Qurram Hussain of Josh the band is soaring high on the music front; he’s working as the music director, producer and singer in Urwa Hocane starrer Rangreza and he recently released a Cornetto Pop Rock track ‘Aja Na’ alongside Maria Unera.
But what else does the singer have in his bag?
In an interview with Images, the Mahi Ve singer talks about his current projects, what the coming year looks like and the future of Pakistan’s music scene.
Working on ‘Rangreza’
“Doing a film is a different challenge for me as I have been doing music production all my life,” he says as he compares working in a band to a film.
“Josh albums were written and composed by me, that process of writing can be categorised as selfish in the sense that I write what I wish to write, I create what I wish to create without thinking of what the listener would want to listen to because that is what art is about – an expression of the individual. On the other hand, in film, they give you the script, the scene, the characters and tell you to work around it.”
For Qurram, being given an outline to work with makes things easy as it provides him with a starring point. “It’s a good learning experience for someone like me; I have to get out of my comfort zone and have to channel myself onto something different, but you have to find inspiration in that box,” says the singer.
“You have to respect the movie. As I was the music director and composer, whenever I felt I needed help to make the product better, I asked, I had no problem working with others,” Qurram believes.
“I am the voice of the lead character (played by Bilal Ashraf),” he reveals. “The movie is essentially a musical love story – it’s a romance between two people who are from contrasting musical backgrounds. The woman (Urwa Hocane) is from the qawwali gharana and the man (Bilal Ashraf) is from the modern pop rock world.”
Qurram is a part of four songs in Rangreza, one is a romantic qawwali, however it’s not traditional qawwali “but something a guy like me would write,” he explains. Another is a romantic song when Bilal falls in love. The third is an anthem, a modern song, and the fourth is another romantic song but from the woman’s perspective, when Urwa falls in love.
However, for the fourth song, the singer admits to needing assistance. “Since the girl belongs to a qawwali gharana, her lyrics needed to be in traditional Urdu, and the tone had to be more welcoming which I was unable to do. So I got a writer and communicated the idea and co-authored the lyrics with a lyricist for the song.”
“You have to respect the movie. As I was the music director and composer, whenever I felt I needed help to make the product better, I asked, I had no problem working with others. Any kind of art, especially when it comes to music, should be a collaboration, it’s not a one man show. You should reach out when you are stuck,” explains the singer.
We wondered whether Qurram mingled with the cast to get a feel of Bilal and Urwa’s characters, but he tells us it wasn’t needed.
“I only met Bilal [and the cast] once. As a music guy, I don’t need to interact with the characters. They are going to do their part and I am going to do mine,” he adds. “My interaction is with the director, Amir, and the producers because they have the vision of the production.”
The singer describes his process of working with the crew: “Each time I’d write or compose something, I’d send it to them. They’d tell me, ‘This is perfect,’ or ‘Is mein maza nahi aa raha‘. It’s a very open process, you have to have that when you’re really trying to make something that everyone is happy with.”
Rangreza seems to be just the beginning for the Josh singer as he plans to delve into productions and seek more avenues in his line of work.
Shift towards film
Since the singer wants to make a move towards music in production, there is a chance we may see less of his singles, however, Qurram explains why that won’t affect his work and is, in fact, a smarter decision for him.
“I want to do more and more stuff so I can dabble in certain kinds of music,” he tells us excitedly. “Here’s the thing, what I love to do is make music, that’s always been my passion. I want to explore more genres. For me to put out a qawwali style song, it’s not a match, it doesn’t go with my persona as an artist, at least that’s what I think. But for me to do a song like that in production works! Doing production allows me to put out more music, I think I’ll be able to have more songs attached to me that way.”
Giving the example of his recent stint on Cornetto Pop Rock, he explains how exploring different paths is only helping him experiment with music. “Music that I have done for Cornetto Pop will not fit Josh, the song is more me. Josh has done four albums so far, but there are certain vibes that don’t stick with the band’s style.”
And Qurram has already started looking at other projects in Pakistan. “We are in talks with a few other productions, some of them didn’t pan out because of budget issues. I am not a believer in quantity, rather in quality, it has got to be worth my time and backed with full energy.”
“Unfortunately, here there are more budget constraints and I’m picky with my projects. So we’re trying to see what’s working, nothing that I can name and say is locked. Since then (the last interview with Images) we got more involved in touring, we’re doing concerts as a part of Josh, so that made life super busy. We’re also doing Pepsi Battle of the Bands, and celebrity guest shows.”
“Collaboration for me is never to identify a person and run after them, my choice [of artist] comes after the song because I see the person coming and enhancing the song,” he says
In Pakistan, Qurram has collaborated with Komal Rizvi and Maria Unera, can we expect collabs with other local artists in the near future?
“Collaboration for me is never to identify a person and run after them, my choice [of artist] comes after the song because I see the person coming and enhancing the song,” he says.
“Cornetto Pop had asked me to do a duet, when the time came for one, I suggested Maria’s name because I had seen her in Nescafe basement, she was on my radar, and I wanted someone talented and young,” Qurram tells us.
He adds, “Also, the genre is not typically what she does but she was very cooperative and okay with trying something different. I think she is going to be a big asset for the Pakistani industry.”
At the time being, the singer’s got his hands full and he’s juggling quite a bit. “My life is a duality because I’m traveling; it’s all work, wife, family. Here, as far as work is concerned, this whole year is planned, I’ve got a lot lined up. I am going to finish Josh songs. Next year I am planning on releasing a single of my own, the song is already ready, but since there’s already so much happening this year, we decided to hold it till next year.”
Future of Pakistan’s music industry
Qurram has a lot of hope pinned on the local music industry, and he only sees it propelling ahead in the years to come.
“The good news is that it’s on its way back,” he says. “More and more platforms are forcing out new music forms. There was a time when Coke Studio was the only thing happening which produced certain kinds of songs, now there’s Cornetto Pop Rock where they’re making regular songs with regular music so now there is an outlet for new artists to come to the surface. Giving newbies a chance and I know for sure that they will create new genres.”
The singer says, “Back in the day, most musicians were signed by Fire Records, but the whole music industry went under when the record label went down.”
For him, the next 10 years will be completely different, just like the music scene was back in his days, when Josh first released its song.
“2004 was the time when you had public concerts, masses would come, the tickets would be cheap, but now because of security concerts have gone down. The only concerts which take place are organised by corporates and universities, etc,” says the Josh member.
He explains his reference of ‘back in the day’ as the early 2000s when multiple labels were putting out multiples tracks. “Initially, most musicians were signed by Fire Records, but the whole music industry went under when the record label went down.”
Speaking on the film industry’s reemergence, the singer opines, “The movie revival is good, it’s just about having avenues to put out music and they need to keep it coming into the industry to keep it exciting and fresh.”