In Conversation with Artist-Composer-Music Producer Karim Barolia

Ismailimail is pleased to present an interview with Karim Barolia from Karachi, Pakistan, where the artist speaks about his project Mowla Mera Ishk Tu’, why it was created, and whether this sort of effort especially in the times of the Pandemic, offered innovation. As Karim’s new direction continues making new music, one wondered whether this is the direction the musician would be taking in the future. As Karim joins us on interview, let’s know more about him and his musical journey.

Sujjawal Ahmad ( SA): First of all thank you so much for giving your time and joining. Tell about yourself. What type of music you create, what first got you into music, and what inspired you to make music?

KB: I remember it was back in the year 2000 when my brother introduced me to a genre of electronic music, called ‘Trance’. At that point, it was quite new in Pakistan. However, that genre had existed everywhere else since the ’90s or probably even before that.

I used to like listening to music, but then somehow, it started to really click and inspire me to think how the beats were progressing; yet the rhythm was the same. It’s so different from what I am doing right now though. I do produce electronic music but for other artists; however, I won’t call myself an electronic music producer. At that point, I realized that ok this is something nice. It’s like if you go to a restaurant, you are introduced to a new cuisine, you try something new and you like it. Right! 

So generally, I like to analyze things, and I want to experiment and understand what the thought process is behind it. So, if I try a new cuisine, I like to know about the ingredients. And that was Trance for me – trying a new cuisine! After a few years I realized why Trance really appealed to me. It was the rhythm, which actually clicked me. For me, if you talk about the physicality of music, it’s all about the rhythm. There is always a physical aspect as well as a spiritual aspect for anything. So for me, the physical aspect of music was rhythm that really inspired me. And that’s how I started creating and making different sounds and beats. It helped me. So that was back in early 2000. But later on, I started singing, and it was the year 2005 when I switched to music completely. It was clear that is what I am going to do for the rest of my life.

SA: Did you get formal training in music?

KB: Well, I did not study music. I do have a degree in music productions and sound engineering, which is different from the music itself, but it’s part of music. So I would say I have ethics and knowledge about how sound and production work but for music, I haven’t taken any formal training.

SA: Any particular musician you admired growing up as a child, and now as a youth whom you have derived inspiration for music?

KB: To be honest, it was music that really inspired me because I see the music itself as a person. But I absolutely admire sir AR Rehman. It’s more about his vision. He is a visionary artist. You would find a lot of musicians and singers and composers, which is great, but I think you have to have a vision about what you are thinking, what is your perspective, and what you try to tell. We find AR Rehman so different and unique because of his vision and thought process behind it. I actually learn through his work. As I said, I haven’t gone through any training in music, but it’s actually through him that I have learned a lot. I have never met him. But I consider him as my teacher.

SA: In your recent project ‘ Mowla Mera Ishk Tu, you have done a tremendous job, would you like to share your experience what was your creative process like? Especially in the time when the world was going through the Pandemic. So what were the challenges that you had to face? 

KB: So the process of creation! Ahh, generally I always try to tell a story through music. And there has to be a vision behind that story. It’s like whatever you do in life, it’s not random. There has to be a meaning behind it. Otherwise, it’s just meaningless. And the pandemic didn’t actually cause any harm to this song. I was talking to every single artist – 62 artists residing in 25 countries. I would be online and on calls all day and night!

There were challenges. One of the challenges was a language barrier because some artists didn’t speak while some didn’t understand English. So they would always have a translator with them, and that was quite interesting. At one point, I directly called a singer, who couldn’t speak English but they say music needs no language and interestingly the communication was so smooth that we just started jamming and managed to get his paths done towards the end without a translator. Apart from language barriers, the time differences, of course, existed that we had to work with. Also, living in Pakistan, where you don’t have electricity during summer can be really frustrating. I remember there would be no electricity for six hours a day, and I would be working for 12 to 14 hours a day. I was working consecutively for thirty-six nights. 

Coming back to the creative process. I was not worried about the creative process. Because to me, Mowla Mera Ishk Tu was, as I have already mentioned many times that it’s not just a song.

It was not project for me. It was more of a spiritual journey for everyone who was part of it. The minute I started working on it, everything just magically worked out. Things were being taken care of. I did not worry about the melody or the composition. It just came to me naturally. I think it was a blessing! In fact, the creation process went so smoothly that I was ready with the composition in the first three days.

I still remember the first melody that came to my mind was at 4 am. And from then onward it just happened on its own. I don’t know how it happened. It just happened on its own. It was as if I was a delivery man – having to deliver something through music. I think it was more of a spiritual connection. I felt the energy, and I was blessed to understand those energies. I translated those energies through that soundscape, and I think the entire team was quite connected in a spiritual way during that journey. The comments and feedback I received from around the world all accompanied with a prayer. 

Typically, in other projects, you receive comments such as “wow, brilliant work”. But with this project, it was a different feeling altogether.

