Battling Musicians: Jal

Good music is a lot about physics and the playing of good music is a lot about chemistry between individuals who come together to create all those appealing sounds that enthrall your senses. It happens that on occasions, the balance in this human equation in the context of music-making is disturbed or disrupted for some reason and good entertainment is the obvious casualty.

Infighting is an unfortunate aspect of music bands that has reared its ugly head in Pakistan in recent times. Awaz did not break the sound barrier with their music but they broke up as a band because some element in their chemical equation went awry. Perhaps the egos in the Aaroh equation were a bit too mutually overpowering for some members to digest. As for Junoon, it must have been a case of familiarity breeding contempt. The band had been together too long. In fact, the same applies in some degree to the Vital Signs break-up as well. Now Jal has hurtled itself down the same sorry road.

The two main players in Jal were Gohar Mumtaz (Guitarist) and Atif Aslam (Vocalist). They formed the band in 2002 after their single Aadat received a great public response. Unfortunately, Jal did not make much forward movement and became a victim of misunderstanding and mistrust between the two music partners.

After the Jal break-up, Atif Aslam has gone solo as a vocalist. He says that Jal was a feeling … a concept, since water had always been his source of inspiration and that is why he says he named the band Jal. When he won a singing competition at college three years ago, he was looking for a guitarist to play his compositions and he hired Gohar who was at college with him. The song Aadat was created on the stairs of Lahore’s Alhamra Hall when Atif was humming a tune and Gohar offered the first two lines while he (Atif) wrote the rest of the song later. His side of the story is that Gohar did not contribute anything towards Aadat and just offered the first two lines that had to be amended because they didn’t make much sense.

Atif says that all through their Jal relationship, Gohar complained about not getting a fair share of the money and would even miss major concerts. Things went from bad to worse and it was Gohar who suggested a break-up. Despite all this, Atif says he wanted the band to continue and there were many people such as Meekal Hasan who tried to patch things up. He says that when one day he asked Gohar in front of a number of people as to who had named the band and he said that it was his (Gohar’s) idea, he realized that the situation could not be arrested

As for the impression among fans that Gohar composed the music for Jal, Atif says that only Aadat and Dil Hooray are the songs that are controversial while he made the rest of the songs and had only hired Gohar to work for him. As for the big hit that Aadat is, the credit goes for a large part to Meekal Hasan, who produced, mastered and mixed it and to Sarmad, who provided the rhythms and bass.

Gohar says that he met Atif at a college musical contest in Lahore and liked his voice so much that he asked him to do the vocals for ‘Aadat’, which he had written and composed much earlier. The song was placed on the Internet and was an immediate success and concert offers started coming in. The two were so encouraged that they decided to get together as a band.

If they were getting along so well, then where did it begin to go bad? It was all a matter of petty professional differences that spoiled it all, according to Gohar. For instance Atif’s brother, Shahbaz, who had been hired as the band’s manager, wanted to charge Rs. 80,000 for their first concert. Gohar thought this was too steep a price to ask by a new band as they could have done fine with half the amount to buy some musical instruments and make a reasonably good video. The video was made but their differences grew over financial matters and things led to a point when Atif and Shahbaz asked Gohar to leave the band.

Since the two musicians had not entered a formal contract when they had formed Jal, there was nothing for Gohar to fall back on. Gohar feels that it probably did not matter to Atif that the band would lose their composer, writer and guitarist. Or, perhaps, he had already thought of a replacement. In Gohar’s view, what gave Atif the confidence that he could hold the fort alone was the fact that since he was the vocalist, he could hire just about anyone to play the guitar for him.

As for entitlement of songs, Gohar says Atif had composed only three or four new songs for the album that he has released titled Jalpari. These were Tehzeeb, Jalpari, Mahi Ve and Gal Sunn Ja. Besides that, Rangon Mein has been renamed as Zindagi and Dil Haaray Pukaaray (written by Gohar) is now called Aankhon Se. Aadat has been renamed as Aab To ‘Aadat’ Si Hai with aadat in quotes. Gohar says he composed Lamhay which they call Bheegi Yaadein, Fard has become Ehsaas and Jaagey Hain is called Yaqeen. He says that had he released the album first with the same songs, he would have been accused of copying Atif, so he created new songs and this is the reason his own album launch was delayed.

However, Gohar is positive about the whole thing now that he is on his own and is only interested in giving good music to his fans. His view is that bands usually break up because egos are big and members do not realize the teamwork and effort put in by each individual.

The widee acclaim that Aadat got, indicated that there were great things in store for Jal. That is now history as the two talented musicians bicker over who gets to keep the title of the band and the recently released album Jalpari has further raised temperatures as both claim to own various songs in the collection.