By Corinne Riley
Young and innovative, this Pakistani artist has wowed not only the Pakistani underground but also the world. Born with sound/colour synaesthesia – a neurological condition in which sounds instigate the vision of colours – Adil Omar is known for fusing genres and his ragged, but hypnotic vocals. His musical influences include Trent Reznor, Everlast, Johnny Cash, Cypress Hill, Neil Young, and Pink Floyd. With this eclectic mix of inspirations, it’s easy to see why Adil fell into the neologism that is the rap genre in Pakistan. In the midst of classical lyricists like Strings, Junoon, Atif Aslam etc., Mr. Omar’s affinity for rap does, by definition, stand out as a bold move.
But Mr. Omar is no stranger to charting new territory and has, over the years, demonstrated creativity and versatility, making his debut in 2008 with “Takeover”, recorded with B-Real and Young De. In 2009, he recorded “Spookshow” with American duo Penn & Teller and in 2010 created his website while launching his single and music video “Incredible” mashing up Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” and “Too Much Heaven On Their Minds”, from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
Politics seems to beat in the heart of most art and literary pursuits in Pakistan especially those who rise above the stereotypes usually associated with the country, and though Mr. Omar is not overtly political, his music is still considered provocative in the country, an idea he is not quick to refute. “I’m way beyond your government’s or parent’s approval” on Paki Rambo are followed shortly after by “My revelations bring truth, deliver hope for the blind”. But, as he told the BBC recently, his aim it not to “preach to anyone”, adding that if he was “preaching” anything, “it [was] individuality.” Though Off the Handle ft. Xzibit was recorded with the well-established rapper, it has been Paki Rambo that has met with more public acclaim. The single has also stirred up some controversy in his native country through the use of Paki, considered offensive or racist despite efforts to “reclaim” the term.
The big question now is what comes next? Being the innovator that he is, Mr. Omar will continue experimenting with different genres, and has already begun work on a rock project. And if it’s as good as his previous releases have been, we can expect Adil Omar to soon be a household name.
What do you think were the key events that led to your success?
I wouldn’t say there were any key events, nor would I say I’m successful yet. It’s been a long process and I’ve just been consistent and obsessive. That’s all there is too it, it all adds up basically. You keep trying new things, putting out material, some of it catches on in terms of success, [but] most of it doesn’t.
Who is your audience and are you trying to convey any particular messages to them?
My audience picks me, I don’t pick them. No messages to them except “be yourself”.
What do you think your future in music will be like? Are you looking into any different genres or different styles?
A lot more experimenting and genre-crossing. I already have a rock project I’ve started writing and developing in my head, but I’m in no rush. It’ll all come together naturally when the time’s right. I don’t force things though I do have a lot of ideas [that] I’m working toward.
Could you speak about Paki Rambo? Maybe comment on how you think it’s being received by your audience and maybe a little about the controversy that has been created in Pakistan?
It’s probably my biggest hit so far, which I’m proud of because it became more popular than the song with Xzibit. It’s proof that I’m enough of a standalone artist and [don’t need to be] dependent on anybody else for publicity. I’ve worked with big names and I’m grateful for those opportunities but at the end of the day, the fact that I can hold my own as a solo artist is something I’m proud of. Now it’s about outdoing Paki Rambo with Star Power and then outdoing Star Power and Paki Rambo both with the album overall.
What was your thought process while working on The Mushroom Cloud Effect?
My mind was in a chaotic place. I grew a lot during the production period of this album, as an artist as well as a person. It just shows an evolution of chaotic ideas and emotions which all turned out to be something powerful and positive in my mind. I don’t know how to add to it or explain it. You’ll have to listen to it when it comes out to really understand [what I mean].
Corinne Riley is currently interning with The Missing Slate in Music, an oft-forgotten section of the arts, but we’re hoping that’ll all change. A fresh bio will be here soon, we promise!