Outlandish in London, a star studded event
Words: Ashanti OMkar
Photographs: Akin Falope (www.aworan.net)
Danish super group, the critically acclaimed Outlandish, are the name on everyone’s lips at the moment, where they have released a superb compilation album called Beats, Rhymes & Life. The venue ‘Notting Hill Arts Club’ was sold out of tickets, as the anticipation built up, for the young rappers/vocalists to come in and mingle with the fans. Many a young, beautiful girl, not to mention many lads attended, in hope of meeting, greeting and hearing live, their heroes, Waqas, Isam & Lenny, who have an exquisite, unique sound, dealing with real issues, minus the pretentious ‘Bling Bling’, negativity and swearing mentality of most Rap music.
The event itself had attracted a variety of cultures, making up a broad multi-cultural audience (including young ladies dressed in Hijabs) – they were all there to enjoy the music and party. A major sprinkling of Asian popular personalities (including BBC’s Reju, EastEnders heart-throb actor, Ameet Chana, Asian female rapper, Hardkaur and the very talented and humble ‘The Mentor’ – one of 2point9/Rishi Rich’s Label producers) also mingled into the gathering, which was to not only including Outlandish, but also the popular Sony Gold Award winning DJ’s, Bobby Friction & Desi DNA’s gorgeous Nihal, who continued with the spinning of records after the band played.
Nihal started off comparing the programme, by announcing the group onto the stage, thus creating a wild frenzy of screams from the fans. Outlandish didn’t waste any time in starting and entertaining, playing songs from their smash hit album, Bread & Barrels of Water, including the hits Aisha, Gunatanamo and the very cute Peelo. The surprise element came in when Waqas called onto the stage, Rishi Rich, Juggy D and Jay Sean, who were amongst the crowd – the chart busting, AMA winning team. The single release from the new Outlandish album, ‘Walou’, is a Rishi Rich tune and Outlandish did a great set promoting it, on Rishi’s very popular Kiss FM show. Jay Sean and Juggy D set the stage ablaze with their talents, by showing a small sample of their talents and then Jay Sean broke into a freestyle beat box session, engaging Outlandish to spar with him with their ad-lib rapping – what a sound it created, such speed, such lyrics – this was definitely the highlight of the evening, along with the meeting of these 3 young rappers, who show such humility and profoundness in their music.
Asian Post speaks to Waqas of Outlandish to get an insight into this inimitable group.
Q: Tell us about your background, heritage and roots.
Well, three of us - Islam, Waqas and Lenny - come from different backgrounds. I am (Waqas) Pakistani; Islam has his roots in Morocco and Lenny is from Honduras. We are based in Copenhagen and that's where we met and started off. We have been very good friends since our school days.
Q: How did you come together as a band?
Basically we met playing football in Copenhagen. You can say we met in the playground. Also we lived in the same neighborhood and used to do things together. We realised that we three had one common passion: the love of music and that's what drove us further together. We loved break dancing but we were not good at that and it was due to the lack of dancing prowess that we decided to explore other facets of hip hop culture and eventually pick up the mike. American rap artistes have been a huge influence on us and we wanted to be like them. Inspired by American rap, we started to experiment with our own cultural music. At that stage I was attracted towards the classical songs of Madam Noor Jehan, Lata Mangeshter and Muhammad Rafi. Islam picked up famous Arabic singers like Um-me-Kulssom etc. and Lenny took up experimenting with Honduras music.
Q: What was the reaction in your family/community, on your choice to do Hip-Hop, which is considered 'bad-boy' music?
To be honest, it was mind-boggling for them all at the beginning. They couldn't make any sense in what I was doing. Being typical Asian parents, my parents had wanted me to become an engineer or a doctor. They were asked by other members of the community about the field I had chosen. Things like 'look, your son is becoming a musician' were said. They were concerned about what the other people will say! They were really confused but when they saw that we were not into the stuff like the other artistes were (jewellery, women, guns, gangsterism), they became fine with that. They are happy and proud of us because they are approached by people who tell them 'thanks, your son's music has changed my son's life for better'. They are satisfied because they know we represent the values of goodness and humanity in our music.
Q: Your 'sound', it's unique? How has this come about?
Its like we have mixed our musical backgrounds in hip-hop, from Indian and Pakistani music and from Arabic and Honduras. We like to experiment with vocals and it's such a great feeling. We concentrate on how we use the music in different ways and in unique fashion. We like to experiment with vocals. On my part, I know I m deeply impressed by Asian music, especially Pakistani music, because it has got a lot of depth and great, deep poetry.
