Redefining resilience, a rebel without rest. Meet Urvah Khan — the spot on Punk. Crowned with a signature blonde Mohawk, she shrieks her freedom hymns the punk way.
In the line of society’s ‘established’ behavioral notions for a woman, Urvah stands determined with her punk shield. Ready to concur every empire in her way of sovereignty.
From Rap to Rock, Urvah remained steadfast — never let herself shaken by the surrounding obstructions.
“Lacking formal musical training and stage experience, Urvah’s first performance went badly. Incorrectly gripping the mic, her voice came out muffled and unclear. And, not being used to the bright stage lights, Urvah avoided looking at the audience focusing instead on the floor. A fellow performer disparagingly suggested she write for others rather than perform. However, with the encouragement of the show promoter, who detected something more, Urvah went back to the drawing board. Vindicated, during her next performance she opened for known Canadian singer and song writer, Danny Fernandez. Although, to be fair, getting her friend to pose as an agent from Universal may have tilted the scales in her favor,” informs her website.
Musically Saying is privileged to interact with such wonderful artist and above all a genuine human being. Our interview questions were answered promptly. Here’s what Urvah said:
MS: What triggered you to adopt Punk subculture, in addition to being a Punk musician (or they both are tethered)? How difficult is it to carry a persona many remain afar from?
URV: Well, you don’t wake up one day and decide to become a punk.. Tough life lessons and experiences gears you towards that sort of a lifestyle. At the end of the day, punk culture or music truly only symbolizes freedom. A sort of freedom that doesn’t have boundaries or limitations. You live a life being a weirdo, a sort of an outsider who simply does not fit in. And eventually as you mature, mentally and socially; you simply stop caring about what people think or say about you. You dedicate yourself to something that you enjoy doing, something that makes you feel valuable, and just go mad doing it.
You dedicate yourself to something that you enjoy doing, something that makes you feel valuable, and just go mad doing it.”
As far as carrying the persona … yup, it takes a woman with real balls to rock a blonde Mohawk and to pull off that sorta left field look. Generally people shy away from this sort of living because it’s loud, proud and free. And the outside is nothing more than a mere reflection of what’s going on inside. So there you go, I carry this persona inside out, no problem.
Given your vocal texture and singing style, is it safe to assume that Pakistan’s hunt for first and only ‘female rapper’ is finally over?
I enjoy the title of the “First Woman of Pakistani Heritage to be a ‘Rapper’ and ‘Punk’” very much — it makes me feel special.”
The search for unique artists should never end as it’s the only thing that keeps the industry moving forward and evolving with the times. As far as I am concerned, yes I enjoy the title of the “First Woman of Pakistani Heritage to be a ‘Rapper’ and ‘Punk’” very much — it makes me feel special. However, a great part of my vision and venture into Pakistan is to help create a platform for more brown girls to be involved in Rock music. So, Urvah Khan might be the first … but she definitely ain’t the last.
Favorite bands from the ’80s and now?
Ah man … I’m more of a 50’s, 60’s & 70’s classic rock girl. My favorite bands are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Rolling Stones. Love me some Jim Morrison and The Doors, Heart is a cool female fronted band. I also enjoy some old school Rock n Roll acts such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe; one of the earliest known pioneers to the bluesy Rock n Roll sound. Legends such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard … man this list is never gonna end. Moving forward, Sex Pistols, Kurt Cobain is definitely up there as well catching up to current acts, I listen to a lot of System of a Down, Eminem and this chick named Urvah Khan 😉.
Is Urvah Khan all vocals or an instrumentalist too? Which one?
I hope my guitarist doesn’t read this interview or he would give me shit for not keeping up with practicing the guitar. I own a couple of guitars, a piano, used to have a synth. So, I experiment and have fun and have used instruments to contribute towards my musical compositions. But no, I am not a master at playing any instruments. And the reason for that also is the fact that apart from my main focus being vocals, songwriting and production, I also am an independent DIY artist.
I am my band’s manager, booking agent, PR, financial investor.”
So, I am my band’s manager, booking agent, PR, financial investor. The Scrap Army is a one-woman-army … supported by some of the best musicians Toronto has to offer. That being said, I value my team’s years of experience and truly am grateful for their contribution towards my sound “Scrap.” Ask me this question again next year … I’ll have a different reply for you, promise.
What if one fine day a typical phuppo (paternal aunt) asks URVah to let go her Mohawk and act ‘normal’ for now on … um, what would happen next (wait, let me get my covers)?
I kinda come from a dysfunctional family and am the black sheep of the clan. At this point, I think everyone has abandoned the ship and don’t care much for my antics. It’s a lonely path in some parts of the world. Freedom is a sin to many, so you have to pay a price to be original or different. Sometimes that means not having a traditional family, but it’s ok, you get used to it. For me, I couldn’t live the life that I inherited at birth. I wanted to go find my truth, and my reality. Now you can see why I have so much to say! I am willing to go the full mile, I’ve got nothing to lose, It’s just me and my music. ‘Till death do us part.
