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Natasha Ejaz strikes the right note

The past few years have been a triumph for Pakistani music. As the music industry continues to experience an unsteady rise with music shows, such as Coke Studio, Nescafe Basement and Cornetto Music Icons, one trend that has seen a constant incline is the emergence of female musicians in the country.

Natasha Ejaz is one such musician, who, despite being turned down as backing vocalist on Coke Studio, continues to pursue her music dream. And her hard work seems to have paid off as she gears up to release her album, and perform at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas in March.

Natasha tells The Express Tribune that she received formal education in music from International College of Music, Malaysia, and how she benefitted from it. “What music school does more than anything is that it puts one in a constant state of change,” says the singer, adding that she credits her instructors with encouraging her to step into the world of experimenting. “Everything, from ensemble studies to being stage crew for performances to jamming out my initial compositions with a band, has helped me in one way or another in realising my music goals today.”
But it has not been smooth sailing for Natasha, as she had to face rejection from one of the biggest music platforms of the country — Coke Studio. Undeterred, she terms being turned down as a valuable experience, citing the encouragement she received from Rohail Hyatt and the rest of the team as the reason why she decided to become a full-time musician.

Natasha, who has released songs such as Today Is A Place and Hum Bhaagay, is busy working on her album, and termed her style of music as a “nice little hotch-potch” of various genres she has listened to over time. She mentions that the sound of her upcoming album is leaning towards indie folk and jazz.

According to Natasha, her upcoming project is an “out-and-out concept album.” “Every single note in the album stands for something. I have taken some of my compositions from over the years and tailored them into what we’ll eventually put out,” she shares. Giving credit where credit is due, she states, “The compositions and lyrics may be mine but the arrangements belong to the whole band.”

Natasha says that, apart from being a mixture of several sounds, the album’s music was also inspired by personal experiences. “There are songs about hope and heartache… there are songs about the strange dream-state we find ourselves in, and those that explore one’s relationship with the past, present and future,” says Natasha.

On the question of why she has decided to release an album at a time when other Pakistani musicians have opted for releasing singles and music videos, she explains, “For me, as an artist, it was time to take that next step and stamp my musical identity into what we refer to as ‘long-form’.” She elaborates, “I finally have the perfect studio band set-up. I also found that Omran Shafique and I work well together, so it was just the right time for me [to release an album].”

Natasha shares that she got the chance to become a part of the event through the Found Sound Nation, an organisation in New York working towards developing innovative cultural music exchange programmes. This year, the organisation has developed ‘The Dosti Music Project’ in collaboration with the United States Embassy in Islamabad, where 10 musicians from the US, Pakistan and India will come together to do a few showcase performances across the US, the last of which will be at the SXSW music festival.

“The idea is to collaborate and create music based on social enterprises together. All of Found Sound Nation’s programmes highlight the importance of capacity building and social engagement through music,” Natasha comments. “This is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow with other musicians from across the border.”