Left to right: Bilal Nasir Khan, their friend Zayd, Haamid Rahim.
In a scene dominated by multiple permutations of rock and pop, it's little wonder that a new generation of musicians in Karachi are intent on carving out a space outside of those long-established forms. "It's hard for me to specify what I do in the realm of music, but I love making beats," says Bilal Nasir Khan, co-founder of the Forever South (FXS) collective, locally known as FXS, which has grown swiftly since it began in 2012. "Those beats sometimes turn into different genres—I'm just constantly trying out new sounds to see what I love the most, but at this point, it's all too good to not be doing it." Both a network and a label, the FXS sound calls out to the global beats scene—from the freewheeling spirit of LA to the moody tones of London—while drawing on Pakistan's rich history of traditional music. Khan and fellow FXS founder Haamid Rahim, who record as Rudoh and Dynoman, respectively, both initially played in local bands on the underground scene before moving toward beats. "My dad would show me old rock tunes and I always had a strong affinity toward music," Rahim says. "I expressed interest in the guitar when I was around 14, and formed a band shortly after. I have been honing my musicianship ever since." Khan was in a band called Mole and spent time with the producer Dalt Wisney, and views the experience as a formative one: "It was us peeps just hanging around doing music and learning new things." He went on briefly to form an electronic collective called Karachi Detour Rampage. "I was making my first few tracks under the Dynoman handle at the time, so I sent him some to be on the collective, and that's how we got to talking," says Rahim. "The following year, we started FXS."
On working in Karachi: Haamid Rahim: Karachi is a city that repeatedly puts you through phases of good times and bad times. If you wish to learn a skill, or further a skill you think you already have, Karachi is a great place to be. There is not too much to do here in terms of entertainment, so learning about music, producing and practicing is very easy. Karachi has its quirks that show through in my work. I find inspiration in experiences I have had in the city, as it is very colorful and diverse. These experiences can be visiting an electronics market trying to find some music gear, or going to a fruit market to pick out the right mango. With the right attitude, Karachi is a great place to be, but if you have some high expectations while living here, your experience could be different.
Bilal Nasir Khan: Maaaaan, that’s a complicated question for a very complicated city. It's difficult to understand or even explain. It has its days of amazing times and days of absolute boredom and unproductivity. People’s lives move very slowly in Karachi, which is why everyone there is so mellow, but then again, it has its fair share of violence lurking around. Living here, we’re constantly riding these two waves at some point or another—for every two bad trips you might go through, there’s one good trip to make up for it. I think the key aspect is that you’re close to your friends and family, and from time to time, that sorta makes up for all the shitty bits. Karachi is inspiration in many ways. It's a city full of struggle, and when a nation struggles, it brings people together, and that aspect of the city is wonderful. Everyone is very warm-hearted, kind, and ever-willing to help. That kind of positive energy lightens your mood in a way that I have not experienced anywhere else. And let's not forget about the absolutely gorgeous skies and beaches :).
On a career defining moment: Khan: There have been two defining moments. The first was when I met Nawksh and Dalt Wisney years ago; that was when I started making music. Then, later on, the most significant step was definitely going to SAE Institute in London. I did audio engineering for two years and hopped around in clubs all over London, listening to some of London’s finest. I had the best time of my life doing that. It was the best learning experience I could’ve asked for.
Rahim: Last year in September, it was really cool because the Berlin-based outfit Gebrüder Teichmann and Gerriet Schultz came for a visit to Karachi and happened to be there at the same time I was hosting a show with FXS. They played in our show, which was an amazing surprise for our audience. A few days later, I got invited by them to perform a set at Worldtronics 2013 in Berlin, which was also an amazing experience.
On what's next for them: Rahim: I am currently finishing up an EP titled Travels to Janaicah: Cheebay's Imagination. It is the first part in a series of albums I wish to release. I am really excited because I have been working on this concept album for over a year. I released a single from the album that you can check out here Khan: At the moment, I’m working on a remix for one of Dynoman’s new EP. Other than that, I’ve been working on [my own] EP for a year now, should be done in a few months. Rahim: As for Forever South, we just released FXS: Volume 2, and are planning the release dates for our upcoming EP releases.