Sajid and Zeeshan's new video, 'Sanity' opens like a traveling dream. Sun rays, lush green hills, clear blue skies invite you in. As the video moves forward, the moody ambience stays engaging as we move from scenic skies to empty roads and tall trees. In an era of forgettable videos, this one stays with you because it's beautiful and simple. There are no gimmicks, no glamour, no opulence and no Sajid Ghafoor or Zeeshan Parwez to be seen in the video. It's a transportive video, soothing and serene, much like the fragile song where Sajid Ghafoor's lyrical poetry and gentle guitars mix perfectly with Zeeshan's eclectic electronica sounds. The songs builds itself slowly and gradually transforms to a crescendo and back down again. Like many Sajid and Zeeshan videos, this one also employs the use of graphics as well, or to be more specific, typography. The words form and change and it's like a story that slowly unravels amidst grabbing visuals and irresistible music.
Describing his vision for the video, director Shahab Qamar says, "The concept is pretty much using typography to express ideas and emotion. Blending floating typography with real-world scenery gives one a surreal feeling (it looks quite real yet our brains know that it's impossible in the physical world). It's like as if the actor in the film got replaced with words. Most of the video, except for a few parts, is made up of static images."
'Sanity' is the third music video from Sajid and Zeeshan's new album, The Harvest. Released online earlier this year as a free download, the album has already seen its share of videos with 'Walk on Air' and 'Start With A Scratch'. But 'Sanity' is unique because it's the only Sajid and Zeeshan video that Zeeshan Parwez hasn't directed. Instead Sajid and Zeeshan went with Shahab Qamar (of Naseer and Shahab, 'Za Pukhtoon Yam' fame) for this video.
"Shahab Qamar (from Peshawar) has always blown me away with his stuff," Zeeshan tells Instep Today. "He's one of the most talented and competent people I've had the pleasure of working with. We worked together on a few projects. While working on Uth Records, he came up with a prototype for 'Start With A Scratch', which we thought was brilliant and we suggested (since I have a profound love for typography) he should choose a song out of a few options given to him from The Harvest and I'm glad he chose 'Sanity'. There's never been a second draft, nothing was changed, what he presented as a draft is what you're watching now. He's done complete justice to the song."
What's unique to this video is that Sajid and Zeeshan are not starring in it at all. For the Peshawari duo, this isn't a first as they made no appearance in the super popular video of 'Freestyle Dive'.
"I've never been big on us coming on the screen all the time," admits Zeeshan and says, "'Freestyle Dive' would have been ruined if we had been animated and inside the video alongside that bank robber. With 'Sanity', it had to be more than us really."
The song is another solid composition from Sajid and Zeeshan who are still continuing with their psychedelic brand of music; Sajid Ghafoor's English lyrics mixed with zany guitars and sonic effects, spacey keyboards and samples, produced, as always, by Zeeshan Parwez.
In the end, 'Sanity' grows on you because it's a textured song and an emotional one too, as Sajid sings, "Its funny how we took a turn/I was left you were right/The only way your head would turn/If I stepped out of sight" - the song is questioning and reveals an emotional struggle, and at the same time, it's open to interpretation. It could be about a relationship or just as easily, an internal conversation.
This is a song and a video that will make you want to drive on a clear road. It's brilliant in its simplicity, musically and visually and for that alone, it must be seen.
Instep Today: How important are music videos, especially in this age of Internet and songs going viral?
Zeeshan Parwez: Music videos are and will be important. Today, I think formulas don't matter anymore, no proper schematic plan for making anything viral. A lot of people, including me, have lost faith and interest in television and they turn towards the Internet to find something cool and new. So there's a desperate war to get as much as ratings as possible, because you can instantly see the counter on the side, and based on that do your own marketing for that. People make do with whatever resources they have; there is no lavish spending on videos like it used to be, it's just creativity that matters and also the power of the song obviously. It's a good challenge if you see the picture as a whole, people more than ever, are pushed to create something new and different. But then again, that's happening more with music than in video.
Instep Today: Music videos don't get enough airtime anymore. How effective is YouTube and other social media platforms in getting your music out?
Zeeshan Parwez: Well, we have dedicated music channels that broadcast music videos so its not that there isn't airtime, people are generally not watching television anymore. Power is a big issue, cable operators can't operate when there's no power and because of being exposed to sudden static flashes on your television screen, you find yourself switching off your television sets most of the time. Another reason is that music channels have really lost their zest overall, forcing people to watch other things on television. I can't remember the last time I saw television, but I still do send every video I produce, and everyone's generally helpful because they are looking for content. But many people in the media business have to realize that good content needs to be churned out all the time. And because of quick content, we run Bollywood material, which is readily available and probably doesn't cost as much to package in the shape of a programme.
The complete shift comes with social media platforms where, in this day and age of convenience, people cut off from the commercials and get straight to what they want to see. For us, these platforms have been a blessing because getting instant feedback from all parts of the world and being able to interact with them is an amazing feeling. We still have to break a lot of barriers in getting our music to a lot of people, but we're grateful for whatever numbers we get.
Instep Today: What kind of response do you get from social media sites such as YouTube? Do you think it has helped in expanding your audience, here and abroad?
Zeeshan Parwez: We've been blessed with great response every time we've uploaded videos and it's a great feeling. We've worked hard on the album and great feedback just makes the whole thing worthwhile. I'm proud to say our audience/fan base is small but dedicated, and it's a pleasure to interact with them most of the times. We're musicians, not marketers, so we try our level best to spread the word around. If I could, I would call out every name that's helped us share the videos via Twitter and Facebook. Thank you guys. We get feedback from different countries, but our focus right now is to share it with music industries from different countries. Since it is English music, it might have a .099 chance to get somewhere.
Instep Today: Do you still look at getting television airtime? Is it still important for music videos or has television gained the status of obsolete now with Internet and YouTube?
Zeeshan Parwez: I think it's important for everyone to send their content to television. I do believe television is an important medium. Whenever I make a video project, I make it a point to see the draft on a television once with a remote in my hand (to control the volume) so that you have that feeling that you've constructed something that will soon turn to airwaves. And for musicians in Pakistan generally, everything is important. That small airtime can actually make a difference as well. At the same time I can understand all the problems that television channels go through; power, payments to be made through advertising, Pakistan security issues etc, yet I still see hope for television, I would only suggest producers re-think their strategies in terms of content generation if they want to lure viewers, and there's a huge audience out there.