There are many stories behind the making of Gul(flower). One is how I came to record music in Jamshoro, Sindh, Pakistan with Sindhi folk musicians. I went there for music, but came back with so much more.
For a short film with a raw, painted style, and intense emotions, I wanted equally raw and powerful music. This was a story that needed the warmth and richness of acoustic sounds. I placed different types of music on the rough cut of the short and found my way to Sindhi folk music by way of a CD by the Iqbal Jogi Ensemble called Passion for Pakistan. The music did not match the timing of the short, but the sound and style felt right. I knew I could bring something fresh with this combination. It would be tough to hire musicians and create original music, but music is vital to the story, so there could be no compromise on it. Ideas for the music were in my mind years before I was actually ready to record it. Eventually, that Iqbal Jogi CD is what took me on this journey to find contemporary Sindhi folk musicians. At the time I didn’t know what Iqbal Jogi looked like or really much of anything beyond the vague CD liner notes. More recently I did manage to find this video of the late master musician, well worth watching.
So how do you do something you know nothing about? A mutual friend connected me to a well known Pakistani musician who has a recording studio and works with folk musicians at times. I let him know exactly what I was looking for, including sample music, but he just kept asking about money. It’s a red flag when someone tries to size you up to see what they can squeeze out of you instead of discussing the requirements for the work. This convinced me that even if I came up with a magic sum he was not going to bring any heart to the project. I spoke to his assistant on the phone several times once I reached Lahore, Pakistan as he had invited me to contact him, but he never bothered calling back, so that road thankfully ended there.
Disappointed in my first lead, I turned to my friend Suffi Bilal Khalid, from the Multimedia Department at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. I met him years ago when I walked into the NCA to see if they had any people doing animation and we have kept in touch. He personally knows or is connected to many people in the arts community. Perhaps equally, if not more important, he is a friend and an honest one at that. Through some contacts he gave me, I began reaching out to people in Sindh, Pakistan, where the music I sought comes from.
So I began talking to a second contact for music. He was a musician, a teacher and as the head of a music department, he was in a perfect position to help. On the phone he was very friendly and hospitable, inviting me to come to Sindh. I thought for certain, this was the man who would help me find the musicians I needed.
In my second month in Pakistan, I took the overnight train, in economy class, traveling on a dusty bunk, in a sea of hard working, everyday people, packed into the aisles, to Hyderabad, Sindh. The loud call of vendors rang out through the evening and again in the morning, as the train trudged along.
I got to Hyderabad around noon the next day and grabbed a rickshaw to the address I was told to go to. It was a pharmacy, from which a young man came and walked me down a narrow lane.
As I walked down, I saw a procession going to a shrine around the corner, to pay respects, playing music and doing a dance called dhamal. I knew I was in the right place.