Q: You seem to be very multilingual? How did you learn so many languages?
Basically I learnt Danish language because I was born in Denmark. I have been speaking English and Urdu since my childhood with my parents and my cousins in Pakistan and now with my wife. But I don't understand the difficult form of Urdu. A lot of young people in Denmark prefer to go a mosque where prayers are led by a Danish converted Muslim or someone Arabic speaking because they cant' understand the heavy sounding Urdu language spoken by prayer leaders.
Q: Tell us about your album, Bread and Barrels of Water? How did it come about?
Bread and Barrels of Water is our second album. Its international debut album and deals with the themes from everyday life. It has a lot of spiritual meaning and the insistence is on how we should be thankful for what we have. It's about how materialism has snatched from us the peace of mind and given birth to worries for no good. It also looks on how this world is in its present shape marred by conflicts and tensions. Our first album was a debut in which we had a lot of different kind of subjects, prominently the ethical element. It emphasized the need of respect, family values and peaceful living on this earth. It was well accepted and received many accolades.
Q: Did you struggle to get signed?
Naturally, we had a lot of difficulties about what we wanted to do. We had to do lots of things on our own. The already established in the music field were not interested in giving an ear to us. But we never gave up. I would pick up a Noor Jehan song and mix it. So it was basically our resolution, which helped us stand the ground and reach where we are today.
Q: Who does the technical aspects of your music?
Every idea starts with us. When I go to Pakistan and India, I pick up dozens of CD's - both pop and classical - and by listening you get different kind of new ideas. We listen to English, Urdu, Arabic and Latin music and that of course helps us in forming ideas. Also we work with different kind of people.
Q: Tell us about the content of the lyrics and the messages you are trying to put out there.
We don't have a specific message. There is one message, which I must say, is the supreme message that at the end of the day we are all the same, we all belong to human race. We should have respect and love for each other. The creator has made this earth especially for us human beings and He wants us to be good human beings. We should try to be as good in our beliefs and ideas as we can be. We believe that everything we do is how we represent our traditions and culture and who we are. There should be no place for hatred for anyone in this life. We should strive for reducing the sufferings of our fellow human beings. To achieve these objectives, we got to equip ourselves with knowledge. Seeking more and more knowledge should be our motto.
Q: Do you promote peace?
Yes, we will always fight for peace in our lyrics. It’s no secret that the world we live in an ugly place. For us as musicians we have responsibility on our shoulders, as a lot of people don't know what's going on in the world and what are the causes. We, the band members, come from places where there is a lot of prejudice and social mayhem. It obviously makes us politically conscious about the happenings in the world around. But regardless of who we are, and what we stand for, it’s duty upon us all to strive for peace and tranquility.
Q: What are the audiences you want to reach, who are untapped?
We want to reach everybody, not only Asians or English or Arabs. We want to reach out to every region and everyone. Music is the universal language and we don't believe in boundaries.
Tell us about 'Beats, Rhymes & Life'.
Basically it's a combination of what we have done so far. Its like we have brought together the a few people from around the world who have done a great service for the music. It’s also a reflection of who has impressed and influenced us. I must say I am a huge fan of Pakistani music. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan inspires me unbelievably. I would love to work with Mekaal Hassan Band, they are the cool best thing coming out after Junoon. I have spoken to many pop and classical singers like Ali Haider, Shehzad Roy, Fuzon band, Abrar-ul-Haq and the Junoon group and looking forward to work with them.
How did you come across the artistes in the compilation?
We know all of these artistes. We have been listening to their music. They have been producing pretty good music. All of it has great meaning, I mean it's about peace, love and humanity. Theirs is
Q: Which artistes did you most enjoy working with?
We have not done music with so many artistes. I had a dream of working with the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I was so proud when on our recent tour to Indian, Shah Rukh Khan Sanjay Dutt and Junoon's Ali Azmat recognized us. They appreciated us for our music and gave a lot of encouragement. That did us proud.
Q: What do you think of the present climate in politics, considering war and peace?
It's crappy! Politicians have hidden agendas. Look at the so-called 'War against terrorism', its killing and maiming innocent people who have done nothing wrong. The real problem is the powerful do not want peace in this world. They do not want the conflicts to end as they suppose peace will not serve their agendas. But no matter how strife-ridden this world becomes, we have to never give up on the fight for peace. We always have to fight to become better people in our lives and to make this world a better place to live.
Q: Any messages for your already growing fan base?
I would just say that thank you very much for all your continuing support, for having faith in our music and us. God bless you all and you always stay happy!