Music Fix: Mekaal Hasan Band

There was a great story about a Pakistani fusion group, the Mekaal Hasan Band, on NPR this morning, the text of which is here. For starters, you might want to check out one of their songs on YouTube, "Huns Dhun":

On their website, Mekaal Hasan Band says the following about the song and video above:

The video is a real life account of the mass evacuation of the Afghan Refugees who, according to the Afghan Repatriation Deadline, were supposed to leave the border areas of Pakistan for Afghanistan by 2005. Seen through the eyes of three young Afghani friends, the video traces their journey from the area of Bajaur, NWFP, Pakistan to the bordering hills of Afghanistan.

I knew about the Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but I didn't know about their forced repatriation, and I haven't heard much about how they've been doing in Afghanistan since this happened in 2005. (Does anyone have more information about this?)

In the NPR story, the part that I found most interesting is the story of how Mekaal Hasan first went from Lahore to Boston, to study at the Berklee College of Music, and then returned to Lahore, where he started the long, slow process of finding a way to be a rock musician in a non-rock oriented culture:

There wasn't much opportunity to advance his craft in Lahore. So Hasan, like many of his peers, decided to leave Pakistan. He applied to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and got in.

"That jump was just insane," Hasan says. "It's like going to another planet and watching people play unbelievable stuff. I had never seen anyone play that way before. I would just listen to music all the time. That's all I did. I never felt more at home than when I was in Boston, 'cause I was surrounded by so much great music and so many great musicians. I think all creative people need an environment to flourish in."

But Hasan was on a student visa, and his parents bribed him to come home early by offering to build him a studio. In 1995, he returned to Lahore.

"For a while, a good two to three years, I was massively depressed and really angry, as well," Hasan says. "I was like, 'Why am I here? What am I doing here?' Then you had to reconcile yourself to the fact that, 'Well, hey, man, you've always lived here.' I resolved to make the best of it, and in some ways, this turned out to be a good exercise in just practicing the concepts that I'd learned in music school." (link)

Ok, so not everyone has parents that can build them their own music studio! But however it happened, what's important is that he managed to make the transition back -- and now Mekaal Hasan and his band are making some really impressive music, using classical and jazz fusion.

Incidentally, another video I liked is Rabba. Mekaal Hasan Band's album, "Sampooran," is available on ITunes; they're about to go on a tour of India (no word on a tour of the U.S. yet...).