The Soul Behind the Music
Enlightened, but still Outlandish
By Miral Sattar
Outlandish: Lenny Martinez, Isam Bachiri, Waqas Qadri
The typical day for Waqas Qadri is never actually typical. His general
routine, however, deals with of a little bit of everything: faith, family,
and fame. His day usually starts with the sound of his alarm clock for Fajr
prayer (morning prayer), and he tries his best to get up. Around 8:30am he
wakes up his son, and prepares him for school. After he gets him dressed and
gives him breakfast, he drops him off to the nearby kindergarten. He then
spends a good chunk of the morning answering email from Outlandish fans. He
works a little on some songs and beats, and then hits the studio in
Copenhagen, Denmark to meet with Isam and Lenny. There the band spends the
entire day, talking about how to promote their music, and having meetings
and interviews (They speak to each other in Danish). After a full day as an
artist, he comes home to return to his role as a family man. He goes
shopping with his wife sometimes to buy groceries, sometimes to buy other
Waqas likes to try his hand in the kitchen, but both his wife and mother
prefer he stay out. His experiments in the kitchen usually backfire and lead
to inedible disasters. Honey in your pasta, anyone?
While heís not your biggest Bollywood or Ash fan, he enjoys the occasional
outing with his wife and son to see Lagaan and other such films. In some
aspects heís just your average Pakistani-Danish father, husband, son, or
But Waqas Qadri is also 1/3 of the trio that makes up Outlandish. The other
band members are Isam Bachiri and Lenny Martinez. What happens when you take
three kids on the block growing up in a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark who
canít quite get the hang of break dancing? They start to rap instead and you
end up with Outlandish: one of the hottest and most innovative groups to
come out of Denmarkís hip hop scene. They fuse Asian, Arabic and Latin beats
with hip hop. Youíve heard their hit song, Aicha, which topped charts all
around the world and placed them on the international scene. Their long
awaited cd, Closer Than Veins, launched in Europe this summer and will
likely follow the same path as the albumís first single released, Look Into
My Eyes, which rose quickly on the billboard charts.
Divanee Magazine was fortunate enough to speak
to Waqas Qadri. He shared with us everything from their music and message to
their reaction to women throwing themselves at them. Be it his hope that
maybe just maybe something good can come out of the Danish cartoons, or the
challenges he had to face in order to pursue the not-so-traditional career
of music, Divanee Magazine has gotten the
details, up-close and personal:
Waqas Ali Qadri
March, 25th, 1976
Picks his nose
Depends on his mood but these days he's listening to "Gnarls
Barkely" on his Sony Ericsson 800Wi
Shalwar Kameez (Pakistani outfit and his scarves/shawls)
Inshallah (God willing)
Keema (ground spiced meat) with white basmati rice
Favorite cartoon growing up:
The original NARNIA cartoon. He hated the movie
DM: How did you get into hip hop?
Waqas Qadri: To
this day we still wonder why we didnít just stop rapping at the youth club.
I guess we had a common interest in hip hop and hip hop was always more
appealing than a lot of other things. When we started to listen to hip hop
we had like a public enemy; we were the people who were a bit rebellious
against the society. We related to blacks as a minority and their
suppression better than we could relate to AC/DC and Metallica or Def
Leopard. They sang about stuff we couldnít relate to. The rappers talked
about government, [fighting the power], etc. When we started writing our own
lyrics we came to realize that we werenít gangsters and we hadnít been
suppressed for the past 400 years. We hadnít been through slavery in Denmark.
So we looked at our environment and started writing about our own lives and
thatís what weíve been doing since. We talk about ourselves and focus on
that rather than trying to create a picture of some gangsters. Unfortunately
you have a lot of people doing that in Denmark who try to look like Tupac.
But we focus on our own society and our everyday lives.
DM: So how do you think other hip hop artists
Basically we were one of the first groups who looked like the way we do. Hip
hop artists were usually people who migrated from Africa, or they were
Caucasian Danish. When we came into hip hop we were doing something
different. We were not part of the hip hop society. I was influenced by
Pakistani music, Lenny by Latin music, and Isam by Arabic music. Our music
is really melodic; it was natural to mix that melody with the hip hop. And
people couldnít diss us because what we were doing was original. At the same
time they were like, ĎYeah but that is not the way we do it.í The other
artists would take a break beat and sample from Marvin Gaye or old jazz .
