small string ensembles.

What combination of instruments produces mystic results?

Any combination of acoustic instruments in which some establish a simple chord accompaniment (like sustained notes on the violins) and is synchronized with a lead instrument or vocal whose every note and ornament becomes evident, usually creates a mystic aura. Usually the tempo of such compositions is slow so that the listener can fully appreciate the lead melody.

How often do you improvise original tracks by other singers? And who’s do you do the most?

Being an instrumental trio, we improvise original tracks by other artists a lot, and try covering multiple genres in our style. We’ve experimented cover dance tracks by Edward Maya/Akcent/Boney M., Hip hop tracks by Pitbull and some popular classic vocals such as Adele and Gnarls Barkley.

What are the most critical problems faced by people in your field?

Underground musicians in Pakistan face a lot of hurdles, whether they be getting approval of their art by their family and community or financial and promotional means to project their work to audiences. It is important to stay persistent because eventually it does work out.

What kind of feedback have you received for your music?

Generally we have received a positive feedback for our music because audiences tend to enjoy dynamic music and the violin-guitars combo. We do get suggestions of doing more genres like rock music and are hoping to incorporate them in our future endeavors.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank you for this interview session and ask our listeners to keep following “Three Musketeers” on social media so you can stay updated with our upcoming live shows. Thanks!