Filed under: Pakistan
When researching the music that is featured on this site, there are usually many more questions than answers. As I type this in an airport in Indonesia – having spent the last four days fruitlessly searching for someone who even knows what a record is – information, even more so than the records themselves, is hard to find.
But over the years, I have occasionally heard from a number of the artists that I have written about. In those rare instances, there are moments of clarity and a few more pieces of the puzzle fall into place… Of course they usually ask me, how did you find out about this stuff and why do you care?
Back in December of 2008 when I posted a song by The Bugs from Pakistan, the floodgates opened. O.K., that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I was contacted by a handful of musicians who had been in bands in Pakistan during the late 60s into the early 70s. Two of them – Ahsan Sajjad and Fasahat Hussein Syed – were in The Panthers.
Radiodiffusion Internasionaal: Most people don’t realize that Pakistan had such a great scene with quite a few bands. Besides The Bugs, The Fore Thoughts, The Mods, The Slihouettes
and The Thunders, do you recall any other bands from that time?
Ahsan Sajjad: The bands were The Black Pirates, Talismen, In Crowd, Moonglows and an older band called The Keynotes before the surge.
RI: When and where did the band get together?
AS: We got together in the year of ‘67 in Karachi. It started with Norman and myself and then we went looking for other members. We had played around with different players but the two of us stuck together. When we released Folk Tunes and had a sit in, Javaid Allahditta, play the sitar we realized we had to go get a sitar player and make him a member. I had known Eric (bass player) for a while and had jammed with him. So I invited him to join us and to switch from lead to bass and then met Fasahat who played the sitar and was versatile on the keyboard. There was the formation of “The Panthers”.
RI: Who was in the band, and what instruments did they play?
RI: Which record was recorded first, Folk Tunes of Pakistan on Electric Sitar and Western Instruments or East Goes West? Do you recall which years those records were released?
AS: Folk Tunes first and then in June 1969 EMI released East Goes West. East Goes West shows the versatility of the band. This was a well thought out record where local instruments and ragas were utilized as a modern day tune and to show the meeting of the East tunes and West beats/tempo. The bands ability and creativity also comes forth as they employ different beats in sync with the ragas. Sarangi is utilized an instrument that is a very much into the Indo/Pak culture as the intro to each of the three ragas has a very Eastern tone and creates a haunting melody.
Fasahat Hussein Syed: The first performance of The Panthers was at “Mahapara” outdoors lounge at the swimming pool of Midway Hotel near the airport. We got a contract in the same hotel ballroom afterward. We also played at the Metropolitan Hotel, with some other bands (do not remember the occasion), played at San Patrick’s High School.
AS: Venues were limited… So most bands played at house parties and at the limited outlets.
RI: I recently saw a copy of The Fore Thoughts first single that was pressed in Iran. Did The Panthers ever perfrom outside of Pakistan?
AS: Never made it out of Pakistan. But performed and recorded for Radio Pakistan a tune that was used for their foreign broadcast. The music had to be danceable as that is how the public understood its fancy. But this was also in its infancy and was being perfected as it was being performed or as the target to learn harder songs grew.
RI: Fasahat, you said that The Panthers broke up when Ahsan left for America. That’s when you and Eric joined The Black Pirates with Bashir Balouch from The Fore Thoughts. How long were The Black Pirates together?
FHS: After Ahsan left for United States, Eric and myself joined The Black Pirates, we played for a fashion show in Metropolitan Hotel, we played at Adamji Auditorium at the Marine Engineers Graduation Party in 1970. I joined the Merchant Marines and left the country, group was broken up. After four years, I signed off from Merchant Marines and joined The Black Pirates again with some new members and played in Horse Shoe Restaurant Lounge on a contract. After the contract expired, group broke up again. I left the group to pursue a Marine Engineering Career and eventually migrated to United States in 1979.
RI: What have the members been up to lately? Are you still involved in music?
AS: Norman lives in Mississauga, Canada and is very much into Rhythm and Blues, performs guitar and sings at invitational parties and has put out a CD for friends, doing cover tunes. Fasahat plays keyboard and tabla with a fusion band called Tulsi out of Chattanooga, TN. Me, I am still honing my skills on the guitar. Have performed locally at invitations. Very much into Folk/Blues. Working on putting a performing band.
Thanks to Ahsan Sajjad and Fasahat Hussein Syed for their help.
Catalog number EKCE-20016 on EMI / Columbia Records of Pakistan, released 1969.