KARACHI: Pepsi Battle of the Bands (BoB) took another step in promoting its third season on Monday. The first episode was put up earlier but then taken down in solidarity with victims of the Mastung blast.
But on Monday night, we finally saw Fawad Khan and Meesha Shafi return as the jury. While Strings is set to join them as soon as the top eight bands are finalised, Aaroh front man Farooq Ahmed appeared as a guest judge for the auditions.
There is certainly more excitement in the air now. Season three should ideally showcase not just the contestants’ maturity and determination but also BoB’s evolution and progress in developing and nurturing new talent.
The first episode featured nine auditions, besides the many more that the jury witnessed. The first band to perform was Xarb, who did a cover of Tashnagi by the Sabri Brothers. While it wasn’t the most dynamic performance, their sound had a certain maturity and set the tone for the rest of the episode. The judges thought Xarb was well-coordinated. Khan felt their sound had a touch of blues music and appreciated the resurgence of the genre with the Xarb and last year’s contestants Pindi Boys.
Faisalabad-based band I.F.R.A (the name is comprised of the initials of the bandmates’ names) performed their original Punjabi track Balliya. But it was perhaps the most unpolished out of all nine. The jury believed the female vocalist stood out but I.F.R.A, on the whole, needs more practice. They did get through to the next round though.
Dhool from Pindi delivered one of the best performances of the night. Their original track, a recomposed version of Bulleh Shah’s Nukta, garnered a ton of praise. Shafi called the band a “hidden gem,” thanks to the strong and fresh vocals. The starlet even went on to say that Dhool’s music felt like a spiritual experience.
Aag from Lahore performed Jahil. Even with some brilliant drumming, the band didn’t hit the sweet spot due to weak vocals. But the judges felt the band has a complete sound, despite having only two members, and therefore, sent them through.
Estraplock from Karachi had the exact opposite issue. Their hard rock rendition of Bunny’s Dil Mein Tum had weak drumming but the powerful vocalist saved the day.
Two bands from last year also made their returns. Ehl-e-Rock performed Aasmaan with some strong instrumentation but the vocals didn’t make a mark. But the jury enjoyed their act and shortlisted the band.
Khamaaj, another contestant from season two, returned with two new members not excluding a drums addition to their instrumentation. They said last year, they were happy to have cleared the auditions but this time around, they are more motivated and driven to win. Performing the original Chimta earned them a ticket to the next round.
Another of top notch performance came from Sarmasta. The band, whose name means ‘the vibe of being in trance,’ performed an original track called Bullah. Its unique rhythm, strong vocal texture and beautiful composition earned them a go-ahead. The jury felt the vocalist’s voice had a certain, undeniable genuineness and the Aaroh front man said they should just record and release the track right now, calling it “an instant hit.”
However, the highlight of the evening was a band which rightfully calls itself Tamaasha, covering Aaroh’s Raag Neela. Khan warned Ahmed before the performance to watch out for these guys. And boy did Tamaasha fire on all cylinders! Their rendition got them a standing ovation from all three judges.
It’s too early to tell but going by the auditions, perhaps Tamaasha is the one band with the potential to make it in the top three this season. Their rocker of a performance truly put on a tamaasha (show) in the true sense of the word. In fact, Ahmed – the original singer of Raag Neela – said it was the best cover of his song that he had ever heard. Khan quipped that Tamaasha had outdone Aaroh itself.
At the end, the judges agreed that the bands were better prepared this time around, including the ones from last year. Except a few who came unprepared, there is great potential in the new contestants. As we wait for the next episode, it’s certain Monday’s season opener gave a taste of what we can expect for the next eight weeks. And it sounds like nothing short of a weekly musical delight.
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