The samples often came from records their parents used to listen to. So I
went home and went through my parentsí record collection and I couldnít find
Marvin Gaye and other artists like that. All I could find was Mehdi Hassan
or Lata Mangeshkar. I talked to Isam and Lenny, and Isam found some Arabic
and Lenny had de Mercedes Sosa. So we said, ĎWhat the heck, letís try thisí
and decided to put it all together. We picked up a record and took it to the
studio. The producer was like, ĎWhat the hell are you doing? You canít mix
hip hop with Asian music. Or Latin music. That wonít work; bring me some
Stevie Wonder or something like that.í From the start we were forced to do a
lot of things on our own, like producing. We found some individuals who we
still work with who understood our way of thinking. Now Asian music and hip
hop fused together is such a big thing. To me, hip hop is about representing
who you are. You can do it through a song or a rap. It doesnít matter to me.
Many people may disagree, and if they want to say Outlandish is not hip hop,
itís fine with me. Iím doing music. The music I find interesting, Iíll do.
DM: What type of image does Outlandish want to
portray to young teens in Europe?
Itís funny because we donít focus so much on
having an image. We just try to be as good humans as possible. Along the way
we fail. We stray many times. Thatís just part of being human. I often tell
fans and people who like our music, ĎLook, if you want to call me a role
model. Be my guest. Do that.í Alhumdullilah, Iíll be happy; my job is done.
But I want them to remember I am a human being. I have anger. I get jealous.
I have an ego in me. I have all these things. Iím working on it but Iím not
a perfect human being. And we all three of us are not perfect human beings.
Donít put us on this platform and start to worship us and assume we canít do
anything wrong. Because when we do make a mistake, all your dreams crash and
burn. I donít idolize people. Iím not fond of idolizing people. There are
people who do good things. You take the good things they do and you let that
have positive influence and give you strength in your life. Outlandish as a
group consists of three different humans beings. Me, Lenny, and Isam. We
have a common goal: Itís to spread humanity. We live in a society thatís
like a global village now. There are people who tend to put certain groups
of people in boxes and see what type of box everyone fits in. People see
someone with a beard and assume they are Muslim, and then they categorize
Muslims. Are you fundamentalist Muslim? Or are you a moderate Muslim? Or you
a democratic Muslim? Ok, you fit in this box. Then someone sees a blond
girl. Are you a slut? Or an intelligent girl? Ok, you fit this box over here.
This is what weíre trying to break. Weíre all different individuals.
Sometimes the media portrays all immigrants as the same. Theyíre all just a
bunch of criminals. Theyíre all just a bunch of rapists. Thatís dangerous.
They say all the Muslims do this or that but not all Muslims are the same.
Thatís what we try to reinforce in our music--that weíre all individuals. I
think the world would be a better place [if you werenít] concerned about
what other people were doing. You should work on strengthening yourself and
becoming a better human being.
DM: So you guys have had lots of hits. How do
you prevent yourself from developing an ego sometimes? Itís inevitable, no?
Thatís true. Itís an awkward situation. We all come from families who are
quite humble, middle class parents with educational backgrounds. Our parents
always taught us to treat other people as weíd like to be treated. As I
became more into Islam and spirituality, I learned things along the way. We
didnít get into music to gain wealth. We donít want to talk about all the
bling. We donít want to degrade women. Thatís not what our parents taught
us. Thatís not what our religion teaches us. Knowing that has helped us a
lot in keeping our feet grounded. There are so many negative sides of this
business. Women are portrayed as sex objects. No clothes in the videos. We
all have women in our family. We all have been taught to respect women. Iím
married; I love my wife. The characteristic I hate most in people is
arrogance. Especially, since I come from a country where social status
matters so much. Are you from India or Pakistan?
Waqas Qadri: So
you know what Iím talking about, ĎAre you Rajput? Are you Rana? Are you
Chowdhury?í The more education and more wealth people have, the more they
are worth. And those people treat other people like crap. Iíve seen this my
whole life and Iíve always hated it. We touch upon these issues in our new
song Kom Igen. The song is about breaking the ego. The hook line is Ďbreak
DM: How do you react to women throwing
themselves at you?
