© Legendary Musicians of Karachi
Underground 4 with Atiq-ur-Rehman, David Braganza, Errol D’silva, Allan Dias (later Malcolm Goveas replaced Atiq and Michael Rodrigues replaced David)
Photographs contributed by Sabby Patrick & Eric D’silva aka Errol
Artwork ~ by Farah Abro & ldg
In the mid 70’s, when ‘Hello Why Are You’ a mammoth, famous band that included Mansoor Fatah on lead /keyboards and main vocals, Farooq Fatah on rhythm/vocals, Kareem Piranii on bass and Atiq Rehman (Rehmani Stores) on drums ended their contract at the Horseshoe restaurant because Mansoor was leaving the country; Atiq Rehman came by the Village restaurant where we were the house band and asked Allan Dias and myself if we were interested in playing at the Horseshoe with him.
We were extremely excited but reluctantly afraid because we knew we weren’t yet ready to fill in such big shoes and feared we might lose our gig at the Village if all failed at the Horseshoe. Atiq was persistent. He made us realize that our talent would be better recognized playing at the Horseshoe; offered us triple the money we were making, and even came to our homes and convinced our parents (who trusted the “Rehmani boy”) that he would take care of us and make sure we’d get home safely every night (a major obstacle to overcome, considering our 12:00 am midnight curfew).
Not having any equipment except our axe, we went to Sam Schwartz’s shop and with the money we could pay for rental, we bargained for his better equipment, yet, nothing compared to the Hiwatt amplifiers and other massive equipment being used at the Horseshoe by the previous band. (contd.. below)
(contd. from above)
We needed a keyboard player and Atiq asked David Braganza, (a keyboardist unknown to us) to join the band. It was that morning ‘The Underground 4’ name was chosen and the band came into existence.
Spending the entire morning carting and setting up the equipment and having only that afternoon to rehearse; we had to start gigging that very evening because the Horseshoe needed a band immediately.
That evening was an unforgettable nightmare with everything one could think of going wrong. I remember, Sam’s amplifiers began heating up and started distorting because we had them on all afternoon and we were performing in this little caved area under the staircase with not much air circulation.
Then the looped tape for the analog echo unit kept breaking all the time, my voice had finally given up and gotten hoarse because we rehearsed through the afternoon, with me being the only front vocalist for all our songs and the others were either backing me or singing just a song or two. We sounded worse than a garage band because of poor coordination.
Atiq in an effort to cover up our mistakes was overpowering the other instruments and we could see customers walking out covering their ears, and our constant short breaks due to “technical difficulties” frustrated the manager ‘Shauquat’ who looked really mad. Needless to say we were doomed on the first day and were anticipating the “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out” expression from the management.
As the week painfully dragged by, even though we felt we were getting our bearings and performing somewhat better, we would often overhear the manager tell Atiq “These are Kids!! Where did you find them? Get some professionals, this is not going to work” and Atiq would convince him saying “Give them some time they are really talented and good, it will work out”.
To add to the injury, the ‘Hello Why Are You’ fans from the American school, diplomatic enclave and other regular cliental who would pack the Horseshoe every night to listen to the band play ‘Led Zeppelin’ and ‘Black Sabbath’ to the tee, with Mansoor’s superb vocals, stage performances and other gimmicks, sometimes roller skating on the floor playing monster lead licks. It was literally a concert every night; I believe there sometimes was standing room only’.
These folks would now come to the Horseshoe with the same expectation, but then walk out because even though we tried to add some hard rock songs to our repertoire, our bubble gum disco line up was not to their taste and of course it would take a life time to perform like Mansoor and the band.
So now, even the waiters were mad and complained about us because they were losing their tips 😦
Allan and I are both truly grateful and will remain forever in debt to Atiq-ur-Rehman for always taking care of us like a big brother, believing in our talent, never losing hope in us and standing up for us when trying to convince Zia Rajput and his management not to deprive us of the opportunity because he believed we could do it and it was only a matter of time.
