July 13, 2012

Usman Riaz is extremely adept on the guitar which he uses both as a string instrument and as a percussive instrument. One minute he is plucking at the strings, next he is using the body of the guitar to produce tabla-like sounds. He has taken piano lessons since he was six, but interestingly he learnt the guitar and other instruments like the harmonium and mandolin with considerable help from the internet.

And now, with the help of EMI Pakistan, he has launched his first orchestral album, Circus In The Sky, which was released last month at the Marriot Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom that was filled to capacity with young fans, who were in for a treat. The multi-talented Usman Riaz, who has designed the eye-catching cover of the album himself, took to the stage and talked about his music and and his short film Ruckus. A black and white film, Ruckus has no dialogue, just sounds. The sound of stomping feet, passing trains, hands thumping on barrels and the clinking of bottles make up the sound-track of this video, featuring Faiza Kazi. Ruckus is mostly set in a warehouse and Usman Riaz admits he has drawn his inspiration from the musical Stomp — a theatre production of “choreographed percussion.” The cast of the film worked for 13 hours straight to get the continuity and the quality needed for this 10-minute film, whose soundtrack features in this album

Usman performed live for the audience and played the audio-visual tracks of his music at the launch. One of his more haunting pieces was Descent Into The Ocean Floor. It is the second movement of a three-movement piece. It is “about drowning and sinking” and “is meant to have a dream-like quality,” he says. Many of his pieces are a progression, “with elements of the previous piece in them.”

Usman has been selected as a TED (technology, entertainment, design) fellow and will be taking Ruckus to Edinburgh for TED Global later this summer.