Abbas completed his Bachelors degree in Music theory and composition from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and then his Masters degree in Classical Guitar from SMU in Dallas. He has since taken up the Mohanveena, an instrument that is a modern hybrid between a guitar and a sitar, and has been taking instruction in Indian Classical music from the legendary sitar player, Ustad Rais Khan. Abbas is a versatile guitarist who is fluent in many styles of music ranging from rock and jazz to flamenco. However, Abbas firmly believes that the vast emotional library of Eastern music needs to be introduced to the West but in a manner that is culturally and socially relevant. His debut album "Elements" is a hint of the direction in which he intends to go. The Classical Guitar and the Mohanveena allow him to cover the entire spectrum of instrumental Eastern and Western music.
During the 1980's Pakistan was a very different place. Good music was scarcely available. I was very lucky to have an older cousin who introduced me to a wide variety of classic and progressive rock at an early age. Since there were no adequate teachers for the guitar, I had to teach myself, through books and by careful listening. Around this time I met Aamir Zaki, an extremely talented guitarist who inspired and influenced me tremendously. Soon after, I left to attend University in Los Angeles to study Mechanical Engineering.
Being in LA exposed me to a lot of great music and it was invigorating. Around this time I was listening to and playing a lot of Jazz so I signed up for the college jazz band. The guy leading the band was a LA jazz legend by the name of Buddy Collette. Buddy was an amazing musician. I remember being totally dumbfounded the first day and then I slowly started learning my way around. One day after a performance at the University, some guys from a local band called "Stonewheat" approached me. They wanted me to join their band as a lead guitarist. The music they played consisted of some originals and some covers of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones etc. It was right up my alley and I readily accepted. We did quite a few gigs around LA and toured a bit. It was great fun.
It was now my senior year in Engineering and I was going to graduate soon. Out of curiosity I enrolled for an elective class in Classical Guitar. I did not anticipate the effect it would have on me. I felt a great revelation. This was the way the guitar was meant to be played. I had to know more about this. I declared a second major in Music Theory and Composition and decided to spend another year in University. I studied Classical Guitar intensively and almost abandoned all other style of playing. I graduated a year later but realized that I had only begun to explore Classical music. Not having the resources to pay my way, I applied for a scholarship to complete a Masters program in Classical Guitar Performance. I was extremely fortunate to be granted one, and that too by the prestigious College Conservatory of Music (CCM) in Cincinnati. By this time I was completely immersed in Western Classical Music. This was my life till I came back to Pakistan in 1995.
After coming back I felt totally isolated, musically speaking. It was suffocating but also liberating at the same time. I was no longer under any musical influences. I had the time to understand what I had learnt. I set up a recording and compositional studio and started teaching myself the production of music. I had always felt that production was a very important aspect of making music. This studio was both personal and commercial at the same time. This gave me the chance to start composing again. Something I always loved doing. Sometime in 2004, I started experimenting with modal scales and patterns. I did not realize at that time, but I was using Indian Classical scales called Thaats. A few months later, it finally clicked in my head. I had to study Indian Classical Music. I realized that Indian Classical music had a very rich heritage and started collecting whatever books and resources I could. I came across the Mohanveena, an instrument which is played like a laptop slide guitar but has the strings of a sitar and is capable of microtonal expression. This instrument instantly captured my heart and mind. It was during this period of time that much of the groundwork for "Elements" was done. With this music I felt a certain culmination and coming together of all the different styles that I had loved. It also reflected my ethnic heritage. Most of all, I felt that it was saying something that had not yet been said.