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03/17/2015
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Playing abroad gives Pakistani musicians credibility: indie band Poor Rich Boy

Something's brewing at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2015, one of the biggest music festivals in the world — something Pakistanis should look forward to.

Poor Rich Boy, a Lahore-based indie band, is set to play at SXSW today. This isn't the first time the band's performed internationally — they've performed with Plume Giant, The Mast, The Bob Kendall Band and DakhaBrakha last year in June at Center Stage.

A handful of Pakistani bands are playing at the festival for the first time ever, like The Mekaal Hassan Band, Haroon, Thar's Mai Dhai, Peshawar's Khumariyaan, Sialkot's Sain Tanveer Brothers and Poor Rich Boy (PRB).
Here, Poor Rich Boy's frontman Umer Khan, answers a few questions about their upcoming performance and more.

1) How did Poor Rich Boy get selected for SXSW?

Umer Khan (UK): We got in touch with SXSW because of Center Stage, the program that got us to tour America last year. We were selected on the basis of a show that we played in Islamabad before we left for the tour.
There were people from SXSW in the audience. I'm sure the fact that we had already been selected for Center Stage must've helped our chances.
But who knows, really? Maybe there's a global conspiracy against good music; maybe we are agents of a secret organisation that's trying to take over the world.

2) Why do you think Pakistani bands haven't performed at SXSW before?

The reason why Pakistani bands haven't been on SXSW before is because they just weren't tall enough.

Not really, I mean I wouldn't know why they've never played the festival. Maybe because it isn't a particularly lucrative venture. In any case, you have to apply to play at SXSW. I don't know if many bands from Pakistan have done that. We hadn't even heard of the festival before Center Stage, to be honest.
We lucked out because this year the festival decided to go ahead with a Pakistani showcase. That meant, naturally, that they needed somebody to feature on that showcase. Six acts from Pakistan were selected to perform. This was done entirely on the basis of height and fruit preference.

3) What kind of a turnout are you expecting? Anything specific the band is looking forward to at SXSW?

The festival is a huge affair with hundreds of bands performing every day, lots of them simultaneously. The venues are not bigger than what we have back home, most of them only have a capacity for maybe 200 people.

Plus, people sort of keep floating in and out of venues because there's just a lot of stuff to see. We're looking forward to playing our songs with a good sound setup. That's something we don't usually get back home. We'll see what happens.
4) Do you plan on having jam sessions and collaborations with other musicians there?

No, we haven't planned to collaborate with anybody. But that doesn't mean we would say no if somebody suggested such a possibility.
5) Are there any musicians/bands youre looking forward to seeing/meeting at SXSW?

There are a lot of bands that we're looking forward to listening to. I can't tell you their names because your mind will not be able to handle that information. It would melt, leaving puddles of awe and respect in your ear holes.

6) What does being able to play at SXSW mean for you as a Pakistani band? Do you feel it's going to help you as musicians when you're back in Pakistan?

Playing at SXSW feels like playing at SXSW. We'll just be one of the hundreds of bands performing there, I suppose. It's not like we'll suddenly have achieved all the various ambitions we have as musicians. But it will hopefully be a step forward. I don't see how it would help us as musicians back home.

Not a lot of people in Pakistan know about this festival. But then again, playing abroad does usually lend credibility to you as a musician in the eyes of a Pakistani concert organizer. It might help us get gigs back home but it's hard to say. Again, nobody back home really cares about the arts at present. Our country has other, more pressing concerns.