Shahbaz Sumar B
|Rewind: One year back
Karachiites see a new restaurant or cafe open every month. Yet, there is nothing really different about them, in terms of menu, decor, and the experience they offer. All that changed when the Basement opened on January 1, 2006 the very first place of its kind in Karachi that allowed visitors to experience an out-of-Pakistan experience.
|When one walks into the place, the first thing to strike the eye is the decor. The interior sports an industrial feel, with stone grey walls broken by illustrations and dim lighting. A plasma screen plays some channel non stop, while tech house music blares from the sound system. You walk into a dream lounge with your posse of friends.
Through swirling cigarette smoke one can see the good looking owner Shahbaz Sumar flitting from one table to the other, with a well-worn apron setting him apart from the crowd. The next second, one sees him fiddling at the turn tables, and the Basement’s walls reverberate with funky music. He spends time with every customer in the place and they are all unanimously charmed. Well spoken and welcoming, Shahbaz himself is an essential part of the Basement experience.
Once you get to know him, you realise that Shahbaz’s personality is evident eveywhere.
Shahbaz takes full responsibility for the decor, “The interior was all done by me; most of the furniture was lying at my house. It has a very industrial/incomplete feel to it. The murals were painted by a signboard painter onto flex, I gave him the reference image and he replicated them perfectly.”
Having done a stint at a film school in Hampshire, Shahbaz’s past alias was DJ Baz*d and eclectic minimal tech house music was his forte. Trying to escape the life of being an industrialist, Shahbaz initially decided to open a record store and lounge called Vinyl Basement, but then to make it legal, since the CDs he wanted to sell would be ‘black market items’, his idea took the form of The Basement – a lounge that served food along with turn tables to satiate the DJ in him. There are, Shahbaz says, a lot of limitations since the lounge/club scene is a very grey area, but he does want to concentrate more on opening a vinyl store at the Basement in the future.
|Juggling his job as Director of Marketing at a major textile group along with managing the Basement, Shahbaz has his hands full, yet he has managed to bring in more additions at The Basement to attract a wider range of clientele.
On any regular night, one can rub shoulders with the media and fashion elite of Pakistan and the rock stars of Pakistan, all friends of Shahbaz. Album launches, video premieres, etc at the
| Basement have also helped make the celebrity crowd a permanent part of the clientele.
When a regular person sees the celebrities at the place, it makes them wonder if the place is for the elite crowd only, or mildly put is the place ‘exclusive’ in nature? Shahbaz dispels that notion. “Yes it’s exclusive, but we have a policy that we let everyone in at the door. And those who don’t feel comfortable here leave on their own, we’ve had mullahs walk in here and leave immediately because they can’t relate to the place.”