Sohail Rana, versatile maestro of film and pop composition, and leading force in pioneering the cultural landscape of modern Pakistan. His longplay masterpiece, Khyber Mail is stocked with groovy eastern moods, electric organ, sitar soul and surf guitar.
Alan Bishop (Sublime Frequencies/Sun City Girls)
As the son of renowned Urdu poet Rana Akbar Abadi, Sohail Rana was born into a respected family in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 1938. Having achieved academic qualifications in his formative years in Karachi, Rana moved into a career in musical composition following a chance meeting with media mogul and future long-running creative collaborator Waheed Murad that lead to a job composing music for the Lollywood film industry. His early standout compositions for films like Armaan, Jab Say Deikha Hai and Heera Aur Patther marked the beginning of a filmography of 25 movies working in the industry alongside luminaries such as Runa Laila, Noor Jehan, Ahmed Rushtie, Tafo and M.Ashraf while balancing his non-film career as a stand alone popular music composer. Combining his well-studied interests in science, technology, music and English literature, Sohail’s early records introduced experimental techniques and electric instruments to his unique blend of Western pop music and traditional folk.
Sohail’s explorations in world music with his band The Forethoughts led to two successful self-initiated projects entitled Folk Tunes Of Pakistan On The Latin American Beat and Four Folk Tunes Of Pakistan which garnered critical acclaim through the East with EMI funded tracks appearing on oriental, bellydance and exotic LP compilations marketed to tourists and easy listening enthusiasts alike. In 1969, EMI Pakistan funded Rana’s most ambitious project to date, Khyber Mail, which would run the length of a full 12″ disc (a seldom pressed format in Pakistan) with the hope of appealing to a wider global audience. The resulting concept album, designed to invoke images and sounds of a high speed Pakistani freight train travelling from Karachi to Peshawar, was dominated by Sohail’s whining and addictive electric keyboard and a motoric rhythm section of beaty percussion and sitars introducing a form of radical patchwork pop and mechanical music to a warm receptive audience. By combining the folk music of the Sindh and the Punjab with maverick sounds, signatures and rhythms, Khyber Mail marks a landmark shift in the Pakistani pop industry kick-starting a lengthy career for one of its best loved musical patrons while setting a challenging new standard for the “plugged-in” Lollywood pop scene that would explode at the turn of the decade. All aboard and full steam ahead for the Khyber Mail Twist.