ISLAMABAD - In the world of showbiz, Goher Mumtaz of Jal The Band has usually been viewed as either ‘black’ or ‘white’. There are those who love him, and think he is talented. In a population where the average male is 5ft and 9inch, anyone with a 6ft frame definitely stands out. He is considered good looking by many, and judging by his pictures, his smile is one of his nicest features. Then again, some would argue it’s his soulful eyes, with their trademark slant. He is respected among his peers, and many fans claim he is very humble and polite when they meet him.

On the flip side, he has been called arrogant too. Some feel that Jal’s love songs have worn out their welcome in the music world. So who is the real Goher Mumtaz? Behind all the facade, is he really a simple lad from Lahore who loves his “purane jeans and guitar”? (recall Ali Haider’s song).

Perhaps not in the league of Vital Signs or Junoon, but in all fairness, they have carved a niche for themselves in the music industry. I’m hoping the following interview will help us all decide one way or another.

I managed to catch up with Goher early Monday afternoon, as he kindly invited me over for a cup of coffee at a local cafe. I had already been working since 8am so at 2pm, it seemed as if half the day had already passed me by. But for Goher, the day had only just begun.

“So this is what a celebrity life style means?” I asked. “Getting out of bed at 2pm?

“I only wish,” laughs Goher. “Actually, all the recordings usually take place late at night, so I go to bed at around 4am, sometimes 5. After that it’s only fair for me to wake up at 1pm. And that too, only on good days. If we have a morning shoot, I’ve got to be back on my feet by 9am. That means I’m usually sleep deprived. So I don’t know which ‘celebrity lifestyle’ you’re talking about. Next you’ll be asking me if I sleep in silk sheets!”

Hearing this, I turned to my checklist. Hardworking, check!!!

“So Goher, you seem to be like a cat with nine lives, really. Your band has survived many controversies in the past, and you’re still standing strong, especially now, when your new album ‘Pyaas’ is out. Farhan’s departure left you in a bit of a lurch didn’t it? You had a huge responsibility, to deliver in the third album, and judging by the response of the fans, you certainly did. ‘Tanhai’ in particular, OST of the drama Tanhai has really appealed to the masses, true JAL style! So, how was it, releasing an album with a sword hanging over your neck?”

“Ofcourse, a certain amount of trepidation is always there. We try our best, after that, it is up to the fans and music lovers to decide how good it is. Jal has worked hard on this album, and I hope the fans like it. They’re the ones who matter the most! As for Farhan, his departure is old news. He’s come a long way since then, and he’s doing well. I mean, it’s just music isn’t it? We’re all here to entertain. People have the right to like anybody’s music. I’m content as long as my audience is entertained whether I have to stand in the back and play the guitar, or come to the mic and do a remix of ‘husn walon’ by Junoon or rock away with our own track Mahiya. I have always been committed to JAL, and I will continue to be. That is all I was thinking about when I was releasing “Pyaas”. Our fans have matured with us, I mean, it has been over ten years, so we (Jal) wanted to come up with a new feel and experiment a little towards sufi rock as well, but still retaining the original Jal feel. The album has been released digitally but we’re still awaiting the official release of the CD in Pakistan, which has been delayed because of the upcoming elections. But thank God, we’ve had a really good response to the album so far and yes, ‘Tanhai’ in particular has really appealed to the masses. The responsibility was huge, but one has to believe in oneself and do their best!”

“Speaking of believing in yourself, you’ve got an incredible amount of confidence, and confident people often come across as arrogant. Are you really, or is that just stereotyping: Famous equals arrogant!”

“No, that’s not true. I’m actually quite shy, so I avoid the media circus. I also believe that results speak for themselves. I prefer that my work should speak for me. At the end of the day, I don’t mind if people don’t like my music. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’m humbled by the love and respect I get from my fans, but I certainly don’t think I’m God’s gift to mankind, lol. It’s a big industry and there’s room for everyone!”

“But you’re writing love songs whereas many others have moved on to more serious themes.”

“Not really. Love songs are part of the Jal style, OST Tanhai for example, but we’ve also done other sort of tracks; ballads, folk, etc.”

“What about your launching track Dil Haari? It’s a great comeback from the band although the video is not like the ones you’ve done in the past.”

“Yes, it’s an achingly haunting ballad about love and loss. The video was actually shot in India and the concept was quite different. I’m playing a ghost!”

“Interesting idea!”

I suddenly turn sly. “Okay, coming to your commitment to your fiancee....”

“Next question please!”

“Really, you won’t spill the beans about your love life?”

“No, that aspect of my life is personal.”

Seeing those lips tighten up, I know it’s useless to pursue that angle so I move on.

“There are some who’ve said it is a little difficult working with you. Comments?”

“Well, I don’t know if ‘difficult’ is the right word to use or not. I am a perfectionist and I expect a certain standard from those around me. But I lead by example. I pull my own weight so I can’t stand incompetence.” He winks, “Last time I checked, it was a good thing, you know, being competent and all...”

“Yes it it Goher,” I reply, as I add another pair of ticks to my checklist: witty and dedicated.

“What if I said I didn’t like one of your songs, for example, Dil Haari. I mean, I did, (already downloaded to my phone) but for the sake of this interview, suppose I didn’t. You’re really proud of your compositions aren’t you?”

Now I get a wide grin. “You’re trying to provoke me, but it won’t work. Like I said earlier, it’s your opinion and it doesn’t bother me. Critics will always be there and they try to pull you down, but it is all part of the game. To be honest, Dil Haari is a hit commercially, and I like it, but my favourite track is Tanhai.”

“Somehow I’ve never seen or heard about Goher Mumtaz losing control. No careless comment given to the media, no being caught with the proverbial ‘hand in the cookie jar’, no crazy parties. How do you manage to keep such a level head?”

“Simple answer, my parents! They are very supportive and don’t interfere in my work, but I know they will be really disappointed if an ugly scandal rears its head. Besides that, I’ve had to grow up very quickly, as Jal first came into the limelight when I was 21. I am a typical Lahori guy, I do like having fun with my friends but I’m very serious about my work. Success is not permanent, so it is important never to forget one’s humble beginnings. Jal has made it so far, and I’m grateful for each day.”

After listening to all this, how can I not give Goher a generous 9 on 10 score! He’s won me over, and it wasn’t with his charm alone. In the end, we’re all human beings and Goher Mumtaz may not be perfect, but his heart is certainly in the right place! I wish him all the best for Jal and his future endeavours.

The writer is a freelance journalist from Islamabad, Pakistan and can be reached at amina.westminster@yahoo.com.