Thatís not something you can master. Itís not up you. If a woman thinks
youíre sexy, hot, whatever...you canít help it. I canít take a knife and
start cutting my face. But we always tell women who start getting crazy that
weíre not like that. We tell them take it easy. And we never attend after
parties. With award shows, we get there, do our thing and leave. People know
we arenít like that, and they should know not to throw themselves at us.
Listen to the music. In some of the songs I talk about my wife and how it is
to be married, so people know Iím married. But of course there are always
individuals who donít care about that and say, ĎOh I love you.í And we say,
ĎOk thatís good for you, but listen, itís not about me. Itís about the
music.í Outlandish is not about three people. Itís about the message, the
music, and the lyrics.
DM: When was the moment you knew you made it?
Waqas Qadri: Our
first album was released in Denmark. Then the second album was released in
Europe and the song Aicha spread in Germany and the Middle East. The success
didnít come quickly; it was gradual, and our work is still spreading.
Sometimes weíre like, ĎWhoa okay, people know us in South America.í Thatís
surprising. My cousin once said to me, ĎYaar you are superstar.í I said,
ĎListen the day there is a pirated copy of my CD in a place in Karachi
called Rainbow Centre, the day my CD will be there, I will believe Iím a
superstar.í [laughs] Two years ago I went to Rainbow Centre and my cousin
was like, ĎLook! There it is! Now you made it!í And I was like, ĎYeah ok,
Iím a superstar whatever.í [laughs]. I had a dream that one day my CD would
be in Rainbow Centre in Karachi, and it actually happened. I bought a few
copies for 60 rupees a piece and gave one to Lenny, one to Isam and kept one
DM: On to the politics. What were your
reactions to the Danish cartoons as an artist.
Well I would rather say it as a human being. The cartoons came out so many
months before they blew up outside of Denmark. I saw them on the Internet
and in newspapers, and was like, ĎAw man, why do they do this? This is
stupidity. It is just for the sake of provoking.í I was really saddened that
the cartoons were created, but at the same time, when people reacted by
burning down embassies, I was even more saddened. People should think about
how their actions will affect the other innocent people living in that
country and the tribulations they would have to go through. I know the
Prophet would never react this way. We should follow his example. He went
through so much. People would spit and kick, and he always remained peaceful.
He was always reasonable. I didnít like the violent reactions to the
cartoons. I prefer dialogues. If someone criticized the Prophet, one should
explain that he was not as they say. People can argue back and forth, but
only verbally and intellectually. So I was saddened by both sides. This is
not because I live in Denmark, but because I am a human being. We have the
royal family here in Denmark. The citizens respect them, and I also like
them. I would never do anything to harm them. I would never draw the queen
as a prostitute or her son raping a little child. Thatís disrespectful. For
me that just takes common sense to figure out. The same goes for the
drawings that hurt the people who cherish the Prophet. It was sad to see
these drawings, as well as the reactions to them. But I hope something
positive will come of this. Maybe people will start learning more about each
other, in a constructive intellectual way. I hope we can spread more
positive knowledge about the Prophet.
DM:So, I guess the next question is how was it
growing up with two cultures in Denmark. How did you balance being Muslim,
Growing up, I wasnít focused on being Muslim. I wasnít as aware or
interested in learning more. I went through a phase during which other
things were more important: friends, parties, etc. And it was difficult to
balance the two cultures. At home I lived according to the Pakistani culture
and mentality. As soon as I stepped out, I lived according to the Danish
culture and mentality. I didnít have much knowledge about my culture or my
religion, and it was hard to balance what I did know about it all within one
mind. So sometimes that can bring about frustration. People sometimes
develop anger towards their Danish side or their Pakistan side. I have
friends who have turned their back on their Pakistani side and said, ĎIím a
Dane;í they just got fed up because they couldnít balance the two cultures.
Alhamdullilah, I learned to balance through music. I channeled my anger and
frustration through lyrics. You can hear that on the first album. I was
angry, and thought of myself as stuck between two cultures. Now I know who I
am. Iím a human being. Iím a Pakistani, Iím a Dane. IĎm a Muslim. Iím a
father. Iím a husband. Iím a son. Basically, a human being. Iíve reached a
balance. Itís important that parents support their children and integrate
all of the cultures in them. And for myself, I couldnít just take the good
parts of Danish culture and the good parts of Pakistani culture; I have the
good and the bad qualities of both a Pakistani and a Danish person.
