Where do great ideas and creativity come from? For me, it’s always about unexpected collaborations. So, was super intrigued to hear about the Karachi Files gig in Berlin this month.
What are the <em>Karachi Files</em> and what is the story? This one goes back to May 2015 when a forward-thinking group of electronic musicians from Pakistan, the Maldives and Germany followed in the footsteps of brothers Hannes and Andi Teichmann, otherwise known as GebrÃ¼der Teichmann, the Forever South crew and the Goethe-Institut to meet in Karachi; Pakistan’s industrial capital, harbored on the Arabian Sea.
But this was no holiday. The creators and selectors soon got to work. A house was re-moulded into a temporary recording studio. This physical space soon became a place to meet, inspire and be inspired, record, play, eat and sleep. Musicians, together with a photographer convened, and the outcome of two weeks would transpire into the Karachi Files.
I was lucky enough to get some time with the super talented Bilal Khan (Rudoh), one of the heads behind Forever South in Karachi. This is how it went down:
Q) Have you worked with Berlin/European artists before? What’s your perception of Berlin as a creative city before this project?
Bilal said: “This was my first time working with European artists in a more creative environment. I lived in London for a bit where I spent time as an engineer at studios recording bands and mixing tunes. I found that generally in Europe, quality standards of sound and the process of recording/composing music are done on a much higher standard to what we’re used to in Pakistan. So for us, to be able to utilise professional equipment to record and create music, was refreshing and a great learning experience. Soundcamp was surely more about compositional explorations and playing the role of a musician and a producer.”
Berlin seemed like a place where there’s always room for new creative landscapes. The clubbing culture, along with people’s open-ness and acceptance of new sorts of art and ideas, have been constantly breeding newer sub cultures, constantly recycling ideas into other forms. After I had finally seen Berlin I felt the same, that it caters to everyone, there’s something there for everyone.
Q) What is so special about working with new artists from around the world? How does it affect your work?
Bilal explained: “I feel like working with musicians from anywhere is always a great learning experience. I’ve gained valuable insight on work flow and how to make certain sounds, solely due to collaborating with such a diverse array of artists. I picked up new ways of sampling, such as working with objects to create rhythms from taprikk swazee. I remember being in total awe after seeing Hannes T use his Euro-Rack setup. I’m trying my best to save money for a 1 one row eurorack for myself.”
Q) What can musicians and creative people working in Europe learn from the way you do things?
Bilal told me: “It is definitely working with Power issues because Karachi’s power supply is notorious for unstable voltage supply, which can be detrimental, even fatal to the musical equipment. Also, the general lack of electricity, which is majority of the gear we use is portable, usually pocket synths and small drum machines. But besides that, we have a real shortage of good gear, mainly due to shipping costs and heavy import duties. The unintended consequence of this situation was the strong DIY nature that cultivated and developed our scene. Since our media industry doesn’t regard sound as an important aspect of tv or film production, it’s hard to find studios with well calibrated acoustics or the minimum required specifications for a professional equipped studio. The attitude is complacent, which makes it harder for us to find places to mix and master our tracks to a professional standard. It’s been a super “Do it Yourself” scene from the get go.”
Q) Finally, we don’t often hear many positive stories about creative and cultural happenings from Pakistan. It feels like a really undiscovered and mysterious place for many European people. How does the sense of place and belonging shape your imagination, innovation and creativity?
Bilal’s final answer: “Karachi is a little hectic to live in and it has it’s ups and downs. The city is densely populated and is usually getting a bad reputation all over the world because the media mostly pays attention to the bombings and political news. The constant bombardment of such “bad news” would have made most people more cynical , yet the people of Karachi are warm hearted here and are very hopeful about having things take a turn for the better. I guess that hopefulness in some ways seeps into ones music through the social surroundings they are part of , for a lack of a better term, it’s got this “I don’t have a dime in my pocket and nothing seems to be working, but it’ll be all good one day” feel to it.”
The Karachi Files is a collection of electronic fused works – bringing together colourful and varied cultures, all inspired by its remarkable setting. So, what about the music? The Karachi Files delivers a rich variety; a series of tracks from electronic club music to electro acoustic experiments. The album is released in May 2016, and will be the first release on the Teichmann brother’s new label NOLAND.
The Karachi Files performed live in Berlin on the 14th May during “From Inside To Way Out”, a three-day festival at HAU, Berlin, with a special view on Pakistan, including the works of a wide range of musicians, filmmakers, photographers, journalists and artists. Background information isÂ here.