When I hear the melody and nuances of raag Pahadi I am taken back to the green hills and snow capped peaks that I saw everyday for four years as a child growing up and going to school in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. So, when I eventually did return to the school in those hills in 2015, the experience of seeing that view again inspired me to write a few words about that special place, which I incidentally would sing in raag Pahadi:
I have returned to you door
Still the same as ever it was before
You have a place at my core
I long to see you once more
Then, in November of 2017 when we got the opportunity to perform at the Faiz International Festival in Lahore we found ourselves alongside Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan, a Pakistani classical singer that I have had playing on my iPod for many years, particularly his rendition of Saiyan Bina Ghar Soona, a thumri in raga Mishra Pahadi.
Whilst we sang this thumri together with Paulo playing guitar, enjoying the flow of improvising the raag, I introduced some of the English poetry I wrote into the composition. Khan Saab enjoyed it and suggested that we ought to sing this together during his concert at the festival. That, unfortunately didn’t end up happening. But what did happen was that the next day after the festival, Khan Saab came to the studio where Paulo and I were recording some songs with bansuri player Akmal Qadri. We recorded a few takes, improvising on the thumri in Pahadi, interweaving it with the English poetry I had written about returning to the place of my childhood in the mountains.
Return is on our second album Senses, which is due to be released on the 16th November 2018. Check out this video which explains more about the process behind Return…
The Road Is My Song
Seven Eyes perform at Kuch Khaas, Islamabad
We sat underneath warm heaters that lit up everyone’s faces with a red glow. More delicious food was served: channa masala, chicken biriyani, palak paneer, one after the other, our stomachs full. ‘Just you wait for the dessert!’ says Kuch Khaas founder, Michelle Tania Butt. And oh yes, we went for the succulent jalebi as well, overlooking the sparking lights of the city from the Margala Hills.
Our first visit to Islamabad was so warmly and generously received by the members of Kuch Khaas that we look back at our experience there with a warm feeling in our tummies and hearts.
The day before our performance, an interview with PTV was arranged for us where we were able to perform our original songs as well as much loved Urdu songs, like Faiz’s Gulon Mein Rang Bhare and the ever popular Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo on Pakistan’s national television. We were interviewed at length by our host, Omar Khalid Butt, discussing much of our creative process with songwriting, our experiences with music worldwide, our inspirations and aspirations for our music.
On the 24th November at 7:00pm we performed at an intimate theatre space called Islamabad Club. Eveything was perfectly brought together by Kuch Khaas. We arrived at Islamabad Club to a grand and well designed backdrop for our performance. Flowers were brought in and everything was shaping up to look like a wonderful production. Hot sweet masala chai came at just the right time for all of the musicians who were given ample time to warm up and prepare for the upcoming concert.
Seven Eyes accomapnied by fabulous Lahori musicians. From left, Mehmood ul Hassan Khan (tabla), Akmal Qadri (bansuri), Javeed Iqbal (violin), Mujahid Hussain (music director)
The concert comprised of a wide spectum of songs that varied in style and language, from Irish folk songs, well loved Urdu songs, qawwali and Seven Eyes’ songs from our debut album The Seed. We had a warm rapport from the audience throughout, some of whom were locals and some of whom, we were told, had driven long distances to reach the venue. The honorable ambassador of Argentina, Ivan Ivanissevich was also present and congratulated us after the show.
The performace was also recorded by Kuch Khaas which is available to view on this link HERE. Below is just one of the lovely responses that we received on our Seven Eyes website, which warmed our hearts:
“I heard your songs and recording of Islamabad performance. You did an amazing job to sing such difficult songs. Your performance was outstanding and beautiful. God bless you and thank you for spreading this beautiful music around the globe.
Overall, we had a fantastic experience and the standing ovation really goes to Kuch Khaas. As an organisation we commend their commitment to upholding a platform that engages the local community with meaningful cultural events, dialogue, learning and societal participation. Their professional attitude and friendly demeanor left a lasting impression on us and we encourage their support and wish them longlasting success in Islamabad and beyond.
Hoping to perform with Kuch Khaas in Islamabad again in future!
Over’n out for now.
Seven Eyes before the famous Shah Faisal Masjid, Islamabad
Eating out at The Monal on Margala Hills with the Kuch Khaas crew. From left, Paulo Vinícius, Tanya Wells, Naveed Mann, Michelle Butt, Farrukh Ahmed.
Paulo passing as a local pathan/ pashtun.
!Happy New Year!
The song tells the story of a woman who chances upon her past love on a London night bus (N38) on her journey home, expressing the perturbation that ensues by this surprise encounter. We like to think it sounds a bit like Adele taking a hike in Memphis with a truck load of Tennessee musicians, with a dusting of East London’s night vibes springled on top…hmmm. Maybe you’ll see what I mean when you see and hear it.
We also have a wonderfully made music video for it thanks to Anthony McHugh (who shot and edited the video) and our talented chums Caitlin McLoed and Bertrand Lesca, who usually perform and direct plays out and about London and who so very kindly joined us on two night shoots in the cold and rain.
Some of you are our loyal patrons and having you on our patron platform is a great insentive for us to keep producing videos like this one, with great audio and visuals for you to enjoy.
Become a part of Seven Eyes’ Family and have access to exclusive material by choosing the most convenient way for you to support our music on https://www.patreon.com/seveneyes
Finally, we will be spending the next few months recording new songs for our next album…but more of that later.
