THE SKETCHES, A JOURNEY
The Sketches is a poetic rebellion. They brought music out from the comfortable, air-conditioned chamber rooms to the open skies of the desert, singing songs in the language of common folks, marinating them in the brine of indigenous melody and retaining their raw, virginal appeal. Saif Samejo, the founder and the lead vocalist of the band, has no formal training in music. But grew up in Sindh when its lands were treaded by the ecstatic Sufis, who traveled from places to places singing songs in strange, poetic dialects, which made lasting impression on him. When he founded The Sketches in 2001, he did not have any formal training in music. All he had with him was the memory of those long forgotten songs and their haunting beauty.
From 2001 to 2007 they traveled all over Pakistan covering underground concerts. During this journey they realized that News media carefully crafted an image of Pakistan, which didn’t do justice to the essence of his country at all. Yes, there was violence, there was insecurity but along side there was also enormous resilience and faith in humanity. Their music spontaneously embraced this resilience, this faith and the dialects of the common folks, who had preserved the history and essence of the country alive in their poetry and instruments, which had no room in the projected image of Pakistan carried out by the media.
In 2010/2011 they released their first official album “DASTKARI”. It wasn’t easy producing an album in thosedays. The band had been optimistic about the album but they hadn’t expected the album to be as successful. For one, the album wasn’t a work of classical music or anything close to it and secondly, not all the songs were in Urdu but Sindhi & Sriki poetry too. For the largest part of it, Pakistani music is dominated by Urdu language. Of course, it is easy to understand why. Urdu is one of the most refined and nuanced languages. But Saif felt Sindhi language, It’s literature, poets are far more secular and it hadn’t received its due recognition. Several years after the album the band has succeeded in bringing Sindhi poetry musically to general audience as well as mainstream.
After the success of their first album many avenues had opened up for The Sketches. They were aware that people had chosen to listen to their music and this faith entailed a responsibility – the responsibility to remain true to their cause of initiating social activism via music. In 2011 Saif met Nomi Ali, the guitarist of the band, rather unexpectedly. Nomi was an amateur artist, who pursued music as a hobby. He had an opportunity to play with The Sketches in a concert in Dubai. Nomi was trained in classical music. He knew geography of music well; he knew its territories and its boundaries.
So, when he performed with The Sketches for the first time he was little shocked because their music was boundless. They transcended these boundaries so effortlessly and so beautifully that it was addictive.
In 2013 Saif Samejo initiated Lahooti Live Sessions, a shared platform that gave voice to the indigenous artists and poets. Within a span of three years, the initiative has carved a unique niche of its own.
‘As Maheen Sabeeh writes, “Since its arrival, Lahooti (which roughly translates to ‘traveler’) has seen participation from folk artists from Sindh (who shine in the spotlight almost always) and beyond as wellas international artists from abroad and indie/alternative acts from Pakistan. An eclectic, diverse list of artists have performed at Lahooti since its birth such as Mai Dhai, Fakeer Zulfiqar, Jumman Fakeer Group (Bhit Shah), Jai Raam Jogi, Bhagat Bhooro Lal, Manjhi Fakeer Bell, Arieb Azhar, Sounds of Kolachi as well as others and the aim is to get as many musicians as possible.”
During these years, the band was also busy working on their second album – this album. Saif says this album doesn’t just reflect their musical journey but the spiritual growth of the artistes as well.
“These were the years of reflection, of contemplation, of growth,” says Saif. “The world was only getting more divided, more isolated. If we were to find meaning of life we were find it here, in our everyday reality no matter how harsh that be. We couldn’t wait for the world to get better. But once this realization struck us, we were suddenly able to appreciate the small joys of life with more gratitude. We were able to celebrate the brief moments of love and cherish them as long as they last. YOU, album is an effort to celebrate those moments, the moments of love and beatitude, that float by unnoticed in our everyday lives. YOU, is the celebration of everything that makes life, with all its brutality and transience, so precious.”