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on-the-floor – The Express Tribune

Xulfi takes pride in selecting, mentoring and helping the contestants. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

Xulfi takes pride in selecting, mentoring and helping the contestants. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY


Amid the hullabaloo surrounding this year’s Coke Studio and the ongoing battle of different online audio portals, one individual has been working hard to protect the interests of the Pakistani music industry. Despite having had his hands full with multiple musical endeavours, musician Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan —  or Xulfi, as his fans call him —  is gearing up for the fourth instalment of Nescafe Basement. After reuniting with his band Call and completing a commercial for the Lux Style Awards along with the soundtrack of the upcoming film Yalghaar, Xulfi has commenced auditions for the new season of his hit musical series. And of course, he is ecstatic, believing it can eradicate all the problems that plague the industry.

From a meager 100 auditions in season one to over 7,000 in season four, Nescafe Basement has grown tremendously. “This time, things are very extensive and we have had the widest audition drive ever,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune. “We are wrapping them up now but I might audition some people once more.”

The auditions have been held in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad as well as online for those with limited mobility. Auditioners who submit their work over the internet are then called into the studio for a final run, enabling individuals from all corners of Pakistan to try out. “It has always been a huge mix of people. Every year, I try to cut down on the group but the more talent I see, the more I feel like accommodating them all!” shared Xulfi.

Selecting, mentoring and helping the contestants is a source of pride for the emotional Xulfi, who described himself as a simple man with simple desires. “Nescafe Basement represents how I began jamming with other musicians and everyone brought their own flavour to the mix. This season, this spirit will guide the people I select.”

The true success of the show lies in the musicians who hone their skills at the basement and move on to establish themselves in the mainstream industry. Xulfi narrated a story about how a local music producer recently lauded Nescafe Basement for encouraging a fresh pool of talent across Pakistan “’Every time I create a jingle, I have a range of people to choose from and I know what they sound like,” Xulfi recalls the producer as saying.

Among Xulfi’s favourite pieces from the previous shows are Awari and Tau Kia Hua from season one, Tere Ishq Mein and Phir Se from season two and Sajna and Out Of My Mind from season three.

Amongst the alumni are Adnan Dhool and Rabbi Ahmed of the band Soch —  the geniuses behind Awari, the biggest hit from season one. The duo has since gone on to work on the score for the Humaima Malik starrer Dekh Magar Pyaar Say and even in Bollywood and bagged an IIFA nomination.

Asfar Hussain, a lead vocalist from season one and two, is also working for a Pakistani movie currently. Flutist and keyboard player Adrian David Emmanuel is lending his talents to Pakistani serials. Other than this, many of the graduates are producing jingles, performing as part of musical sessions or on their own.

“Contributing singers was the best way to get going,” says Xulfi. “We have been trying to make all these rules to protect musicians. While this is important, we can’t forget about injecting new talent. There has been a dearth of groundbreaking artists lately. It is important to inspire new ones!” The latest season is scheduled to be aired in the first quarter of next year.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2015.

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