I would like to add one more thing. All of the participants didn’t even know what was happening in the song until the song was released. They had been given their individual parts. As a composer, I had an image on my mind of how it was going to sound and come together in the end. And then we had those magical moments. There were a couple of musicians from Iran and Canada, they were playing two different instruments and they had never met each other. They didn’t know what they were playing and I generally feel artists should have freedom if they want to do create their own phrases. And when I received their recordings both of them played the almost a similar phrase in one of the sections of the song, that was quite magical. So it’s the energies, how they transform from one to the other. And they were not in the same room. They didn’t speak to each other. I communicated with all of them individually but somehow I felt that we were in the same room, chatting with each other, and playing the song together. So that was quite inspirational for everyone. And again it had a spiritual feeling. All of the musicians felt that.

SA: How was your experience with your previous work that you did with Natasha Baig on ”Ho Mian”, that with Sufi lyrics created a powerful melody, as the literal pathways amalgamate with the transcendental connections of being one with God?

KB: ‘Ho Mian’ was under the production of Sound Diaries which I started in 2017. Just like “Mawla Mera Ishk Tu”, the whole idea of these projects is the search. It could be the search of anything. For me, it’s the search of sound – the journey of finding those sounds whether it’s through nature, through travel, or meeting different people through different voices.

Natasha has a tremendous voice, and she generally works around the Sufi side of the music. So it was a perfect collaboration between me and her under Sound Diaries. I think it just automatically jammed in, and she was bringing in that voice, that I was looking for, the sound I was looking for. And again the idea behind Sound Diaries is to travel and explore those places. Although we recorded the songs in the studios, there is a specific scene in the music video, where we have shown a mosque in Thattha, Shah Jahan Mosque. And I have shown how the voice is vibrating around that environment, around that structure, and how they are connected. If you go through the video, you will see how everything is so connected. I think Natasha’s voice brings in that element. It automatically fit in and jammed in the image I had. It was quite smooth. 

Natasha is a humble musician, and she works along the same line I work with. We are trying to portray the positive side. We are trying to convey a message to inspire everyone that music can be considered as fun and something to be enjoyed, but also that music has a deeper meaning as well, and we try to portray.

“For me, it’s the search of sound – the journey of finding those sounds whether it’s through nature, through travel, or meeting different people through different voices. “

SA: We have talked about your previous work, would you like telling us do you have any upcoming projects?

KB: For the past few months, I have been working on different projects. I did around six productions last year. I am writing and creating new music. A lot of collaborations are happening. I am also working on a personal project in addition to a couple of my own songs which will be releasing in the next two or three months.

SA: What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?

KB: I think I would be an architect. Ancient architectural structure really fascinates me and I try and study about it. Similarly Islamic architecture and music are well connected. There is a lot of research going on. I have done my own research on that as well about how sound and shapes are connected with each other. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Architecture is frozen music,” So for me, I think I would have been an architect.

SA: As a singer, Do you exercise your voice and practice your instrument daily?

KB: Yes, of course I do. It’s very important. It’s like a job. You have to be honest about it. Whatever you are doing in your life, whatever field you are in, you have to practice regularly. Otherwise, things start to fade away and you don’t want to be in that zone. I do practice quite daily. I practice on my guitar regularly. I sit down on an instrument and write something every day. Whenever I have to come up with a song, I am ready for it. Practicing every day is extremely important.

SA: What is the best advice you’ve been given, and would like to share with the youth in our community?

KB: I think whatever you are doing in life, master your craft, master in whatever field you are working in. Make sure that you are honest with it. Don’t go for the short cuts, and just try to learn and evolve every day. And don’t run after the success. Focus on what you do and just make sure whatever you are doing, you are doing your best and with honesty.  Generally, we tend to run after the success and we want to be successful. We hear “Oh, I want to be successful”. But I think the main focus should be how to be great in what you are doing, rather than thinking about how to be successful. Success comes with time, patience and many other factors. I guess enjoy the journey, whatever you are doing in life. Don’t forget to enjoy it. Just make sure you are doing it proactively. And learn every day. Learn something new. Learn new craft or skill.

About Karim Barolia

Karim Barolia is an Artist/Composer/Music Producer by profession and the main mastermind behind Sound Diaries.

He graduated from SAE Institute, majoring in Audio Production and Sound Engineering. With experience of over a decade in the field of music and having worked with many corporate brands, Karim has produced, collaborated and mentored many mainstream and indie artists around the globe for which he has achieved recognition and publications locally and internationally.

He has been working with the nature and environment closely, capturing & translating specific sounds with story-telling. A consummate artist, Karim’s work embraces the essence of life and brings forth expression of music in a uniquely simplistic yet meaningful manner.

Follow him on Instagram: @karimbaroliaofficial

On Facebook: facebook.com/KarimBarolia

Author: Sujjawal Ahmad

Sujjawal is an invited blog author at Ismailimail. In his professional life, with his true passion for molecular medicine, he has realized how efforts to make a positive impact at multiple scales, personal, local, and global, are all intertwined. Sujjawal finds it extremely exciting to develop a deep love of cultures around the world. The stories that are about humanity, emotion, that compel us as individuals, connect our hearts and minds are the kinds of stories Sujjawal has always gravitated to, and the kinds he tells. Reach out to him via email: sujjawalahmed@gmail.com

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