Farhad Humayun – artiste extraordinaire

"He loved horses, he loved thunder. He loved drums. Farhad Humayun formed the loudest band of Pakistan 'Overload', and a year on, we remember the artiste extraordinaire on his first death anniversary"

“Agar Farhad Humayun na hota, tau shayad Atif Aslam ‘Atif Aslam’ na hota,” industry’s heartthrob Atif Aslam said prior to performing Farhad Humayun’s Nimmi Nimmi at Riots Studio on his birthday memorial last October. In the highlights of the post event coverage of his birthday memorial titled ‘Sunchaser’, Atif Aslam was captured stating: “A lot of my success belongs to Farhad Humayun. He is the musician who introduced me to Sarmad Ghafoor. Agar wo introduction na hota tau shayad Atif Aslam ‘Atif Aslam’ na hota.”

Farhad was known for his warm and welcoming nature with a belief that a great artist can come from anywhere. Through his songs like ‘Jeet’, ‘Lahore’ and cover ‘Neray Aah’ from Syed Noor’s famous film ‘Chooriyaan’, Farhad reintroduced both indigenous and contemporary street music as one of the industry’s mainstream genres. His collaboration with the infamous dhool maestro Papu Sain and clarinet player Ustad Jaffar and others in the form of his band Overload won them world acclaim. He had also collaborated with the British musician Aziz-Ur-Rahman Ibrahim for the epic song ‘Give In’ and Hossam Ramzy for ‘Main Hoon’.

Salman Albert, one of the best drummers around, is known for his association with Farhad Humayun particularly for music related endeavours like Levi’s Live. The two became good acquaintances during the Lahore underground era. Albert recalls, “What we had in common was our sense of humour which got us along well.”

“It was particularly in 2015 that Farhad and I officially got together. This was after I attended his performance at the ‘Peace Concert’ organized at St Anthony’s High School. So through his friend, Sheraz Siddiq – keyboard player, songwriter and composer, I contacted Farhad to perform with him. This was the first time I offered to play for anyone. Usually it’s the other way round. Soon enough I started enjoying playing with him to the core. One of the most extraordinary qualities he had was his sense of humour. The jokes he cracked were self-created and despite his humorous personality he had never hurt anyone. Overall, we were like a family. That’s how he kept everyone associated to him. I feel lucky and blessed to have spent the last few years of his life with him. For about twenty-five years we were like good fellow musicians but in the last seven years we were like brothers.”

Farhad wasn’t just passionate about performing music. He is known for fighting for musicians’ intellectual property rights. His mother, a media personality and actress, Navid Shahzad has vocalized and raised the alarm on this matter at various occasions.

“Farhad’s most enduring legacy is his vision of an indigenous music industry which recognizes and safeguards the immense hard work that any musician invests in creating a song, a melody, or an instrumental percussion piece. The last is a genre which Fadi made uniquely his own as the Pakistani music soundscape has yet to match the passion, the sound and the skill characterized by his band Overload,” she commented.

“Stamping the fusion form with his own unique brand, Fadi could have left it at that, but visionary and shape shifter that he was, he chose a still more difficult role for himself. Re-enacting what could be compared to a David and Goliath conflict, Farhad fearlessly took on the corporate sector to ensure that copyright laws in respect of music production were observed; even if it meant taking on institutions and individuals who wielded tremendous financial influence in terms of their international presence,” she added.

“Fighting for the musician’s right to own his own property on all forums, therefore, Farhad became the only musician to have sued film makers and international music platforms alike for breach of copyright law. For him, it was not a policy he subscribed to for himself alone; but was clearly intended to protect the rights of all those voiceless practitioners who had been forced into silence by false promises of compensation or their own failure to risk challenging powerful media promoters,” Navid Shahzad stated.

The Farhad Humayun Foundation established post Farhad’s demise by his family is a non-profit organization which fully arms the late artist’s belief that the lessons learned through music and a life enriched by the arts can prove to be lifelong strategies for a good living.

“A shape shifter, disruptor, spectacular dreamer and sonic daredevil, Farhad blazes a visionary path, championing aesthetic, social and cultural freedom, celebrating differences as a way to forge powerful solidarity,” his sister Rima Bokahri shared.

“Emulating one of his greatest contributions – his inspiring mentorship – both informal and formal, personal and professional; the Foundation starts its journey in the public sphere, initially operating under three divisions: Mentorship Program, Scholarship Program, and Creating a Shifting Soundscape,” she concluded.

Farhad’s complexity as a singer, songwriter, performer, showman, sound engineer, producer, video and art director, painter, entrepreneur and quiet philanthropist demands that any critical engagement with his work and consequently, the Foundation’s projects, must be interdisciplinary in nature.

The Foundation has already begun work on an exciting archive program that will develop a deeper understanding of Farhad’s work, the most exciting of which is a Conference celebrating 20 years of Farhad Humayun’s award-winning band Overload in Fall 2023; re-examining his trailblazing work and bringing together scholars, musicians, filmmakers, artists, urbanists, journalists and most importantly, students, for discussion and critical listening.