Playground (I am Free) sheds light upon the issue of child abuse and how to attain empowerment. What other social causes you have in mind to reflect in your music?
Yes, I will continue to use my music to address social/cultural issues which stand out to me.”
If my life was a movie, Playground (I am free) would be the soundtrack. All of my music come from my life. Things I have experienced, mistakes I have made, lessons I have learned and things I feel. The great late Nina Simone once said: “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” So to answer your question, yes I will continue to use my music to address social/cultural issues which stand out to me (i.e, what does “freedom” really mean for a woman in Pakistan?).
Your venture in Karachi: expectations vs reality?
I was born in Karachi, so K-town will always have a special place in my heart. Though, honestly speaking, the city is really dirty; with trash being burnt in front of hospitals and city corners. The city is dealing with a lot of issues, from lack of general hygiene to lack of water, load-shedding, overpopulation, noise pollution, poverty and the biggest issue of all … men in “Saddar” and some parts of Karachi who believe it is okay to stare at/harass women. It’s literally like they are mentally and or physically assaulting you. There is much potential but systemic corruption, greed and lack of stability are rampant. You can’t fix something if you are too scared to talk about it. More youngsters have to get up and take up the responsibility to demand change. And don’t take me wrong, many are already doing so. So, find organizations within your area of residence and support them.
More youngsters have to get up and take up the responsibility to demand change … so, find organizations within your area of residence and support them.”
Now that I have got that off my chest, I love riding my friend’s motorbike at Do Dariya. I love hanging out of building rooftops with my cousin. I love eating street food and getting sick 🙂. Love the Rs. 150 biryani in Sindhi Muslim Area. Love smoking shisha in underground cafes, love Pakola … love the way my city of birth makes me feel.
Do you think Punk music is still living up to its mission and not fell prey to the gloomy-pop (of course, with a Gothic touch)?
So worry not my friend, Punk rock will never die, and the next time you feel so, be happy.”
We often hear phrases such as “Rock is dead”, “Punk is dead”. I believe that musical fads tend to cause an over-saturation of artists less driven by passion and self-expression. The evolution of Rock music begins with African-American slavery, to blues, to Rock n Roll, and eventually to what most people know as rock; all the while remember the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, Queen, Black Sabbath and Kurt Cobain. They are the very essence of rock, musicians who had the leverage of cultural relevancy on their side. So worry not my friend, Punk rock will never die, and the next time you feel so, be happy. Something big, new, exciting and revolutionary is right around the corner to remind us what true Rock/Punk music and lifestyle is truly about.
Four full-fledged EPs, Paki kickoff, Scrap army … what’s next, girl?
… a new album is in works which is aimed at the Pakistani audience. This new record will showcase the inspiration I drew from being there.”
Well definitely a new album is in works which is aimed at the Pakistani audience. This new record will showcase the inspiration I drew from being there. I am aiming at a late 2017/early 2018 release with a performance tour back to Pakistan. I am really excited as my last album “Rock Khan Roll” came out in 2015 and since then I have only focused on furthering my music in Pakistan. So it feels great to be back in the studio. For now, I will continue to film videos for pre-released tracks from the last album and continue learning and growing as a musician. It’s a journey man and I can’t wait to be back home again showcasing my art on a larger platform.
Just out of curiosity, why you write first three letters of your name in caps. Is there something behind it too — a secrete abbreviation, maybe?
Yeah, my first album and my record label are named Universal Rhythm Venture. You are the first one to notice the connection 🙂… good eye.
So, when could we see URVah venturing into Coke Studio?
I personally can’t envision myself venturing into Coke Studio because …”
2) Coke Studio is a little too corporate, pretty and clean-cut for my liking. I am a scrappy underground artist and wanna remain loyal to that.
Your musical inspiration(s) are …?
The king of my Rock n Roll journey is Tony Iommi; the guitarist from Black Sabbath.”
There are so many.. but the king of my Rock n Roll journey is Tony Iommi; the guitarist from Black Sabbath. Apart from him, my Canadian guitarist Ruben Huizenga has worked with me for almost 8 years now. When I met him, I was just a rapper from a turf named Malvern in Toronto. He taught me to sing, educated me on music and the great history of Rock n Roll. He inspires, challenges and provides me with the opportunity to be the best version of myself musically. What else can a scrappy l’il brown girl ask of life?
Final word for your fans worldwide (especially, Pakistan)?
Ever since my first visit to Pakistan in April of 2016, there hasn’t been a day when I don’t think about how to further my music in Pakistan.”
Connect with Urvah Khan on-the-go
Urvah Khan's Discography