The intense pressure, the need to prove our worth and the fear of losing the gig pushed us to work harder. I remember us catching the mini bus everyday at Empress market heading to the Horseshoe at 1:00 pm after the lunch hour cliental ended, we’d rehearse all afternoon thru the evening, then rest a while, clean up and start playing from 9:00 pm until 1:00 am. Then wait for the customers to leave and start rehearsing again until maybe 3:00 – 4:00 am when the Chowkidar ‘Dilawar’ would literally turn off the power and throw us out for disturbing his sleep.
This schedule mentioned above, became our routine and little did we realize it was actually paying off. The Horseshoe started getting crowded again. We were gaining new followers and making great friends, the dance floor was always packed on the weekends and some weekdays, the owner with his entourage of friends would call us to his table for a shot of scotch and give us a big tip as he left. Allan and I were nicknamed Lumboo and Shorty by him and we became very close to his family and kids.
Shauquat, the manager, would sit and have dinner with us and joke about the time when we started and sounded like crap. Airline crew would recommend the club and our band to their colleagues and we would have a flow of airline crew come party with us through the week. But most of all, we were happy to gain acceptance and approval from our local peers/musicians; who probably noticed us “scared shitless” when we would see great musicians like, Ivan and Leon Menezes, Ronnie (boy) Pinto, the Fredrick brothers, Glen Boyle, Maxwell Dias, Alan Vandy, Iggy Fernandes, Martin Dsouza, Farooq Fatah, Karim Piranni, Salim Juddun, Alamgir, Mohammed Ali Shaki, Nizar, just to name a few walk down the Horseshoe restaurant stairs, to come hear us play.
A year later, Atiq took off to Dubai, I took over the helm and we recruited Malcolm Goveas into the band. Besides our followers at the Horseshoe, we began getting well known amongst the Goan/Christian community as well and were regularly hired for weddings and community affairs.
In 1976 after the Horseshoe got flooded and we awaited renovation, David decided to leave the band and we asked Michael Rodriguez to join us. The reopening of Horseshoe took Underground 4 and its members through many a great prosperous, unforgettable years and other life changing events.
In the late 70’s Michael moved to the US, Malcolm, Allan and I always stayed close and gigged together. Through all those unforgettable and memorable years and life changing events, I clearly remember one thing that always stayed the same from the day we started the Underground 4 band…. Somehow we always maintained the same old rehearsal schedule that became our routine and helped us gain footage when we first started.
We will never forget great friends and supporters like Asgar, Khalid, Roland Saxby, Gerry Suares, Joe Luis, Terrance Clements and many of our other great buddies who would come visit us every night, sit through our rehearsals until 4:00 am in the morning and share some unforgettable times which we will always cherish.
Dedicated to my brothers Atiq-ur-Rehman, Allan Dias, Malcolm Goveas, David Braganza, Michael Rodriquez…. Forever my Underground 4 family
I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Mansoor Fatah our savior. It had rained very heavily one night and the Horseshoe restaurant being underground got flooded to the ceiling with all our equipment submerged under water. Mansoor who was visiting from Holland then, happened to pass by the Horseshoe that morning, saw the scenario rushed to my house to tell me. Being the prankster he usually was, I laughed, thinking he was kidding. Realizing he was serious, we rode our bikes to his house where he picked up some rope, a flashlight and some goggles and we rushed to the Horseshoe.
The owner told us not to enter because the electrical short circuit and the mucky waters mixed with sewage were too dangerous. Mansoor felt if we didn’t try to retrieve the equipment then it would be too late to salvage anything. When the owner left, this brave and fearless man (Mansoor) stripped to his underwear, strapped the flashlight to his head, put on his goggles had me hold one end of the rope and dived into 20 feet of water with no breathing room if he needed air.
In fearful expectation we waited, when we saw Mansoor’s head pop up asking us to pull the rope which he had strapped on to a speaker cabinet. Slowly and painfully through the day he finally managed to get everything out. If it wasn’t for Mansoor’s brave act and clever judgment, we would have lost all our equipment because the pumps took over a week to completely drain all the water..
”I’d Like to sincerely “THANK YOU” my friend wherever you are and hope to get in touch with you one day. You truly have a “Lion’s Heart and an Angel’s soul” ~ Errol D’silva