© Legendary Musicians of Karachi
Category ~ Band Profile 60s – 70s
We recently got hold of some rare photographs of the band ‘The Abstract’s of the late 60s courtesy Mr. Siddiq M.
For us here at LMK, it is a privileged moment to connect with these great old musicians and would like to thank Siddiq for arranging this interview for us.
Siddiq is the son of Mr. Arif O Mohammed, guitarist of ‘The Abstracts’.
Mr. Arif O Mohammed, it is truly a pleasure for LMK to have you with us. As you are aware, our initiative is to promote Karachi’s legendary ‘live’ bands and musicians of the past, therefore tell us more about your band ‘The Abstracts’.
I am a big fan of your website ever since my son pointed it out to me and for people of my generation it is a great way of reliving our youth again in our old age! Thank you for this chance to share some of my memories.
I remember those days very fondly. During the period of ‘67 to ‘69 we played together. We were in college then; I was in Dawood Engineering College and must have been aged 21-22. I knew a little bit of guitar, so when Arif Baroucha wanted to form a band he called me.
He is my cousin from my mother’s side. He had his guitar which was a white arch top guitar and a sort of unbranded replica of a Gibson Casino.
I had mine which was a German made Hofner Galaxie…
My Father, Mr. Obaid Mohammad who had worked in Pakistan Telecommunications and later in the United Nations used to travel often to Europe on official business. During one of his trip’s to Germany he acquired the guitar from some of his friends there.
At that time in Karachi finding guitars was rare enough and we would make do with whatever we could get. Hofner guitars were a popular brand in the 60’s and all bands like the Beatles /Stones were playing it. There was Paul Mcartney’s bass and Keith Richards’s first guitar was a Hofner.
So having the actual German made Hofner made me a real swinger in town…. or at least an asset to the band because of my gear.
We started out with cheap unbranded transistor amps, which was all we could get our hands on.
The amps we had at the time were the ones with metal coils inside and they would heat up quickly. We would have to go every couple of months to the electricians to replace/ unwind the coil.
A little later Mamdu somehow managed to acquire the Vox AC30 Amplifier http://www.voxamps.com/custom/ac30/ which was a sweet sounding amp and another 60’s staple and our pride and joy. The amp tone was pretty special.
Our Guitar Guru was a mysterious older cousin of mine Mr. Ayub who used to live in Japan, but came to Karachi for extended periods of time. We weren’t really sure what he did. He was an excellent guitarist who could play Rock n Roll and Blues and some Classical Guitar as well.
He had an amazing ear and could work out songs after only a few listens. He used to teach Arif B songs who would then teach me and Mamdu; and Thaadeus (drums) would pick up the songs quite quickly.
Mr. Ayub never played professionally or with a band and would only play at home as a hobby. I used to have a music book as well “US School of Music” which taught basics and learned to read a bit. Arif B “borrowed” the book from me one day never to be seen again.
Mamdu (bass) was my neighbour in PECHS Block 6 where we used to live. His Father was a photographer and they owned a photography shop in Elphinstone St. They were doing pretty good with the business. Thaddeus (Drums) was the Anglo member of the band. He came through Mamdu’s connection as his Father knew much of the Christian community living around Elphinstone St as his business was there.
In the summer of 67 we met for our first jam at my house in PECHS. We jammed out some of our favourite tunes of the day. If I recall I was the one who came up with the name “Abstracts”. We didn’t really call ourselves anything and didn’t have a real goal or purpose; just enjoyed the music, so it seemed like a fitting name at the time. Yeah, we decided the name and then stuck it on our drum kit!
After Jamming and practicing for a while mainly at my house or at Mamdus, we got our first gig in 67. It was a musical night mainly for students in one of the Cinema halls in Saddar. There were other bands though don’t recall the names. It was mainly kids with well off parents who supported them in their hobby with equipment, and we also fell in that category.
We did have one of the best guitars my Hofner and later on Mamdus Vox Amp. We did a short set of about 5 -6 songs that we had been practicing almost every weekend for a few months and gave a pretty good performance: our parents family and friends were proud.
After the initial show we got offers to play other gigs. Mamdu was the main marketing and financing guy and was able to hook us up with shows, mainly through his Father who was well connected because of the photography business. Thaddeus who was part of the Anglo community knew lots of musicians and was able to get shows as well.
We probably did a total of 15-20 shows, some were small some were quite big. We played a few shows at Karachi university, different events like charity shows, balls, culture nights. We played at some of the cinemas that had different musical nights, we used to play at the Airport hotel which had a bar at that time.
