Rock from the Valley

For Srinagar-based Moiz Miraj,23,there was only one reason to be sent to Malaysia. “I was playing the guitar and singing psychedelic music all day long in my room.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: March 30, 2012 2:19 am

For Srinagar-based Moiz Miraj,23,there was only one reason to be sent to Malaysia. “I was playing the guitar and singing psychedelic music all day long in my room. Since my parents wanted me to make a career out of my life and not just have ‘fun’,I decided to give engineering a shot,” says Miraj,who also blames peer pressure for his leaving the country. Two years of trying hard to figure out software,Miraj returned and got together with three of his friends to form Dying Breed in 2010,which is arguably the first band in the Valley to release an album.

In Kashmir,where gigs are a furious affair,thanks to an American grunge inspiration paired with the Valley’s political turmoil,an upcoming band such as Dying Breed is like a warm ray of sun. The band is rhyming simple narrative ballads,celebrating life,discussing personal woes and lost love,and blending all this with the whimsicality of the distorted guitars to make “some non-pretentious music,straight from the heart”. At times,they touch upon the verses of Sufi saint Shaikh-Ul-Alam and popular Kashmiri poetess Lal Ded.

With music that mostly concentrates on blues and psychedelic rock,the band is belting it out on its own and grabbing eyeballs with music that,for a change,does not talk about all things wrong in the Valley. “We live with violence and uproar but that does not mean we are supposed to write our songs about it. We also live with nature and love. And those are the things that we like to sing about,” says Syed Maajid,the lead vocalist,about their self-titled debut album that will release on April 1.

The album was recorded at Kashmir Audio Visual Centre,which,according to the band,did not have the right acoustics and proper equipment. “In fact,our own instruments can’t compete with the best available in the market. But we have put in all our money and soul into this album. I hope people appreciate what we are offering,” says Miraj,who along with Maajid,drummer Samad Khankashi and bassist Zohaib Kathawri,has brought out this album after years of saving their pocket money.

Miraj adds,“We are not missionaries. We are not here to preach an ideology. We want to feel normal. We should not be expected to be a political band because we are from Kashmir.” We second that.

Psychedelic rock as a genre may have started its retreat way back in the ’70s to give way to psychedelic pop and soul,but the band is sticking to their influences of playing The Beatles tracks such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields and Jimmy Hendrix’s Purple Haze on loop. The album opens with Bewildered,a track with a strong presence of synths and studio effects that the band could manage with limited resources,followed by Psych Drama and Them Old Blues. It also contains a bonus blues track,which comprises a sound of the noat — a traditional Kashmiri earthern pot used as a musical instrument.

At a time when underground is the new mainstream by way of its presence online,and the big record deal is the far gone idea,Dying Breed is sticking to the old-school thought of a record deal. “Our first batch of CDs contains 500 pieces,to be distributed for free. That,hopefully,will have attention diverted to our music and allow us to travel to various places.” But they want Kashmir as the base. “We don’t want to run away from here just because there is bedlam or the opportunities are fewer. We may not have had a political stance but we were always clear that our first album will come out from here. We have done our work. Now,we are waiting,” says Maajid.

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