Seven Eyes x
The Road Is My Song
Seven Eyes diaries
Pakistan – Part 1
Arrival Lahore 8:00am
Lahore’s distinctive personality embraced us in the misty morning air as we stepped out of the doors of international arrivals and met our driver, 26 year old Yunis Khan who greets us warmly, takes our bags and sets us on our way to where we would stay for the duration of the Faiz Festival at Gymkhana Club on Mall road.
The city was still waking up as we drove through the streets. Shop owners opened their shutters. A butcher carried cages of live chickens into their shops. Men squatted on concrete steps, wrapped in beige woollen shawls and traditional pathani hats. It was our first time to Pakistan and Paulo and I gazed out the van windows in silence, taking it all in.
The Faiz Festival is an annual event that takes place in November, which kicks off the festival season after a long hot summer of apparent little social activity. Having met both Moneeza Hashmi, daughter of Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and her son Adeel in London earlier in the year, we discussed our activities and were assured by Adeel that ‘you will not experience more love from an audience than you will at the festival, take my word for it!’.
Our first evening in Lahore included a rehearsal with Lahori musicians whom we would perform all our concerts in Pakistan with. We drove to Faiz Ghar to met them; Akmal Qadri on bansuri, Javeed Iqbal on violin, Mehmood Hassan Jagan Khan on tabla and our music director, Mujahid Hussain. We went through our set, song by song, which included Urdu ghazals penned by Faiz, Gulon Mein Rang Bhare and Ye Dhoop Kinara as well as much loved Pakistani songs like Aaj Jane Ki Zid Na Karo, Mun Kunto Maula, O Lal Meri. Moreover, we performed some of our original compositions from The Seed album, including Jupiter, a song that focuses on the Syrian migration crisis across Europe bringing together Sufi sentiments in Urdu mixed with French. We also rehearsed a traditional Irish folk song, Craigie Hill, greatly enjoyed by everyone as its ornamented melody in the pentatonic scale weaved beautifully with raag pahadi played beautifully by the bansuri player and tabla, bringing the two distant cultures closer together.
As we approached the Alhamra halls we were welcomed by a host of volunteers wearing matching red T-shirts, who handed over our goodie bags containing gifts and a weekend schedule of the Faiz Festival. Paulo and I were impressed by the scale of organisation and host of activities to enjoy from viewing a Palestinian art gallery exhibition, to attending dance or music programs and a variety of talks on culture, history, poetry and the arts.
Our performance was scheduled for Sunday afternoon preceding with a interview/ conference at 12pm which went really well. Paulo and I discussed the inspirations behind our music, the creative process and our vision for Seven Eyes being about exploring multiple perspectives and cultural syncretism. The audience asked probing questions which we happily answered and ended up singing a little of Mun Kunto Maula after an audience member requested to hear it.
Faiz International Festival, Alhamra Hall 1
By the evening Hall 1 was already packed. People stayed in the hall from the previous performance keeping their seats for our follow up program. It was daunting to set up the stage and do a quick soundcheck before a full seated audience. They all looked like a towering wall of faces before us. The music for Faiz’s Gulon Mein Rang Bhare began, the audience applauded recognising the melody, propelling me to begin with alaap in raag jhinjoti. Away we go…
We ended the set with an upbeat O Lal Meri which the audience applauded, expressing their delight as the chorus came in and throughout. The atmosphere was electric, nothing I had ever witnessed performing before. The hall graced us with a standing ovation to end.
After the show was done Adeel came up to me ‘You see! I told you! Didn’t I tell you?’ ‘Yes, you certainly did.’ I smiled. My body still buzzing with that energy of having been on stage.
My favourite part of the show was singing Mun Kunto Maula and O Lal Meri. I could feel the devotion of the songs reciprocated by the audience. Here we were in Lahore, Pakistan, the land where Sufi saints had spread their messages of love and unity with the Divine. As we performed, singing the praise of Hazarat Ali, my body was covered in goosebumps and my heart swelled with emotion. I doubt we will ever forget that overwhelming experience.
Who doesn’t love a nostalgic Gaelic folk song every now and then?
I first heard Craigie Hill when I was about sixteen, sung beautifully by Irish vocalist Cara Dillon (Black Is The Colour album). Craigie Hill tells the tale of two lovers deciding to set voyage on sea to seek there fortune in America, bidding adieu to the bonny banks of Ireland.
Around two years ago in LA we spoke to Matt Malley, bass player of Counting Crows discussing music and his Irish roots. He turned Paulo and I on to the same song but sung by Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan. This version is raw and powerful and brings a tear to the eye of a California dwelling Irish descendant such as Malley. It moved us too. We decided to cover it.
WATCH IT HERE
This cover is one song of many songs around the world that we will interpret, record and upload on our PATREON page.
If you would like to support our creativity, do join us on Patreon by becoming our patron. In exchange, you’ll get access to exclusive SE video material (videos/recordings every month), handmade artwork, personalised postcards as we travel for gigs and a chance to engage with us on what we see as the SE ‘family’ platform.
Seven Eyes x
We are delighted to share this song with you, the first song from the ones we are working for the next album.
‘This Moment’ is about enjoying the ‘dance’ of the present moment, where ‘we don’t fret and worry about the future, we don’t carry the weight of the past’. This will be the third release of a Seven Eyes creation for our Patreon Page. http://www.patreon.com/seveneyes
In case you’re wondering, Patreon is a way for those who really enjoy our music and want to be more connected, exchanging ideas with us. It is a simple way for you to support and promote our music in the same way that patrons did with artists since ancient times.
If you would like to support our creations and have a say in our art, join us on our Patreon page. In exchange, you’ll get super cool rewards from just $1.
Our goal is to release two videos/recordings a month starting from today. We would really appreciate having you there!
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All rights resevered © Seven Eyes 2017