Our biggest show’s were at the Hotel Metropole where we were the main headlining show. This was around 1968-9 when we had a good year or so of playing as a band and the sound was coming together.
There wasn’t any main front man but Arif Baroucha was the main talent. He was the best guitar player among us and could play stuff like Ventures to note. I was mainly playing rhythm, we were always switching instruments around sometime Mamdu on Bass sometimes myself. Arif would often play the Hofner as he was the best player. We would switch singing sometime myself on the Elvis songs, but mainly Arif B. Mamdu was a good bassist who played simple but tight. Thaddeus was a solid drummer with a natural talent and could pick up things very quickly. He would mostly just play the drums and smile. Thaddeus had the typical working musician’s ethic and would only play with us if he was getting paid. We would get around Rs. 75-100 for a good paying show, which was good pocket money back then. Oh and yes we also had Uniforms which were the Suits I wore the white one.
Share your experience of the live entertainment in Karachi during the 60s – 70s? What was the atmosphere back then?
It was like live and let live, we had bars, concerts, cabarets. A lot of the activities were in the proper “clubs”. Sindh Club had a band, The Metropole had a band, The Dhaka Club had a band. We would go to the Beach Luxury hotel and watch the Dutch band there who were the most talented band around at the time, they would play Rock and Jazz.
There were a few bars that you could go to in the hotels. One of the hotels we would go to was the Intercontinental Hotel, which had bars and a Cabaret. We would sometimes sneak into the Cabarets, even though it was quite open and anyone could go there. I would often go with my old school friend Javed. There were exotic dancers in some places (seriously!) and you had dancers from Turkey, East Europe, and Philippines. One of the hang outs was the Bar in the International Hotel where we would get a table and hide our bottles under the table in case any of our parents, friends were around. There was a Piano there and guitar and any one could sing songs. Shahid Sheikh was another friend of ours who would perform there and we would often join him on different songs. His special number was “Tie a ribbon on the old oak tree” an old Tony Orlando number. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjqBhZj_37U. We would be singing along with other people, the place would also turn into a dance hall and there would be dance music. We had no fear of the police or anything at that time.
What kind of music was ‘The Abstracts’ drawn towards?
We used to play Elvis Presley’s “Sentimental Me”, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KelG77t4qTQ) and Elvis’s “Muss I Denn (Wooden heart)”, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9W6m_PhXq4) which had that German part that I would sing as I knew a bit of German. We were big Elvis Presley fans and he was my Hero growing up and probably still is. Other songs were your regular Elvis staples “Jail House Rock”, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbre48NgBOg) “Blue Suede Shoes” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm5HKlQ6nGM “Love me tender” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoriFtRVGQs. Other artists we would cover are the Beatles, “I Wanna Hold your Hand” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKHFUKZ-IXE “Yesterday”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8Wg5nwOs9E , Of course the Rolling Stones, “Satisfaction” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhNm3WI8myM which was the biggest thing at the time. We did some Venturers – “Walk don’t run” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW21rcHiVU0 and other which were Arif B’s specialty. Some Monkeys “Im a Believer” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfuBREMXxts. We did “Blue Berry Hill” Fats Domino http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQQCPrwKzdo.
We have heard a few of your tracks courtesy Stewart Ellis on the album ‘Pakistan Folk and Pop Instrumentals’. Tell us about the initial project. How did it come about?
I finished college in ’69 and then left for Germany to work, so I had to leave the band during a time when we seemed to be going places which was a hard decision. I also needed some money to set up there so had to sell my Hofner Guitar in Karachi…which was a mistake!
I don’t recall who I sold it to but wouldn’t be surprised if it is still intact and lying in someone’s basement or cupboard. And so, if you’re reading this and have a Vintage 60’s Hofner lying around, I would be happy to buy it back. Truth is ill probably never know what happened to that guitar, it’s one of those memories that just seem to have been lost in time.
I believe Arif Barocha and Thaddeus Pinto continued to play on and later heard that they had made an 45 rpm, but I sort of lost touch with them. I don’t know if Mamdu continued to play either. I listened to the Abstracts tracks on your site recently and the playing sounds familiar like maybe it could be Arif B and Thaddeus, but cannot be sure if they are on the record.
What would you like to impart to the young musicians of Karachi? A thought, a slogan ?
Just enjoy your music and enjoy your freedom……..
Interviewed ~ by ldg
Artwork ~ by ldg