Farewell Farhad Humayun: Pakistan’s Loudest Drummer
The eighth day of June 2021 saw Pakistan wake up to the news of Farhad Humayun’s heart-wrenching demise. Humayun had put out a statement in 2018 letting the world know he was suffering from a brain tumour and later intimating to the public that it had been successfully removed but the tragic news of a vibrant life cut short stung all the same.
Farhad was a trailblazer and powerhouse behind the drums. Pick any drummer in Pakistan and they will have had some association with him either by vicarious inspiration or through direct mentorship and tutelage. The scores of tributes that poured in from artists young and old across all genres is testament to how he deeply touched and worked assiduously to help those around him.
A musician and human being par excellence, Farhad’s loss will be a difficult one for our embryonic music industry to recover from.
Born to a family of artists and creatives, many will remember him from his early days as frontman for Coven and Mindriot. Many more will remember him for his displays of awesome percussive genius as a member of Overload. Safe to say, Overload’s milaap of the dhol and drums was a trailblazer for all manners of East-meets-West instrumental fusion we see in today’s music scene. For Farhad to give Pappu and Noori Saeen a platform and make them household names through Overload’s distinct music was no mean feat in a highly segregated industry. Moreover, Noori, Fuzon, Coke Studio and Atif Aslam are just some of the acts whose success Humayun played a part in.
Disarmingly handsome, witty, lightly perceptive and articulate to boot, one would not be able to guess that this was the same man who would unleash his untamed skill with impressive ferocity when on the drums. His talent won him fans around the world and the unreserved respect of his peers as a master of his instrument. Perhaps Humayun’s greatest service to his industry were his efforts to curate and cultivate a healthy ecosystem when it came to all things music. Riot Studios was a space to listen, create and enjoy the art form that Farhad had devoted his life to.
Humayun was a man of principles. In a musical landscape fraught with rampant intellectual property theft, he took on a corporate behemoth for plagiarising his interpretation of a Pakistani classic for a TV commercial and managed to secure a stay order mere months before his passing. He might have had his disagreements with his former bandmate Meesha Shafi but she too acknowledged his musical prowess in a Tweet after his passing.
In an interview a few years ago he was remarkably stoic and composed when talking about his medical condition. Suffering from regular seizures, consequences for mental health and debilitating pain might have broken a lesser man but Farhad held his head high as he calmly played the hand that life had dealt him.
No tribute can be enough for Pakistan’s loudest drummer. Naya Daur shares in the grief of the many lives he touched.
To our bona fide rockstar, may you rest in peace.
Zarnaab Adil is a graduate of the Wagner School at NYU. He is an author and a political risk consultant based in Brooklyn, NYC.