DM: So your careers are definitely not
traditional. Iím not sure how it is in Denmark. But in the US parents here
are, Ďbe a doctor or marry a doctorí So, Iím just curious is it similar in
Denmark. Are your parents supportive of the fact that you all are musicians
and hip-hop artists? And what do they think about it?
Waqas Qadri: My
parents werenít that happy that I chose this path. At the time I didnít
understand why they wouldnít support me, but now I can understand where they
were coming from. Itís the same thing here. Be a doctor or engineer, or
marry one. My parents said, ĎWhat the hell are we going to tell are friends
when we sit with them?í Other parents will talk about how their son is a
doctor or their daughters are lawyers and married to engineers. And my
father is like, ďUh, yeah, my son is in music...í You know Pakistanis, they
really care about what other people say. But eventually when they saw what
we were talking about in our songs, the impact we started to have on the
community, and the growth in our spirituality, they became supportive. Now
they are so supportive and are proud of what Iím doing. And now when my
father sits with people and they brag about their kids being doctors or
lawyers, he says, ĎBut my son is Waqas from Outlandish.íAnd they say, ĎIs
that true? My family is a big fan, and my kids talk about him all the time.
They look up to them and the positive things theyíre doing.í So the whole
picture has changed. But I can understand where they came from initially. To
leave your country, language, and family behind...to break the traditions
and settle in a whole new country with different goals, different everything...I
can understand why they werenít immediately supportive. People have dreams
and expectations for themselves and their children in the future. If their
children grow up and are not successful at something they expected, the
parents feel like they failed in raising them. Expectations are a dangerous
thing. You should never have expectations of other people. Not even your
children. You never know how they are going to turn out, or what the future
DM: There have been a lot of tragic natural
disasters. How did outlandish react to the tsunami in Indonesia? The
earthquake in Pakistan? Hurrican Katrina in the US?
Itís always hurts, it really hurts whenever lives a lost, whether itís
because of a natural catastrophe or not. It hurts because when someone loses
their life you see what happens to their family and unfortunately I lost a
few family members in the past couple of yearsĖmy grandmother and two of my
uncles. When you experience the loss of someone close, you can understand
the pain that others go through. I have a son. If he gets hurt just a little
bit, I can feel the pain. If I were just to imagine something happening to
him..I canít even imagine. I start shaking and feel really strange. What
happened with Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami and the catastrophe in
Pakistan..itís more than my little brain can fathom. What happened and what
these people have to go through. We did whatever we possibly could. We
helped create a song with other Danish artists, and all the money went to
the Tsunami victims. We were part of a benefit concert in Denmark for the
earthquake victims of Pakistan. You can make a difference, just by wearing a
t-shirt. Or doing things like that. And I mean we can never do enough.
Pakistan now, there is need for a lot more help. A lot more help. I wouldnít
say that the world community has turned their back on Pakistan; you can see
that the help is not as big as it was the tsunami.
DM: What advice do you have to young American
men and women. What would you like to tell.
Peope really appreciate that we struggled our way through and didnít
compromise who we were as human beings. What I would say to them is to
believe in yourself and do the best you can in whatever you do. And if you
donít make it, youíve still grown as a person. You can always learn from
your mistakes. Donít be afraid of making mistakes; they will always
strengthen you. Some people will become bitter and wonít try again. Always
believe in yourself and treat people the way you want to be treated. And
always remember that all human beings want to be treated well, with respect
As to when they are coming to the United
States? They are still in the process of building up their US fan base.
Respect. Stand up. Listen. Peace and Love. Thatís what Outlandish is all
about. According to Waqas, theyíre still struggling, but the struggles only
make them stronger. Props to Outlandish for not compromising their morals
and values, and for defying the stereotypes. Keep on keeping on. Check out
their new CD at http://www.outlandmoro.com. But, remember not to put them on
a pedestal. They are just three socially concious guys whose just want you
to listen to their universal message.
You can purchase Closer Than Veins at www.cdwow.com. Or, if you're in
Rainbow Center in Karachi, pick up a pirated copy. You definitely wonít be