Album Review – Avraga by Kazak
Who is Kazak, the band? Their debut album was released by Fire Records as part of a two-record deal a few months back, but coming across their album Avraga was still a surprise. During times when publicity either makes or breaks music acts, it is simply surprising to note that Kazak didn’t register on any radars, in Pakistan at least. In Canada, where the band hails from, they seem to have a solid fan following. Well, they have a fan following. 316 people, at the time of print, like their Facebook page.
At first listen, the album goes down easy. It is old-school rock, nothing fancy. But that is a fact that works against the band as well; their music becomes something that you can leave on, on the radio and forget all about. It is music that fades into the background without really making an impact. In fact the only bit of interesting trivia to be had from Avraga is that the band has two songs called ‘Yakeen’ on the album. The rest, as they say is history – but not eye-popping, page-turning history.
There is also a rap track on the album, ‘Damn’ with Mark Spitz. It is slightly more furious than the rest of the songs on the album. ‘Damn’ is the kind of song that might have become really popular in 2003 – back in the day when Limp Bizkit was still popular with the really young kids. However one has to wonder what a track like ‘Damn’ is doing on an album that is so predominantly rock. One might argue that the band is trying to show off their versatility but the song seems a tad out of place in the entire set.
‘Damn’ is still a better choice to place in the selection made available on the album, than the very last track on Avraga, ‘Get On’. The song begins with a sample from the Bollywood oldie ‘Hamein Tumse Pyar Kitna’ and then segues into one of those hip hoppy, pop tracks that Raghav and the Bombay Rockers are so popular for making. ‘Get On’ is kind of like imagining Mizraab suddenly breaking into any of Omer Inayat’s songs. Which is also kind of a stretch of an example, as Kazak does not rock as hard as Mizraab. Did I just say ‘rock as hard’? I guess listening to Kazak’s music and reading their interview/profile simultaneously can do that to a person.
The band’s philosophy can be understood in the words of Fayed, guitarist for Kazak. “When writing a song, we think of Kazak and how the song will reflect back on us, as well as the message we’re trying to send out to our fans, Kazak creates songs filled with the emotions, feelings, and reactions that the South Asian community is too afraid to admit or talk about.” Although exactly what those emotions are, we cannot really comprehend through listening to Avraga – the songs on the album are a hotch potch of angst, love, lust, and the occasional confusing tune thrown in for good measure.
Case in point, ‘TeLIEvision’, the lyrics of which belie the title of the song – “Kaisa hai yeh pyar/ Samjhana/ Tu hai wo saza/ Jis ke hum ghulam.” What the word television, or taken with the band’s emphasis on the ‘lie’ bit in the title, has to do with the song, one cannot fathom. Musically the song is cut and dried rock, although the drums on this track, as well as others sound a bit generic, as if a prototype of the kind of drums to be played on the album were developed and then used generously throughout the tracklist. However, Fayed and the band are made confident that they are reaching out to their target audience, as they “get e-mails from fans who say that a song we’ve written reflects exactly how they feel, and they’re happy to know they are not the only ones who feel or think this way.”
The first track on the album, ‘Yaad – Remember’, is a song about recovering from heartache, only it is a story told in a very rock ‘n’ roll way. The song begins with a bit of poetry being recited and then breaks into drums and guitars, promising a solid rock ride. What lets this song down is the vocals. Fezz’s vocals are just very slightly off-key, but just enough to put the whole song off-kilter.
The next track, ‘Tu- You’ is in the same vein as ‘Yaad’, and sometime in the middle of the song, Fezz breaks into an English bit, which mystifies one as much as the protagonist in the song is mystified by the eyes of the “foxy lady” whom he wants as a lover. To be fair, this is not a bad song, as aren’t any of the songs on Avraga. They are all songs it is clear a lot of hard work went into.
Kazak doesn’t seem to be a band just trying to hastily pull together an album to get their 15 minutes of fame. They have apparently been working the local music scene in Toronto with their “zing of South Asian” music – but it just seems arrangement-wise, they are walking a few steps behind the Pakistani music industry. Take for instance Ali Azmat’s Klashinfolk. A purely rock album, it is far more sophisticated than what Kazak has offered us. What Kazak sounds like is a jacked up version of Awaz circa ’93, or a super-weak sounding version of Junoon from their Talaash days. Which is ironic as minor digging reveals that Aamir Hassan, the executive producer on Avraga has worked with Awaz, as well as Junoon on Inquilaab.
Overall, Avraga is an average sounding album, but it holds promise of better things that the band can do with their skills.